NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Walt Disney World in Florida has eliminated its 28-year tradition of offering on-site religious services to Christian guests, citing reasons such as a lack of space and a desire to be fair to all religions.
Since 1975, the theme park had offered regular weekend services to Catholic and Protestant families, but now officials say the 35,000-acre facility can no longer accommodate the worshipers. Those seeking religious services must now look outside the Disney World resort.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s official website, www.SBC.net, offers a tool to aid in finding Southern Baptist churches in the Orlando, Fla., area — and anywhere in the country.
Via ChurchSearch’s flexible format, a person can locate Southern Baptist churches within a radius of five, 10 or 20 miles from a certain address. Churches also can be located by partial name, city and state. After identifying a specific church, ChurchSearch offers a map and door-to-door driving directions.
For Disney guests who can no longer attend on-site services, they can simply enter the address of their hotel in the ChurchSearch engine and find Southern Baptist churches — even some with a different ethnic base than they are accustomed to — within a short driving distance. An example is the Hilton Walt Disney World, located at 1751 Hotel Plaza Blvd., Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830.
The nearest 10 churches within a 10-mile radius of the hotel, according to ChurchSearch, are: Lake Buena Vista First Baptist Church, Central Parkway Baptist Church, Hunter’s Creek Community Church, International Middle East Baptist Fellowship, Evangelical Haitian Bible Church, South Orlando Baptist Church, South Orlando Spanish Mission, Tangelo Baptist Church, North Kissimmee Baptist Church and Kissimmee Korean Baptist Mission.
ChurchSearch is available for other uses as well. “Pastors can use ChurchSearch as a ministry resource to find a local church to minister to church members who experience a tragedy while away from home, or to contact another church body to obtain a letter of membership,” the SBC website notes.
ChurchSearch also offers any SBC church a free and easy-to-use opportunity to publicize their service times, ministries and more to Web surfers looking for a new church home.
As for Disney’s decision not to provide religious services, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the move was “more a matter of indifference than hostility,” reflecting “a lack of comprehension of how the real country lives and what’s important to them.”
“This is just one further step away from what was once a core constituency of religiously motivated ‘family values’ clientele,” he said.