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WRAP-UP: Conventions urge ministry in schools, not ‘exit strategy’

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptists in most state conventions this fall relied on committees to work behind the scenes to formulate resolutions to represent their views on moral and doctrinal issues. Dominating the agenda in most states were issues that have been on the minds of messengers to the annual Southern Baptist Convention in recent years.

In one way or another, at least nine of the 41 state conventions stated an expectation that parents take responsibility for the education of their children and pledged support for Christians working and volunteering in public schools. Oklahoma Baptists called on parents to “ensure the child’s physical, moral and spiritual well-being” through “a God-initiated choice of public, private or home schooling.”

A different message calling on Southern Baptists to abandon government-operated schools was rejected in those states where the idea was floated, never making it past the committees charged with drafting statements for messengers to consider.

In the state conventions of California, South Carolina, Colorado, the Dakotas, Indiana and Iowa, resolutions affirmed the vocational calling of Christians working and volunteering in public schools, praying for them to be “salt and light” in that setting. Northwest Baptists encouraged teaching a biblical worldview and California Baptists added an amendment encouraging forming Christian clubs under equal access law. Michigan Baptists encouraged Southern Baptists to engage public education to influence the culture, rather than running from it.

Many of the resolutions committees, including those in Florida, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, California and Kentucky, refused to advance a call for Southern Baptists to develop an “exit strategy” for removing their children from public schools, often noting that a position had been taken in past conventions on the issue of education. Some states included a need to pray for parents of students educated in Christian schools or at home and most statements reiterated the need for parents to make a wise decision on the educational option they select.

A resolution in Louisiana called for the protection of children in education amid the moral influences to which they are exposed. In response to a motion at last year’s meeting of Maryland-Delaware Baptists, a study group recommended that Southern Baptists in the two states look for opportunities to volunteer in public schools and encourage teachers through acts of kindness. Iowa Baptists also encouraged Christian teachers and students to “vigorously share the Christian message and values through public schools, through religious schools and through home schools.”

In nearly half of the state conventions, a resolution upheld a traditional view of marriage or expressed concern for corporate support of homosexuality. State or national laws upholding a definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman were supported through statements passed in Alabama, Colorado, the Dakotas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico and the Northwest. In Colorado, a resolution opposed statute changes pertaining to domestic relationships.

Specific reference was made in Alabama, Missouri and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention opposing the action of Wal-Mart in supporting homosexual activist groups — a decision recently modified by the company — urging moral stewardship in the choice of stores patronized and pledging prayer for corporate decision-makers. In Tennessee, a similar message was delivered more broadly to praise corporations that affirm the traditional definition of marriage while in Oklahoma a resolution asked that businesses, organizations and governments limit family benefits to traditional families, including single-parent households. A resolution in Arkansas opposed allowing homosexual couples to serve as foster or adoptive parents.

Eight state conventions addressed various pro-life issues, including parental notification requirements for abortion advocated by California Baptists; laws protecting unborn victims of crime urged by Alabama Baptists; and destructive embryo research opposed in Louisiana, Missouri and New Mexico. Mississippi Baptists supported the Memorial to the Missing in Jackson designed to draw attention to the 50 million babies killed since abortion was legalized. Missouri Baptists also praised pregnancy resource centers.

Baptists in Alaska, Florida, Louisiana, the Northwest, Oklahoma and Utah-Idaho pledged to continuing praying for members of the military. Those in Louisiana, New Mexico, the Northwest and Oklahoma passed resolutions commending disaster relief ministry.

Opposition to the use of alcohol or tobacco surfaced in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention while Florida’s executive director pledged future action in the state convention to expect abstinence from alcohol by convention leaders.

In Arkansas, the Dakotas, Illinois and New Mexico, Baptists were urged to reject gambling measures, in view of its destructive nature. The careful exercise of voting privileges was highlighted in Arkansas, the Dakotas and New Mexico. A resolution in Alabama called on all branches of state government to ensure that public officials cannot use their power for personal or private gain.

Three state conventions — Louisiana, South Carolina and SBTC –- passed resolutions addressing the need for reform and enforcement of immigration laws, while encouraging ministry to immigrants living in the United States. Baptists in Alabama, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Baptist General Association of Virginia expressed concern at the religious persecution and humanitarian crisis in the Sudanese region of Darfur, with SBTC adding a resolution addressing problems in North Korea.

Three state conventions — Baptist General Convention of Texas, Northwest Baptist Convention and Baptist General Association of Virginia — passed resolutions addressing stewardship of God’s resources. BGCT messengers also approved a resolution of support to appropriate agencies for the prevention of human trafficking, the protection of victims and the prosecution of perpetrators.

South Carolina Baptists encouraged attention to maintaining healthy relationships in local churches in order to avoid staff terminations while Illinois Baptists emphasized personal integrity and Oklahoma Baptists addressed biblical holiness. Pastors in the Dakotas were urged to preach God’s Word boldly while Southern Baptists of Texas Convention addressed the sufficiency of the Word of God for the Christian life and warned against unbiblical expressions of the spiritual gift of tongues. Northwest Baptists affirmed both the North American and International Mission Boards.

Missouri Baptists also passed resolutions on sufficiency of Scripture in a therapeutic culture, covenant marriage and support of bivocational pastors. Oklahoma Baptists also addressed biblical stewardship and prayer for state and national leaders. South Carolina messengers also affirmed Clemson University for an opt-out alternative to a reading assignment some found morally offensive.

Alabama, Ohio and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention passed resolutions encouraging local churches to increase support for the Cooperative Program, with the SBTC’s statement noting the autonomy of a congregation in making such a decision. Ohio Baptists also passed a resolution thanking LifeWay Christian Resources for help with Mission Ohio and Cleveland Hope and another resolution encouraging churches to provide protection and insurance benefits for staff.

    About the Author

  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter