The call for an “exodus” from public schools continues to gain momentum in the Southern Baptist Convention, according to sponsors of a resolution being proposed at this summer’s SBC annual meeting in San Antonio.
Bruce Shortt, a representative of Exodus Mandate, a Christian ministry that urges parents to remove their children from “government” schools and educate them either at home or in Christian schools, announced today plans for the fourth straight year to introduce a resolution encouraging the expansion of Christian alternatives to public education.
Shortt, an attorney from Houston, is co-sponsoring the resolution with Voddie Baucham, an African-American author and conference leader who worked together with Shortt in 2005 in convincing the convention to adopt a resolution on Christian education affirming that parents, and not the government, are primarily responsible for educating their children.
The 2007 resolution seeks to build momentum on a comment made by SBC president Frank Page shortly after his election last summer in Greensboro, N.C. Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., told Agape Press he is disturbed that many teenagers leave the church after graduating from high school and he hoped that more churches would begin offering Christian schools.
Bauchum said Page’s call for more Christian schools reflects “an expanding debate” among Christians over public education. Seminary president Albert Mohler has called on Baptist parents to develop an “exit strategy” for their children from public schools.
“Dr. Page’s call for more Christian schools is the beginning of the ‘exit strategy’ that Dr. Mohler has urged be developed,” Baucham said. “If the SBC and American Christianity are to survive in any culturally relevant way, we are going to have to repent of our unfaithfulness in the education of our children. And we need to do this sooner rather than later.”
Shortt, author of The Harsh Truth About Public Schools, said Page’s “bold recommendation demonstrates how far the debate over how we educate our children has moved since 2004.” That is the year that Shortt and former SBC officer T.C. Pinckney introduced a failed resolution calling on all Southern Baptists to remove their children from public schools and instead see that they receive a “thoroughly Christian” education.
This year’s resolution says the majority of Southern Baptist children are being discipled by “an anti-Christian government school system,” that undermines values taught in church and home. “Continuing to fail to repent of our unfaithfulness in the education or our children will lead to justified charges of hypocrisy,” the resolution says.
It calls on the denomination to assist churches in the development of Christian schools, with particular attention given to the needs of “orphans, single parents and the disadvantaged.”
It commends Page for “speaking forthrightly on the need to expand Christian education” and encourages adult believers who work in public education, “who are truly called to labor as missionaries to unbelieving colleagues and students to continue their missionary work in the dark and decaying government school system.”
“Christians and others find it increasingly difficult to avert their eyes from the metastasizing spiritual, moral and intellectual pathologies of the government school system,” said Shortt, a homeschool father. “Southern Baptist churches and the SBC’s institutions must get about the business of creating a new public school system–one that is ‘public’ in the sense that it is open to anyone, but controlled by parents and churches, not bureaucrats and politicians.”
Page and Mohler aren’t the only SBC leaders to support alternatives to public schools. Roger Moran, an influential Missouri layman and member of the SBC Executive Committee, is a strong proponent of Christian education. Wiley Drake, the convention’s second vice president, sponsored an education resolution at last fall’s California Southern Baptist Convention.
“Dr. Page is right,” Drake said. “Southern Baptists, and Christians generally, need to plan a Christian educational future for our children.”
“First, Christian parents are obligated to provide their children with a Christ-centered education,” Drake said. “Anyone who thinks that a few hours of youth group and church will have more influence on a child’s faith and worldview than 40 to 50 hours a week of public school classes, activities and homework is simply not being honest with himself.
“Second, the open collaboration between homosexual activists and many school districts, together with the overall level of crime and violence in the public schools, make the public schools an unsafe place for our children.”
Chaplain E. Ray Moore, founder of Exodus Mandate, said Southern Baptists are “setting the pace in debating this critical issue.”
EthicsDaily.com has covered the exodus movement extensively since 2004. Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, has critiqued the effort and worked to provide an alternative voice of Baptists who support public education.
“The anti-public school demonizers are back with another scary resolution, urging Southern Baptists to abandon public education for Christian academies and home schools, an agenda that many large fundamentalist churches are already pursuing,” Parham said Wednesday.
“Rather than bearing false witness against public school teachers and the National Education Association, Christians need to speak up for the goal that great public schools ought to be a basic right for every child,” Parham said. “We need to express gratitude for public school workers and to make sure that schools are fully funded.”
“The anti-public education agenda fits nicely with the anti-women, anti-science, anti-Disney, anti-everything ideology within the SBC,” Parham said. “That agenda runs counter to the best of the goodwill tradition within Baptist life that seeks the welfare of the public square.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.