Thursday’s celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Baptist Center for Ethics is also a milestone for its founder and executive director, Robert Parham.
Parham’s 15th anniversary with BCE coincides with the anniversary of the press conference announcing formation of the <Nashville, Tenn.,-based BCE on July 30, 1991.
Emmanuel McCall, a longtime black-church relations official for the Southern Baptist Convention Home Mission Board, recalled working with Parham when he was on staff of the SBC Christian Life Commission. “His alertness, his honesty, his integrity and his commitment to ethical living caught and held my attention,” said McCall, retired pastor of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in College Park, Ga.
McCall, who is moderator-elect for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, later talked with Parham as he made the decision to leave his position with the CLC and launch the Baptist Center for Ethics. Over the years he served as host for BCE events in Atlanta.
“Bob is a committed Christian who believes the Word of God and applies it to everyday living,” McCall said.
Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler, retired executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union and a past CBF moderator, said she first met Parham while he was growing up as a missionary kid in Nigeria. Later, he became a college and seminary friend to her nephew.
Crumpler said Parham has an “inbred sense of the ‘right thing.'” In founding the BCE, she said, “he provided an informative, educational, totally Christian channel through which we all can do the ‘right thing.'”
David Crocker, pastor of Central Baptist Church of Fountain City in Knoxville, Tenn., called Parham “a superb example of a man with a vision from God.” Crocker was chairman of the BCE board when Parham took the organization on-line.
“He saw what few realized at the time, namely that the future of resourcing congregations and leaders is via the Internet,” Crocker said. “Those decisions made then, led almost exclusively by Robert, have proven to be wise and have kept BCE viable in an ever-changing, emerging environment.”
Another former board member, Bill Wilson, praised Parham as “a consistent and prophetic voice for thinking Baptists for the last 15 years.”
“His words have revealed his character, integrity, honesty and imagination,” said Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dalton, Ga. “He often prods us to think about and address issues that too many of us are prone to ignore. His is often a lone voice, but time has proven him to a speaker of the truth again and again.
“I am thankful for Robert’s work ethic, his entrepreneurship, his core values and his courage. He inspires me to be a better preacher and prophet.”
The current chairman of BCE’s board of directors, David Hughes, said: “‘Fifteen years ago, Robert Parham had a dream. But that’s not all. Unlike many of us, Robert had the courage, creativity and work ethic to turn his dream into reality. Looking back, it’s obvious that God has used this dream and dreamer in a mighty way.”
“Thanks to Robert’s leadership, we have a ‘cutting edge’ Baptist agency called the Baptist Center for Ethics that proactively addresses ethical issues and proclaims biblical values in culturally relevant ways,” said Hughes, pastor of First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“As the founder and executive director of BCE, Robert has had to master many disciplines,” Hughes continued. “One day he may be drafting a budget, the next day he may be delivering a prophetic word to a national newspaper. Rarely does Robert mince words or soften the truth as he sees it. At the same time, he has earned grudging respect even from people who disagree with his positions because of his fairness and integrity.”
“It hasn’t always been easy,” Hughes said. “Robert and his superb staff have survived drastic changes in the denominational landscape and formidable financial challenges. Robert himself has dealt with a life-threatening illness. But he keeps on keeping on producing insightful opinion and excellent products for the local church.
“I, for one, am grateful for his gritty determination and unwavering commitment to the cause over these past 15 turbulent years. May there be many more!”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.