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Update: SBC Exit Strategy Doesn’t Pass, But There is Good News
by Bruce N. Shortt
As you may recall, last year a resolution substantially similar to, although in certain respects stronger than, the Baucham/Shortt resolution was reported out of Committee and passed over the opposition of Bobby Welch, President of the SBC, and certain other elements of the leadership.
This year the Moran/Shortt resolution was not reported out of the Resolutions Committee because of a deadlock.
Nevertheless, the internal debate over the education issue was sufficiently intense that the Committee reported out an unprecedented two resolutions on education. (Prior to 2004, the SBC Annual Meetings had only spoken on education every once every 5-7 years or so. From 2004 to 2006 the Annual Meetings have spoken on education 4 times).
The first education resolution, Resolution No. 9 "On Off-Campus Biblical Instruction", clearly recognizes in its "whereas" clauses that there is something wrong with the way in which we are training up our children, and it calls on all school boards in all school districts to recognize and accommodate parents, churches, and other faith-based organizations that wish to provide off-campus biblical education during the school day.
I have been referring to this resolution facetiously as a "partial exit strategy". Needless to say, it's comical to contemplate the likely reaction of the overwhelming majority of school boards across the country to parent or church requests that Christian children be allowed to disappear regularly from the government school from, say, 10 am to noon during the normal school day in order to receive biblical education at the First Baptist Church of Wherever. Certainly, presenting proposals like this to school boards would be therapeutic for parents and pastors, and I think that they would be surprised to discover that such proposals would be treated dismissively, if not with derision. Of course, it would also be interesting to know how many of our 43,000+ Baptist churches actually make such proposals during the 2006/2007 school year. My guess is that the number would not be far from zero.
The second resolution, Resolution No. 10 "On Engaging the Direction of the Public School System," also recites in its "whereas" clauses many of the problems with the public schools that we have raised, but takes a reformist direction by urging the members of our churches to run for school board positions.
While this might have been an effective strategy for changing schools in 1906, it is hardly an effective strategy in 2006. Today school boards, administrators, and teachers have far less power to determine what goes on within their schools than they did even 10 years ago. Instead, most of the power over education that once resided locally has flowed to the state and federal governments, the teachers' unions, and the courts. Moreover, the resolution reflects no awareness that in many areas of the south and midwest the school boards are already majority Christian, as are the faculties and administrators. Unfortunately, having a Christian majority on a school board does not change the fact that government schools by law are prohibited from teaching a Christian worldview.
Plano Independent School District is an excellent example of this. The community served by PISD is overwhelmingly politically conservative and Christian. Not surprisingly, this is reflected in the composition of the school board and the school employees. Nevertheless, PISD gained some unwanted attention in 2004 when it was reported that not only had it renamed Christmas vacation as "Winter Break", it was also being sued over aggressive efforts by PISD to suppress any recognition of Christmas - even down to telling children not to bring such things as red and green napkins to the "Winter Break" party because the colors might remind someone of Christmas.
Overall, this year's resolutions demonstrate that even the Committee recognizes that there are serious problems with the government schools. The problem is that the Committee has proposed irrelevant solutions.
The LifeWay Motion
When Roger [Moran] and I found out earlier this week that the Committee was effectively deadlocked on our resolution, Roger introduced a motion directing LifeWay [Christian Resources] to investigate various issues that we have been raising and to report back on them at the Annual Meeting next year. The motion passed exactly as Roger wrote it. The text is below.
The motion is a major breakthrough because many of the leaders and pastors still try to deny that the problems within the SBC and American evangelicalism arising from our disobedience in the education of our children are serious. If LifeWay looks honestly at the existing research, and we believe that it will under the leadership of Dr. Rainer, we are confident that the Convention will be forced to admit that what we have been saying is correct. This research project is especially welcome because now, for the first time, a major organization within the Convention is working on a key portion of our argument.
The key to getting the Convention to act is conviction, and the motion gives us an excellent opportunity to develop the necessary conviction within the Convention.
A third welcome development at the Annual Meeting was the election of Wiley Drake as Second Vice President of the Executive Committee. Wiley has been a strong and outspoken supporter of what we have been doing. I know Wiley won't trim his sails on the issue of Christian education to please any elements of the SBC leadership.
I have had contact with several seminarians, and they report that among faculty and administrators government schooling is clearly not the norm. This is an excellent witness by the faculty and administrators and bodes well for the long term future.
The success of our motion, the way in which this year's resolution succeeded in continuing the process of raising the consciousness of Southern Baptists and other evangelicals regarding education, the media generated by this year's resolution, the success of SBCHEA (Elizabeth Watkins had an excellent event at Greensboro during the Annual Metting), and the election of Wiley as Second Vice President all provide us with good reason to think that we will continue to make progress in the near and intermediate terms, too.
God's peace be with you, Bruce
The Roger Moran Motion
I move that the Southern Baptist Convention request that LifeWay Christian Resources investigate and report their findings and recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in 2007 regarding the growing body of research claiming:
This motion is presented by: Roger Moran, Messenger from First Baptist Church, Troy, Missouri
Updated Ju ly 7, 2006
Some of the more