Moran motion asks LifeWay to investigate public school influence
GREENSBORO, N.C.—Roger Moran, messenger from First Baptist Church of Troy and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee, is determined to keep on fighting for a cause that he identifies as “holiness, purity, obedience and faithfulness—training our children specifically in the ways of the Lord.”
For the last three years, in both SBC and Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) annual meetings, he has advanced the idea that the worldview contained within public school education is harmful to many children from evangelical families. It has now become apparent that his view is beginning to advance.
On June 13 at the SBC annual meeting, Moran made a motion that LifeWay Christian Resources investigate and report their findings and recommendations to the 2007 SBC annual meeting regarding “the growing body of research” identifying varying forms of danger concerning cultural forces of influence. Even though public schools are not mentioned, clearly from Moran’s perspective they are expected to be one of the main targets of the study. Messengers voted to refer the motion to LifeWay.
“I appreciate the motion and the spirit in which it was communicated,” said LifeWay President and Chief Executive Officer Thom S. Rainer. “All of the issues in the motion are key concerns of LifeWay. We do hope to address some, if not all, of the matters through our new entity, LifeWay Research. Because of the breadth of each research issue, it will take time to conduct full-scale research projects. Under the leadership of Dr. Brad Waggoner, director of LifeWay Research, we will determine priorities and allocation of resources in the near future.”
Moran was disappointed that a strongly worded resolution that he sponsored with Houston (Texas) Attorney Bruce Shortt calling for Southern Baptists to heed the call of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. to develop an exit strategy from public schools died in committee, but messengers did approve another resolution on “a humanistic and secular orientation” pervading much of the public school system. The term “secular” is a favored descriptor by Moran. Messengers also voted for a so-called partial exit strategy in that they approved a resolution supporting off-campus biblical instruction that is often absent in public schools.
Another validation came from his close friend, MBC Associate Executive Director David Tolliver, who has not always lined up with Moran’s ideas concerning Southern Baptists in the public schools. Tolliver said June 14 in Greensboro that he fully supports the LifeWay motion approved by messengers.
“I do think it’s time we investigate not only our homes and our schools but our churches as to what kind of biblical worldview they’re teaching or if they even know what a biblical worldview is,” Tolliver said.
Moran has been making statements like that for at least three years.
“We’re saying that the results of these forces of influence have done something to the church,” Moran said. “Confirm for us that we are in the serious trouble that everybody is saying. If what everybody is saying is true, then we’ve got to start looking at what’s causing it.”
Moran’s motion postulates that the overwhelming majority of children from evangelical families are leaving the church as they enter adulthood and that the vast majority of evangelical Christians do not hold to a clearly defined biblical worldview. Moran also points to “a growing carnality” within evangelical churches that has ignited new concerns about the percentage of unregenerate church members. Finally, Moran is requesting that LifeWay investigate how these issues are affecting Southern Baptists specifically. For the layman who was influential in leading the Missouri Southern Baptist conservative resurgence, it is all about defining what the cultural forces of influence are and how they have impacted the denomination.
“Nobody wants to talk about the cure until they realize that they have a disease, and that we’re sick,” Moran said. “If I don’t realize that I’m sick, then the cure really doesn’t have any value to me. What we’re really trying to do is to say we think we may be kind of anemic here in this area, and once our folks are convinced of it, they will respond.”
In the public school resolution approved by messengers, Christian men and women who teach in public schools were affirmed. The failed Moran-Shortt resolution attempted to do the same thing. Tolliver said that it is important to keep the debate headed in a positive direction by continuing in the spirit of this type of affirmation.
“My only concern is that we continue to paint a wide brush over public schools,” Tolliver said. “I can name you too many public school teachers who are allowed to pray and witness in their schools, and I’m glad that they do that.”
At the risk of being labeled negative, Moran continues to assert that the values contained within public education, while often countered in classrooms and homes by well-meaning Christian teachers and parents, are ultimately detrimental to students. That is why he has been so passionate about pushing Southern Baptist leaders to research the effects of public school education on Southern Baptist youth who often, he said, do not emerge from that training with a biblical worldview. One statistic that he continues to cite is from the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life, which reported to the 2002 annual meeting of the SBC that 88 percent of the children raised in evangelical homes leave church at age 18, never to return.
“The public schools, by virtue of their requirement to be secular in nature, undermine what we fought for so hard in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Moran said. “It’s illogical. There’s an inconsistency there.
“Scripture talks about how it is possible to be taken captive ultimately by the culture and by philosophies based on the principles of this world rather than on the principles of Christ.”
Tolliver agreed with Moran that the pursuit of holiness concerning this issue is important, but he emphasized that denominational leaders must have the right attitude as they take on this difficult and potentially divisive matter.
“If we get our churches straightened out, we’ll straighten out public schools,” Tolliver said. “I think you’ve got a significant number of pastors who couldn’t define what is a worldview.
“Holiness without humility is not holiness at all. It’s piety. Holiness is we’re humble before God, knowing that we’re nothing apart from Him.”