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Top SBC leaders urge Bush, Gore: ‘do what’s best for the country’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention and the SBC Executive Committee have called on all Americans to pray for the country as officials determine who won the Nov. 7 presidential election, and both urged Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush to put aside their own interests and do what’s best for the nation.

“We need to pray for God’s will to be done and that God will give the officials overseeing the voting process wisdom to do the right thing, and pray that God will give them integrity,” said James Merritt, president of the nation’s largest evangelical body and pastor of the suburban-Atlanta First Baptist Church of Snellville.

“Whatever is done,” Merritt said, “the American people need to feel that it was done fairly, with consistency and with integrity. And we should all understand that even with all this uncertainty about the election that God will work it out.”

Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Executive Committee, encouraged Southern Baptists to register their commitment to pray for America at the denomination’s Internet prayer site, www.inallthingspray.org.

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“I urge Southern Baptists in every part of our nation to commit themselves to extraordinary prayer for America, for justice and righteousness and for our leaders,” Chapman said. “Let us exhibit an attitude of calm trust and abiding confidence in the great God of the Universe. In doing so, we demonstrate that we are not only responsible citizens of this republic, but also of the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ.”

As Florida election officials complete a recount of votes cast in the presidential race, Merritt said the two candidates should put aside selfish egos and desires and make a decision in the country’s best interest.

“It is my prayer that both candidates will step up to the plate and do what’s best for the country,” Merritt said. “They both claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My piece of advice to them would be to do what Jesus would do. Be gracious, be kind and be willing to die to your own self and decide what is best for the country.”

Merritt said he has been in touch with spiritual leaders around the nation and he expressed grave concern about the future. “Our nation needs prayer now more than ever,” he said.

“Regardless of the outcome, I believe we may possibly have a nation that hasn’t been this divided since the Civil War,” he added. “There is a lot of bitterness and rancor. Partisanship is at an all-time high and trust is at an all-time low.”

Calling the 2000 presidential race the “most crucial election in our lifetime,” the SBC president said that there is never good reason to stop praying.

Merritt also noted there are some spiritual parallels to the nation’s political problems. “Southern Baptists should be reminded that with God you don’t have to wait until a vote comes in to know whether or not you are going to heaven,” he said. “No matter what happens, God is in control. It’s not the end of the world. Jesus is still Lord. We can still trust him.”

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Chapman also urged Baptists to remember both Gore and Bush in prayer. “These are agonizing days for the people of our nation and the peoples of the world,” Chapman said. “They must be especially agonizing for the two presidential candidates and their families.

“We are reminded in the New Testament,” Chapman continued, citing 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “`that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men, for kings, and for all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all godliness and dignity.’ These passages remind us that God remains sovereign over kings, rulers and all human governments, and that we are obligated to pray for them.”
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