A Southern Baptist advocate of Christian schools says God will judge pastors who refuse to speak out on failures of public schools for fear of offending parishioners.
Ed Gamble, who leads the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools in Orlando, Fla., said in a three-part interview this week on the American Family Association’s One News Now network that even schools that hire well-meaning Christian teachers and administrators and have not been overly influenced by the American Civil Liberties Union still promote an atmosphere that is counter-biblical.
Yet, Gamble said, many pastors express support for public schools. He said that is because Southern Baptists are an “egalitarian” people, who believe in education for everyone, which is a good thing, and many pastors who defend public schools remember an educational system that no longer exists.
But Gamble said many pastors don’t speak out because of fear.
“They look out over their congregations, and they see all these people who work and teach and are involved in the public school system–and frankly, they wonder how in the world they could take a position that appears to oppose those people’s livelihood or investment,” he said.
Gamble said he is “not sure whether that is a failure on the part of the pastor to be courageous enough to call the situation what it is,” but that God would ultimately judge if that is the case.
Gamble’s group offers a two-day “Christian Schooling 101” workshop to teach pastors and church leaders the nuts and bolts of starting a Christian school. The long-term goal, Gamble says, is a vast Christian-run network of schools utilizing unused classroom space in Southern Baptist churches during the week to offer a Christ-centered alternative to public schools.
Gamble is part of a growing “Kingdom Education” movement within America’s second-largest religious organization advocating either home-schooling or church-run Christian schools as an antidote to government-run schools they view as undermining values taught in the church and home.
Some have worked to get the Southern Baptist Convention to pass a resolution advocating a mass exodus from public schools. Denominational leaders have so far wavered on a position viewed by some as radical, offering watered-down statements critical of public education but leaving where kids attend school as a matter of parental choice.
But anti-public-school Southern Baptists insist the tide is turning.
Last month Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted a “Christian Schooling 101” workshop on campus. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina helped promote the event.
A prominent seminary president has called for responsible parents to develop an “exit strategy” from public education and chided churches for failing to help parents make responsible educational choices for their children.
A recent Baptist state paper editorial distributed to thousands of messengers attending this year’s SBC annual meeting predicted it is only a matter of time before vast numbers of Southern Baptists become fed up with increasing secularization of public schools.
Gamble told One News Now that sending Christian children to be indoctrinated by an institution he views as secular and humanist goes against the Bible.
“Failure to do what God says is called disobedience,” he said. “You can color it whatever color you want, but it’s still disobedience. It’s rebellion, and when God’s people don’t take ownership of the education of their children, they’re disobeying God.”
Gamble said many parents buy into the false argument that they should send their children into public schools as “salt and light.”
“I’ve heard that over and over and over again for the last 20 or 30 or 40 years, and when I look at the results, the results say that the world influences the kids more than the kids influence the world, which is logical,” he said. “We don’t send children to the mission field. We send adults, and then only after extensive training, conditioning, and preparation.”
“God doesn’t tell us to send the enemy our children and have him educate them,” Gamble said.
With about 600 church-run schools, Southern Baptists are well behind Roman Catholics, which enroll 2.7 million students in 8,500 parochial schools, on the religious-education front. But with 44,223 reporting Southern Baptist churches, Gamble views that as untapped potential.
Gamble says Kingdom Education could become for Southern Baptists the “first great church movement” of the 21st century, comparable to the Sunday-school movement in the 1800s.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.