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National rally to save families slated by SBC for 2003 in Phoenix

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptists have scheduled their “first-ever convention-wide rally to save the family.”

Tom Elliff, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council on Family Life, said the rally will be June 19, 2003, in Phoenix, Ariz., the day after the June 17-18 SBC annual meeting there.

It will be a day “that could change your family for a lifetime,” Elliff said in a videotaped announcement during the opening night of the SBC Executive Committee’s Feb. 18-19 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

The rally will feature “the best of the best” among family speakers, including breakout sessions for mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, students and children, said Elliff, a former SBC president and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla.

The rally will seek to help families regardless of any tragedies or difficulties they have weathered, Elliff said.

It will seek to nurture “a family marked by moral purity and fidelity; a family marked by a commitment to spend time each week listening to God and listening to one another; a family committed to fiscal, or financial, responsibility; committed to supporting the local church; and a family also that has committed itself to becoming involved in Great Commission projects which will reach people around the world, changing their lives and the lives of your family members as well.”

Referencing the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Elliff noted, “Another disaster of even greater proportions was unfolding in our nation.” On that day, “over 3,000 families simply died,” a toll repeated daily in America, he said.

“On 3,000 occasions a husband and wife said their final goodbyes,” Elliff said, while 3,000 couples filed divorce papers or visited with divorce lawyers and another 3,000 couples got married “without the commitments or the counseling they needed to have a marriage that would last for a lifetime.”

The marriages claimed by divorce were “silent deaths … grieved by just a few people,” Elliff said. There were “no sirens wailing, no crowds applauding the desperate attempts to save the family, … no crowds gathered in vast arenas to mourn the passing of these families” and no massive government effort to prevent future family tragedies.

The devil simply “plugged on with his timeless strategy of destroying a nation by destroying that nation’s families,” Elliff said.

Citing statistics reflecting the family crisis in the United States, Elliff noted:

— one-third of live births occur out of wedlock.

— more marriages will be dissolved by divorce than death this year.

— 50 percent of children in public schools come from single-parent homes, with a “300 percent greater chance for a negative life outcome.”

— 50 percent of couples filing for divorce cohabitated before marriage.

— the majority of high school students now believe that living together and even having a child could be the best way to head toward marriage.

While talk shows after Sept. 11 were consumed with homeland security, Elliff said, “[N]obody [was] giving much attention to how to protect our families.” And even in trying to find a few moments of escapist fare on TV, he said, “You’d be hard-pressed to find any show portraying a traditional family in a positive light.”

The Council on Family Life was created during the 2000 SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

In another family initiative in the SBC, the presidents of the convention’s six seminaries have issued a five-point pledge “to make the issue of family integrity a central priority in theological education.”

In a statement titled, “The Christian Ministry and the Family Crisis,” the SBC seminary presidents noted, “The family is in crisis throughout the Western world. A culture marked by secularism, consumerism, and moral relativism has undermined the integrity of family life and family structure in recent decades. Self-expression has replaced moral responsibility throughout the society, and the family is inevitably weakened.”

Of ministers in particular, the seminary presidents stated, “The minister’s personal integrity and credibility are dependent upon his family life and the right ordering of his most precious human relationships and responsibilities. … Failure in family life is one of the greatest tragedies that befall the church, the ministry, and the cause of Christ.”

The seminary presidents’ five-point pledge:

— “First, we pledge that our faculty will teach in accordance with a biblical vision of family life, structure, order, and responsibility.

— “Second, we pledge to incorporate an affirmation of family integrity throughout the curriculum of our institutions, demonstrating the biblical and theological foundations of family life, the cultural and moral challenges to family integrity, and practical principles for family happiness and wholeness.

— “Third, we pledge to assist our students through special events, programs, services, and emphases throughout the year, designed to provide direct assistance and spiritual encouragement to Christian families.

— “Fourth, we pledge to uphold the clear biblical principles established in the Baptist Faith and Message and to make certain that these principles are not merely affirmed, but also demonstrated throughout our seminaries.

— “Fifth, we pledge to live before the Southern Baptist Convention, the watching world, and our own students in the integrity of our own family responsibilities and in the joy, order, and comfort of our own households.”

The seminary presidents adopted their pledge during a Nov. 19 meeting in Tucson, Ariz.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SBC-WIDE FAMILY RALLY.