ORLANDO, Fla. — While Southern Baptist leaders remain divided over the resolution calling for a Southern Baptist exodus from public schools, it was found that the proposal received limited support from even strong Christian school advocates at the meeting, “Florida Baptist Kingdom Education Summit,” May 11.
Tommy Green, pastor of First Baptist Church in Brandon and president of the Florida Baptist State Convention, expressed opposition to the resolution, noting that many Southern Baptists work in public schools. Green said:
“The schools are a mission field and a place of ministry for our teachers and other employees. I trust that we will pray for these faithful folks who are in the midst of the world seeking to make a difference in Jesus’ name. Our Southern Baptist Convention needs to affirm and not criticize these individuals for their diligent labor for the Lord.”
Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he is uncomfortable with a blanket statement condemning all public schools. “To call for all Southern Baptists [to leave public schools], that’s a pretty wide brush stroke and it may not be applicable to everybody.”
Henry added, “Take a stand, yes; but there’s another way to do it.”
Ed Gamble, executive director of Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools, was also not very much supportive of the resolution. He thought the resolution was “ungracious” and “inflammatory” and said he would “probably” vote against the resolution if it came to the floor for consideration in Indianapolis.
More than just being bad public relations or setting the wrong tone, Gamble said, “It’s a matter of basic, biblical philosophy -- what is it we are trying to achieve with our children? ... If a parent can choose a public school system and give their child the kind of education that results in their child being given a Kingdom education, go for it. And I know parents who have done that.”
James Kibelbek, pastor of First Baptist Church in Port Charlotte, said he supports the “essence” of the resolution, but he found the wording to be “a bit harsh” and “too rebellious.” He would prefer to express support for Christian education in a “more positive light.”
Glen Schultz, director of LifeWay Christian School Resources, said he would prefer Southern Baptists to say what they are for, rather than what they are against. Schultz added that the resolution focuses too much “on something out there, outside Christianity, what the world’s doing.... We’ve got to focus on biblical principles and let that guide us, rather than saying let’s run away from here.”
The resolution, which was originally proposed by T.C. Pinckney of Alexandria, Va., and Bruce N. Shortt of Houston, continues to receive much attention from the media across the nation.
Although the resolution didn’t gain much support from Christian school advocates at the Summit, Pinckney and Shortt are putting much effort to get the message across, urging Southern Baptists to remove their children from public schools.
Pickney is a former SBC second vice president and editor of the Baptist Banner journal. Shortt is a Houston attorney and Texas coordinator for Exodus Mandate, an organization that describes itself as advancing “the proposition that private, Christian and home-school education can successfully replace public education.”
According to the Florida Baptist Witness, Pinckney said the resolution important because it is based on the biblical teachings.
“The resolution is primarily about being obedient to God,.” Pinckney said, “In the Bible, God assigns the responsibility for the education of children to the parents, not to the government. When we relinquish that education to any other agency, including the government, we are not following God’s commands.”
“Government schools are and now must be in the United States officially godless. This amounts to an artificial compartmentalization of life,” Pinckney added, “We believe it is time for the SBC to take a biblical stand on this issue.”
Pinckney said if the Resolutions Committee fails to report the resolution for consideration by the Southern Baptist Convention, “someone will” -- perhaps himself or Shortt -- attempt to get the two-thirds support necessary to bring the matter to the floor for a vote.
The Resolutions Committee will meet in Indianapolis prior to the SBC annual meeting to consider submitted proposals and decide on the final resolutions which will be submitted o the convention for consideration.