A Tennessee pastor is proposing a counter-resolution to one submitted to the Southern Baptist Convention resolutions committee calling for an “exit strategy” from public schools.
For the third straight year, Christian schooling advocate Bruce Shortt and others have submitted resolutions saying Christian parents have a responsibility to remove their children from secular schools for their spiritual well-being. Each year Jim West, pastor of Petros Baptist Church in Petros, Tenn., has countered with a resolution against withdrawal from public education.
“Southern Baptists must not allow retreatism, fear, withdrawal or any such attitude to mislead us into foregoing direct encounter and engagement with those in the world who need the gospel of Christ,” West said in a cover letter introducing his resolution.
West’s resolution asks the Southern Baptist Convention to “affirm the American public education system and encourage its members to participate actively in the life of society so that they may indeed perform the dual functions of Salt and Light.”
It also affirms “the hundreds of thousands of Christian men and women who teach in our public schools” and encourages “our youngsters to seriously consider the teaching profession as a possibility that in it they may well be answering the call of God.”
“Seclusion and withdrawal are not Christian virtues, and any effort to lead Baptists to that lifestyle are inappropriate and theologically unfounded,” the resolution continues. “The Great Commission teaches us that we are to GO, not to wait for the world to come to us. Withdrawal, as urged by some in our convention, is neither Christian nor proper.”
“We understand that only in sharing the gospel in daily life, as citizens who pray, worship and minister, can we be effective agents of change in a lost and dying world; which means we are not allowed to retreat behind the four walls of the church and ignore human society.
The earlier resolution, co-sponsored by Shortt and Missouri businessman Roger Moran, calls on SBC agencies to “assist churches in the development of exit strategies from the government schools and help coordinate efforts, including partnerships with churches in low income areas, to provide a Christian educational alternative to orphans, single parents and the disadvantaged.”
It also applauds “the many adult members of our congregations who teach in government schools” and encourages “adult believers who are truly called to labor as missionaries to unbelieving colleagues and students to continue their missionary work in the government school system.”
The resolutions committee can choose to ignore either resolution or write its own. Last year’s committee rewrote a resolution submitted by Shortt and Texas author Voddie Baucham urging parents to accept responsibility for making educational choices that protect their children from indoctrination by “homosexual activists” in public schools.
The Baptist Center for Ethics on April 21 issued an open letter from pastors and Baptist organizations calling for Baptists to “speak positively about public education” against voices that “demonize” public schools. A total of 164 individuals had signed the letter as of Monday morning.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.