A proposed resolution is circulating, calling for Southern Baptist parents to draw their children out of public education institutions.
As you can imagine, the proposed resolution, which could be considered at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting this month in Indianapolis, has stirred quite a ruckus. Because of the aggressive sterilization of concepts related to Judeo-Christian values in public institutions, the resolution encourages parents not to simply "default" the education of their children to the government systems. The resolution encourages Southern Baptist churches to start Christian schools and/or home education support groups to answer the educational needs of Southern Baptist families.
The resolution is posted at the Baptist Messenger Web site, www.BaptistMessenger.com.
While many Southern Baptists have a genuine respect for those who submitted the resolution, many are convinced that a resolution calling for a mass exodus from public education would not be the sentiment of the convention. Convention President Jack Graham has publicly expressed that he doubts the Resolutions Committee will recommend the resolution in its present form to the convention.
In Southern Baptist polity, a resolution is a nonbinding statement that reflects the thinking of the messengers at any given convention. However, we understand Southern Baptist messengers at their annual convention reflect the sentiments of the majority of Southern Baptists.
Still, no Baptist can presume to speak for another Baptist. Baptist leaders and communicators speak to moral/social issues from a biblical context and attempt to express the sentiments of the majority of Southern Baptists.
The Resolutions Committee's role is to prayerfully consider submitted resolutions. The convention receives an average of 30 or more resolutions for consideration. The committee must consider each resolution in the context of the broader Southern Baptist community and the reality that Southern Baptists want their resolutions to be thoroughly biblically based.
If the Southern Baptist messengers are bent on an education resolution, it would be wise to peruse previous resolutions. In 1999, there was an appeal to churches to launch educational programs that support biblical principles. In 1997, there was an affirmation of parents' rights and affirmation of teachers "who stand on the front lines to teach and train children." In 1996, messengers affirmed "Southern Baptist public, private and home-oriented educators."
Perhaps Southern Baptists are due to speak again. A new education resolution needs to be one of affirmation, not condemnation. A new resolution needs to elevate the role of parenting and the missionary calling of godly educators.
As the proposed resolution points out, there are some serious problems with many public educational institutions. However, to point out isolated problems and say the whole of a system is bad is the same as saying all of our military is evil in Iraq because of some rogue prison guards. The worst problem in even some of our best public systems is the "God ban" imposed, especially in history, social science and literature.
However, it is not the best practice to abandon a method because of what is wrong. As a believer, there is the compulsion to work with the method and attempt to make right what is broken. No matter what style of education parents choose for their children, education is hard work for educators, parents and students.
If one must change, do so primarily because the Lord had prompted you to pursue a more excellent way. As a parent who tried public institutions, private institutions and home education, I have no illusions about which is most superior for my family in obedience to the Lord. What we concluded might not be the best for your family.
However, every child is worthy of his/her parents asking, "What kind of education does the Lord want for our child, and what must we do to prioritize our lives to make that process successful?" To be successful, every approach of education takes enormous commitment from a child's parents. There is the possibility that the authors of the proposed resolution understood the dynamics of the convention process and knew that holding a news conference and publicly submitting their resolution would accomplish their intended goal of prompting Southern Baptist parents to consider their options and encourage those who use the public institutions to do so with open eyes and a helpful hand.
Now that this discussion has transpired, there is also the opportunity for Southern Baptists to affirm those in our Southern Baptist family who serve in public educational institutions. They have a challenging role in our decaying culture, and many of them do what they do with a deep sense of call to help students and, perhaps, make a difference in the future.
The Rev. John Yeats is editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, the official newsmagazine of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Yeats is also recording secretary for the Southern Baptist Convention. The "Keep the Faith" column invites contributions by Oklahoma ministers and religious leaders.