Southern Baptists prove their vigilance in education through ‘healthy’ resolution debate
By Allen Palmeri
June 22, 2004
INDIANAPOLIS – Roger Moran, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee and research director of Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association, said now that Southern Baptists have rejected a resolution calling on them to take their children out of public schools, the real debate has begun.
“Does sending our children to Caesar’s schools help or hinder kingdom growth?” Moran wondered.
When it became apparent that the Resolutions Committee at the annual meeting of the SBC June 16 would not back the controversial proposal of T.C. Pinckney of Alexandria, Va., and Bruce Shortt of Spring, Texas, Moran worked behind the scenes to get Pinckney, a retired Air Force general and former SBC second vice president, to strike his language on withdrawal from public schools. Pinckney then stepped to a microphone to introduce a compromise calling for Southern Baptists to give their children “a thoroughly Christian education.” The amendment was overwhelmingly defeated.
“The amendment to the resolution was dealt with as if it was the original resolution,” Moran said. “It wasn’t. It was very watered down.”
Moran told members of the Resolutions Committee, with whom he has close working relationships, that he was “deeply grieved” by the defeat of the amendment. Moran, a home school father of eight, said the SBC is like a type of King David rejecting a message from a type of the prophet Nathan—in this case, Gen. Pinckney.
“All of biblical Christianity is about that difficult work of making disciples,” Moran said. “It is heart-wrenching. It is heart-breaking. Sometimes we rejoice, but it is difficult. What happened out there on the floor of the convention to me was a difficult thing.
“Southern Baptists, for whatever reason, were willing to quench a resolution that I think came from someone who is like an Old Testament prophet, who told us something that is clearly true. So where do we go from here? We continue to build a foundation. We will start laying the foundation of why this is as much a part of the pursuit of holiness as all these other things.
“We preach against gambling. We preach against movies that go against what Christ died for. We preach against music that trivializes sin. We preach against all these things, and we should also be preaching in favor of the training of our children systematically in an educational institution or system that is honoring to Christ.”
SBC President Jack Graham, whose term ended at the annual meeting, spoke for the majority of Southern Baptists who opposed the original Pinckney-Shortt resolution by stating, “Southern Baptists are concerned about the direction of some public schools, but on the other hand many of our best people—administrators, teachers, coaches—are Southern Baptists working within the public school system all around America .”
Calvin Wittman, Resolutions Committee chairman, told messengers the convention had passed 11 resolutions on education in the last 19 years, supporting public, private and home schooling. Removing the word “public” from that track record of support for all three types of education was “just too radioactive” for SBC leadership, Shortt told Foxnews.com.
David Tolliver, president of the Missouri Baptist Convention and pastor, Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, agreed with Wittman.
“I believe all three have their place,” Tolliver said. “I am supportive of all three.
“The horror stories about public schools have simply not been my experience.”
Parents are responsible for the education of their children, Tolliver said. If parents choose a public school, and if those same parents stay involved in the educational process to the point where they will correct any bad influence that is being exerted, children will come out with a Christian worldview, he said.
“I would agree that the system is not holy and not pure, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to abandon it,” Tolliver said. “I’m going to work to make it better.”
Moran said that not only is the system unholy and impure, moral relativism is all that can be taught in “godless” public schools.
“I don’t understand the thinking that says that we need to continue to support and to keep our kids in the government public schools,” he said. “It’s illogical.”
“My experience tells me that is not true,” he said. “My children were not indoctrinated against God when they were in public school.
“How does that square up with the fact that for at least two years, my wife (Myra, an elementary music teacher) held prayer meetings in her room? There were about five or six teachers who came every morning and prayed.”
Moran agrees with Glen Schultz, director of LifeWay Christian School Resources, who casts the ongoing debate as one of biblical education vs. secular education. As “people of The Book,” Southern Baptists should not be afraid to look at Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25, Moran said.
“Our government schools are forbidden by the laws of Caesar to train our children in the ways of the Lord,” Moran said. “It is illegal.
“For four years now in Missouri, we have been preaching on the issue of holiness. We know that there is only one thing that will empower kingdom growth, and that is when the people of God decide that they’re going to pursue with passion that pathway of holiness in purity, obedience and faithfulness. There seems to be this serious disconnect in Southern Baptist life between what we say we believe and the lives we live. This (the floor debate and vote on the Pinckney/Shortt amendment) was a great testimony to that disconnect.
“For some reason, we don’t see it. We have been blinded to the truth that God has called us to train our children. We don’t send them off as missionaries prior to salvation, and that’s what we have in a lot of our little kids.”
Tolliver emphasized that all Southern Baptists reserve the right to train their children to be godly by means of the public school system. He added that this highly publicized debate should not be viewed as something that is driving a wedge between conservatives. On the contrary, he said all Southern Baptists now have the opportunity to grow spiritually in a very important area—even as their leaders respectfully disagree.
“It’s a healthy debate,” Tolliver said. “If we talk about it in the future, that’s OK. I wouldn’t want to put it to rest. We do need to be vigilant about what’s going on in our children’s education.”