WASHINGTON (BP)–Bill Clinton, the third Southern Baptist to serve as U.S. president, acknowledged his relationship with a White House intern was “wrong” in a live address to the American people Aug. 17.
Without delving into details, Clinton, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., said the relationship with Monica Lewinsky was “inappropriate” and was “a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.”
Jimmy Carter and Harry Truman were the only other Southern Baptists to be elected president of the United States.
Clinton’s address came seven months to the day after he said in a deposition for the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, “I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.”
The televised address followed an afternoon appearance before a grand jury convened by the Office of Independent Counsel to investigate allegations against the president. During the testimony, Clinton reportedly refused to answer some of the prosecutor’s questions about his relationship with Lewinsky as well as other matters under investigation, The New York Times reported.
Speaking to America from the Map Room on the ground floor of the White House where approximately fours hours earlier he testified before the grand jury via closed-circuit television with his attorneys at this side, Clinton said his public comments and his silence on the alleged Lewinsky relationship had given “a false impression.” Saying he “misled” people, including his wife, the president expressed deep “regret.”
SBC President Paige Patterson said the president’s statement reflected the “obvious materialism and moral decadence of America.”
“We now have a president who has admitted that he lied to his family, his friends and his country under oath and that he has been sexually involved with a White House intern young enough to be his daughter,” said Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. “To the president, I urge, look to Jesus for forgiveness, and you have our prayers. To Americans who say that the economy is all that matters, I simply remind you that God judges nations when they abandon his moral principles.”
Bob Reccord, president of the SBC North American Mission Board, urged the agency’s employees in a chapel service not to get caught up in the debate over what Clinton did or did not say in his address. Instead, NAMB’s president encouraged his staff to pray for the first family and the nation.
“It is so easy for America to point at this man and say all kinds of accusatory, judgmental things,” Reccord said Aug. 18. “Remember, except for the grace of God, that is where you or I could be. If you and I don’t guard our heart, any of us could be in sexual sin so rapidly.”
Yet the president’s brief address “was flavored with as much anger as remorse,” The Washington Post stated. Much of his text centered on a call for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr to back off his inquiry, for a need to reclaim his family’s private life and concerns the nation was being distracted from far more serious matters.
The president simply failed to summon the courage to apologize, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said. “The president missed an enormous opportunity in his address to the nation. Instead of drawing us together, President Clinton polarized the nation anew with his short and insufficient address.”
The address was “more combative than contrite, more angry than apologetic and more concession than confession,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in remarks during a colloquy of The National Clergy Council convened in Washington Aug. 18 to seek a resolution of the moral crisis surrounding the president.
Clinton’s attempt to put the independent counsel’s investigation behind him failed, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., and immediate past president of the SBC’s Council of Seminary Presidents.
“It was not sufficient,” Mohler said in a statement. “His statement was an argument disguised as an apology.
“The sexual relationship between the president of the United States and a young intern under his care represents grievous sexual exploitation and the betrayal of his most scared trust to his own family, and to the American people,” Mohler continued, saying neither a corporate executive nor military officer would get away with such behavior.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he was breaking his silence on the president’s relationship with Lewinsky only after the president made the relationship public. “It is a sad day for America and the presidency,” Huckabee said.
Clinton’s claim that this was a private matter did not entirely ring true, Huckabee said in a statement. “Either Bill Clinton lives under different rules than the rest of us, or America has a different set of values than when it reacted to Wilbur Mills, Bob Packwood, Gary Hart, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert and others,” said Huckabee, author of a recent book, “Character Is the Issue: How People with Integrity Can Revolutionize America.”
Mohler questioned Clinton’s call for the independent counsel’s investigation to now be put aside, saying, “We are asked to follow the leadership of a president we know we cannot trust, and he has the audacity to tell us that it is none of our business.” Mohler said instead of repentance, the president’s “response to sin is spin”
“Americans waited a long time to hear their president clear the air. Sadly, the element most missing from President Clinton’s address was a message the nation desperately wanted to hear: ‘I’m sorry,'” Mohler said, voicing a call for the president “to come face to face with the reality of his sin and turn in repentance.”
“The president appeared more combative at being forced to acknowledge his wrongdoing than contrite over truly shameful behavior, more angry at being embarrassed than apologetic about having lied to and misled his family and the nation,” Land said. “The president appeared to be making concessions to the evidence rather than confession of personal sin.”
Land said the fruit of true confession is contrition and apology, not mere concession to overwhelming evidence and anger at being forced to admit wrongdoing.
Confession means agreeing with God about our sin, Land continued, noting the Bible promises God’s forgiveness upon confession of one’s sins. “True repentance means you’re sorry you did it, not just sorry you got caught,” he remarked, recalling wisdom he said his mother taught him.
Rex Horne, pastor of the president’s church in Little Rock, declined to comment on the president’s remarks, according to a church staff member Aug. 18.
Among other clergy who have been identified as providing the president with spiritual counsel in recent years, no statements were being issued Aug. 18 by Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago; Tony Campolo, professor of sociology at Eastern College, St. Davids, Pa.; and Robert Schuller, pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, Calif. In each case, their offices said they were out of town.
Nor was a statement being issued by Billy Graham, a spokesman said; or by outspoken Clinton critic Jerry Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va., or James Dobson, founder and president of Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Tom Strode, Art Toalston, Martin King and James A. Smith contributed to this story.
Tony Cartledge elected editor
of N.C.’s Biblical Recorder
BURLINGTON, N.C. (BP)–A North Carolina pastor, Tony W. Cartledge, has been named the 18th editor of the Biblical Recorder, according to an announcement Aug. 17 by Don E. Bolden, chairman of the state Baptist paper’s board of directors.
Cartledge, pastor of the Woodhaven Baptist Church in Apex, succeeds R.G. Puckett, the paper’s editor since 1982 who announced in March he will retire Dec. 31.
Cartledge serves on the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s general board and is vice chair of its Christian life and public affairs council.
Cartledge has written teaching commentaries for several years for the “Formations” Bible study curriculum published by Symth & Helwys, a publishing house for Baptist moderates and, according to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a partner organization. Cartledge also is completing a Symth & Helwys commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel, according to his church’s Internet site.
“The search was conducted across several states,” said Bolden, executive editor of the Burlington Times-News. “We wanted to find the individual who was best suited to meet the needs of the Recorder and North Carolina Baptists in the years ahead.
“We are delighted we found that person in our own neighborhood.”
The editor-elect will join the Recorder staff Oct. 1, working with Puckett until the end of the year when the transition is complete.
Bolden described Cartledge as highly qualified to fill the post, with “considerable experience in the area of communications, and he has extensive knowledge of Baptist life in North Carolina. He has the skills necessary to lead the Recorder into the next millennium, and into a new era of growth and service to North Carolina Baptists.”
Bolden added, “We do not ask Tony Cartledge to be another Gene Puckett. That is impossible. We do ask the new editor to set his own direction in serving North Carolina Baptists.
“We ask that supporters of Gene Puckett not measure Tony Cartledge by Puckett’s model, and we ask that Puckett’s critics not judge Cartledge on the basis of things past. We ask that everyone allow the new editor to make his own mark. We bring Tony Cartledge to this post, not as a moderate or a conservative, but as a Baptist editor of the Biblical Recorder.”
Cartledge’s church’s Internet site lists congregational affiliations with both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The Internet site is listed on the CBF’s Internet site’s “ChurchLinks” section, which the CBF states is voluntary on the church’s part and “is not a list of ‘CBF churches.'”
Officials of the state’s Conservative Carolina Baptists declined comment on Cartledge’s selection.
Among the challenges Cartledge faces is a circulation decline from 101,000 in 1983 to, now, below 50,000.
Cartledge, a native of Georgia, received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Georgia, where he graduated magna cum laude. He earned a master of divinity degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of philosophy degree at Duke University.
He had held pastorates in Georgia and North Carolina before becoming pastor of Woodhaven, a young suburban church, in December 1988.
Cartledge is married to the former Jan Rush. They have two children; a daughter was killed in an automobile accident caused by a drunken driver.
Chicago church tackles challenge
of outreach to Hindu community
By Tim Ellsworth
EDITORS’ NOTE: Due to the sensitive nature of ministry among Hindu people, the specific name of this ministry and the name of its director are being withheld.
CHICAGO (BP)–A Hindu restaurant owner’s equipment broke down a few months back. His business was already struggling and the new wave of problems almost broke him.
But a ministry of Chicago’s Uptown Baptist Church stepped in and helped him with his equipment and his restaurant. Through that relationship, “the Lord opened his heart and he came to Christ,” the ministry’s director said. The store owner was baptized at Uptown, and “he’s being salt and light in his little neighborhood,” the director said.
That’s just one example of the needs of Hindus and Indians this ministry is helping to meet. Uptown started the ministry about a year ago to reach the nearly 5,000 Indians in a community just north of the church. The director’s salary is partially provided by Illinois Baptists’ state missions offering.
Eighty percent of the Indian community in this part of Chicago is Hindu, which creates a number of barriers the ministry must overcome if it is to be successful in reaching people for Christ. One major problem with Hinduism is its belief that all paths lead to God.
“So, it is enormously difficult for a Hindu to accept that Christ is the only way and that his salvation is unique,” the director said. “The inevitable thing is they find a home for Jesus in their Hindu worldview. They just make him another god in the Hindu pantheon.”
For Uptown’s ministry, this means more subtle ways of sharing the gospel are needed.
“If you come into their community and you say, ‘I’m an evangelist’ or ‘I’m a missionary’ or ‘I want to plant a church,’ it’s absurd,” the director said. “They’ll never give you the time of day. You’ll never be able to get into an authentic relationship with people. … You have to have an avenue to love and serve them and cultivate spiritual relationships with them.”
So, the Uptown ministry does just that by providing services to Indian immigrants and helping to meet needs in the community.
For example, the people involved in the Hindu ministry might help new immigrants find an apartment, teach them about using public transportation or show them how to open a checking account.
One middle-aged woman in the community was taking a college class but didn’t know how to use a library for research. So, those involved with the ministry taught her how.
Because of these services, the Uptown ministry is well-respected in the community. “Once we’re in a relationship with them, we can get in a Bible study with them and share the gospel,” the director said.
The ministry also goes about sharing Christ in other subtle ways. On Good Friday, volunteers handed out 200 copies of the Gospel of John and a pamphlet, “What’s so good about Good Friday?”
Last Christmas, the ministry gave away the “Jesus” film to 80 business owners in their own language as Christmas presents.
“They loved it,” the director said. “We had great response. Some watched it three times.”
That small gift opened the door for new relationships with people, some of whom are now involved in Bible study.
Another barrier in ministry to Hindus is their belief that God isn’t personal. To them, salvation makes no sense, the director said.
“It’s no picnic working with Hindus,” he said. “Their whole way of looking at the world is radically different from the Christian worldview. It’s very hard for a Hindu to come to Christ. … It’s not even an option for them to become a Christian in their way of thinking.”
Thus, getting a Hindu involved in a Bible study is a major accomplishment. “We need to get into a Bible study relationship with them where we can establish some of the essential things that are necessary before a person can come to Christ,” the director said.
So far, besides the restaurant owner, one other Hindu has made a profession of faith in Christ.
The director said he would appreciate “fasting and serious intercessory prayer for these people. They’re not going to come to Christ unless God does something absolutely miraculous.”
Recreation scholarships honor
Southern Baptist professors
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Two church recreation-related scholarships have been established in honor of a Southern Baptist college professor and a retired seminary professor.
Scholarships named for Ray Conner, associate professor of recreation at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., and Robert Raus, recently retired professor of church recreation at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, will provide help for students preparing for a ministry career in recreation.
To be administered through the Southern Baptist Foundation in Nashville, Tenn., the scholarships were designed by a resource team to the church recreation program at LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly the Sunday School Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville. The Recreation Leadership Team, composed of ministers of recreation from churches, and the church recreation program of LifeWay will administer the scholarship program.
The Conner scholarship is for college or seminary students who wish to attend Rec Lab, a recreation ministry training conference sponsored by LifeWay.
Conner was director of the church recreation program for Southern Baptists for 21 years. During that time, the program grew to include Centrifuge, a national youth camp, and Crosspoint, a sports camp for children in the fourth through eighth grades and a host of products to help churches reach out using recreation as a ministry tool.
“Ray loves Rec Lab and the people who attend. He gave leadership to the church recreation department that was dynamic, relaxed and innovative — all the qualities that Rec Lab has taken on and still exhibits today,” said John Garner, LifeWay’s church recreations program director. “This is a wonderful way to honor a man who shaped and prepared a ministry for the future.”
Garner said the Raus scholarship “is a credit to a man who gave his life to the ministry of recreation when it was in its infancy. Raus has been and continues to be a positive influence in this field. The leadership team was unanimous in its decision to honor him because they know just how much his influence and teaching shaped the ministry. Perhaps more than anyone else, he knew the potential for recreation ministry in a leisure-oriented culture. He led Southern Baptists to make the most of the opportunities.”
Raus, who taught at Southwestern from 1980-97, earlier was associate professor in recreation at Indiana University, the University of Oregon, Marshall University and Illinois State University. He has worked with local, state and national denominational entities in recreation, camping and facilities development. Widely published in professional journals, he is the author of two books, the “Directory of Southern Baptist Camps” and “Ministry Through Camping.”
The Raus scholarship is open to any student who feels called to the ministry of recreation and is attending a Southern Baptist college or seminary. Detailed requirements are available by calling (615) 251-2077 or writing the Church Recreation Program, 127 Ninth Ave. N. Nashville, TN 37234-0166.
The first scholarship funds will be provided for the fall of 2000.
Tax-deductible donations may be made by sending checks payable to the Ray Conner Rec Lab Scholarship Fund or to the Robert Raus Scholarship Fund to: Southern Baptist Foundation, 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203-3697.