Updated June 16, 2006
GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–On the same day U.S. President George W. Bush met in Baghdad for a surprise five-hour visit with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, he spoke for five minutes via a surprise videotape during the first session of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in the Greensboro Coliseum.
Pledging support for pro-life causes, fair judges and faith-based ministries to those in need, Bush first recognized two men — SBC President Bobby Welch and legendary evangelist Billy Graham.
“I’m pleased to join you for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Bush told messengers and guests June 13, recognizing SBC President Bobby Welch as “a man whose life has been defined by service, as a minister of faith and a soldier in uniform.”
Welch, who is also the pastor of First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, Fla., is a decorated combat Vietnam-era veteran.
Bush spoke of the appreciation “our troops and their families receive from the Southern Baptist community” through the ministry of Southern Baptist chaplains and the prayers of those in Southern Baptist churches. “And I know you share my pride in the brave men and women of our armed forces,” Bush told the messengers.
Billy Graham had touched his life, too, Bush said.
“I’m pleased you will be dedicating a statue at this convention to one of your great leaders and one of America’s greatest preachers, Billy Graham,” Bush said. “The Rev. Graham once said, ‘The most eloquent prayer is the prayer through the hands that heal and bless. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet, seeking out the lost and helpless.’”
Emphasizing his support for an amendment to the Constitution to protect marriage, Bush said, “Building a strong and compassionate America begins with strengthening the American family.” He described the family as “the world’s oldest institution, and it’s built on the foundation of marriage. That’s why I support a constitutional amendment that will protect marriage and prevent it from being redefined by activist judges.”
Spontaneous applause quickly quieted as the president continued speaking about the need for “judges who interpret the law and not legislate from the bench.”
Building a stronger and more compassionate America also depends on building a culture of life, the president said.
“We’re making progress,” Bush said. “As president I’ve signed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, the partial-birth abortion ban act and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, also known as Lacy and Conner’s law. I’ve opposed to the destruction of human embryos for stem cell research and refused to spend taxpayer money on international programs that promote abortion overseas.
“I have vigorously promoted adoption and teen abstinence and crisis pregnancy programs as well as the vital work of faith-based groups,” the president continued. “My administration was the first to make unborn children eligible for federal health benefits and we will continue to work for the day every child is welcomed in life and protected in law.”
Building a strong and compassionate America means reaching out to those who are hurting or in need, and Southern Baptists have always served on those front lines in the United States and across the world, Bush said.
“By showing a love of neighbor across our world, Baptist ministries are demonstrating faith in action and showing the good heart of America,” the president said. “I thank you for your love for our country, for love for your neighbor and for your service to both. May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.”