Following the widespread attention garnered by a resolution to retract Southern Baptist children from public schools nationwide, several Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) pastors called for a counter resolution in favor of public schools and clarified that in general, the denomination does not support the initial proposal.
"The public at large will think that the majority of Baptists are thinking about removing their children from public schools. I don't think a lot of Baptists will pull their kids out of public school just because a resolution is passed at the convention,” said JimWest, pastor of First Baptist Church in Petros Tennessee.
Last week, T.C. Pinckney of Virginia and Bruce Shortt of Texas proposed that the Southern Baptists remove their children from “godless” and “anti-Christian” public schools.
"Just as it would be foolish for the warrior to give his arrows to his enemies, it is foolish for Christians to give their children to be trained in schools run by enemies of God," it wrote.
The resolution encouraged parents to "see to it that they receive a thoroughly Christian education, for the glory of God, the good of Christ's church, and the strength of their own commitment to Jesus” by pulling their children out of the public system.
In comparison, West’s resolution urges the Southern Baptists to “become the salt and the light of the world” by entering the public school systems. West said that his resolution is stemmed from an SBC statement that supports "the hundreds of thousands of Christian men and women who teach in our public schools" and encourags "our youngsters to consider the teaching profession as a possibility that in it they may well be answering the call of God."
It notes Southern Baptists "are devoted to missions and the call of Christ to be salt and light in a world desperately in need of both" and that "Southern Baptists take seriously the Great Commission and its requirement that we go into all the world."
"Christians aren't supposed to withdraw from the world. They are supposed to minister to the world," said West. “You can't be salt and light if you are hiding behind the walls of the church"
Both proposals will be among many sent to the resolutions committee of the SBC prior to the annual convention for consideration.
John Revell, the Executive Committee's staff liaison to the SBC Resolutions Committee, said, "Each year the president of the Southern Baptist Convention appoints a 10-member Resolutions Committee to offer resolutions for consideration at the annual convention. That committee receives proposed resolutions for consideration prior to the convention.
"According to the Convention Bylaws, 'The Committee on Resolutions shall prepare and submit to each annual meeting of the Convention only such resolutions the Committee recommends for adoption. Such resolutions may be based upon proposals received by the Committee or may originate with the Committee.'
"The Southern Baptist Convention has more than 43,000 churches with more than 16.3 million members," Revell continued. "Any -- or all -- of those members could hypothetically submit a proposed resolution on any subject matter they choose. The Resolutions Committee prayerfully and carefully evaluates each proposal to determine if it is suitable for submission to the Southern Baptist Convention.
"Dr. Jack Graham, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church near Dallas, Texas, has assembled a committee of members who are godly, wise, mature and balanced," Revell said. "I have every confidence they will present resolutions that properly reflect the consensus of opinions and convictions among Southern Baptists."
Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Council of the SBC said that the Southern Baptists have "never said public education is incompatible with Christian life."
"We have suggested parents make sure their children are receiving appropriate instruction in public schools and that they remain engaged with all of their children's education,” said Duke. “We are also concerned about what happens in public schools, some of which is contrary to Southern Baptist faith and sensitivities.”
The Resolutions Committee will meet in Indianapolis prior to the SBC annual meeting. The annual meeting will take place June 15-16, 2004.