Robert Parham (1953-2017) launched Baptist Center for Ethics “on a wing and a prayer.”
It was 1991. He and his wife, Betsy, had two young children.
Parham was without a job after resigning his position at the Christian Life Commission (now the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) of the Southern Baptist Convention during the period that has been labeled the “conservative resurgence” or “fundamentalist takeover.”
Determined to provide an ethical voice from “another kind of Baptist” than what was being promoted by the conservative movement that had overtaken the SBC by the early 1990s, he founded BCE as an alternative to the CLC.
“Mark 12:29-31 is known as being God’s most important command. Robert lived out this passage, with a strong emphasis on verse 31, ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself.’ Loving all neighbors in all nations was his passion,” Betsy Nunn Parham told EthicsDaily.com.
“Growing up as a missionary kid in Nigeria instilled in him the importance of loving all neighbors across time and distance. In 1991, with these verses, along with Micah 6:8 as a biblical foundation, Robert established the Baptist Center for Ethics. BCE’s goal was to challenge people of faith to advance the common good for all,” she said.
“Taking risks to be proactive instead of reactive was part of his commitment for BCE. He felt all neighbors – no matter their addresses, abilities or beliefs – were worthy in God’s sight.”
“During my time of service, I’ve seen the board become more diverse in race, in age and in gender,” said Michael Cheuk, a leadership coach, church consultant and ordained Baptist minister living in Charlottesville, Virginia. “I see us striving to become a more prophetic organization, challenging all people of good faith to advance the common good.”
Support for BCE’s formation and mission came from local churches and individuals who believed in Parham and his vision, as well as from denominational entities like the then newly formed Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Offering proactive, positive and practical ethics resources to people of faith was the mission informing BCE’s work over the next nearly three decades.
Focusing initially on in-person conferences, newsletters and Bible studies, BCE shifted to a digital approach in 1999 by launching Baptist4Ethics.com, followed by creating an e-newsletter (bcE*byte) in 2000.
EthicsDaily.com was launched in January 2002, replacing the original BCE website.
“The site’s mission is to provide a compelling moral witness, offer a centrist ethical framework, furnish cutting-edge cultural analysis, supply comprehensive resources and encourage a constructive ecumenical spirit,” Parham wrote in an editorial about EthicsDaily.com’s launch.
While EthicsDaily.com went through several iterations and numerous modifications over the past 18 years, it remained the primary platform by which BCE was known and through which the organization distributed its resources.
EthicsDaily.com’s resources included news and opinion articles published on most weekday mornings. More than 15,000 articles are now in the free online archive.
Feature-length documentary films were launched in 2006, shifting to short-form documentaries in 2018, with online and in-person video interviews and Bible studies (print in the early 1990s and shifting to digital-only in the early 2000s) rounding out the offerings provided by BCE.
“Serving on the board of the Baptist Center for Ethics was extremely meaningful for me,” said Sara Powell, a former director who lives in Georgia. “The issues we prayed about and pursued were important then and laid the groundwork for the transitions that EthicsDaily and Nurturing Faith are making now. In addition, the people with whom I served inspired and encouraged me with the stands they took then and continue to take today.”
Parham died in March 2017 following a prolonged illness. He wrote an editorial almost weekly during his tenure as executive director of BCE and executive editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Mitch Randall was announced as the executive director / editor in October 2017 and began his tenure in January 2018, marking the only executive director change in the organization’s nearly 30 years of existence.
“Over time, Robert became not only a mentor but also a dear friend,” said Kevin Heifner, a nephrologist in Little Rock, Arkansas, and chair of the BCE board of directors. “He had a unique skill of being able to point out scriptural and philosophical truths in a manner that an average person could understand.”
“A moniker under which BCE operated for many years was ‘challenging people of faith to advance the common good.’ My understanding of this simple concept has grown to be even larger and more inclusive,” Heifner said. “Everyone, regardless of their faith specifics or lack thereof, should be involved in the struggle to guarantee equal rights for all human beings. I believe Good Faith Media will continue the tradition Robert envisioned of being a strong voice for this key principle moving forward.”
On July 1, EthicsDaily.com and NurturingFaith.net will officially combine to become Good Faith Media.
The new media company continues and expands the work of both organizations by providing reflection and resources at the intersection of faith and culture through an inclusive Christian lens.
“It has been an honor for me to be associated with the work of the Baptist Center for Ethics – EthicsDaily.com – as a board member since 2010,” said Daniel Carro, professor of divinity at The John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Arlington, Virginia.
“The dedication, commitment and enthusiasm of Robert Parham as the executive director, Cliff Vaughn and Zach Dawes have made the organization flourish and reach to the point we are today,” he said. “The coming of Mitch Randall helped build up even more the need for, and ubiquity of, this fellowship interested in ethical reflection and ethical practice.
“As we transition to Good Faith Media, we only envision a better future, full of good things to come. In the midst of conflicts, confusion and uncertainty, more than ever we need a word of assurance, and Good Faith Media will be there to provide it,” Carro said. “This is a work of the Lord. We pray for God’s blessings on everyone working in this ministry.”
Randall guided the organization through a new website build and launch within the first six months of his tenure while continuing Parham’s tradition of writing a weekly editorial.
He has also traveled extensively to foster connections with local houses of faith, religious networks and denominational entities, as well as to cover events and meetings by interviewing faith leaders on pressing matters facing the church and world.
“Leading BCE and EthicsDaily has been incredibly rewarding. Working alongside such talented and skillful colleagues enriched our organization as we launched the E3 Initiative to educate, engage and empower people of faith with reflection and resources,” said Mitch Randall, BCE’s executive director and CEO of Good Faith Media.
“Now, as we evolve into Good Faith Media, we hope to extend Robert’s mission to advance the common good for all people through new platforms and offerings.”