INDIANAPOLIS – The Southern Baptist Convention (search) voted down a controversial proposal Wednesday that would have asked parents to pull their children from public schools in favor of religious education (search).
On the final day of the denomination's annual meeting, some 8,500 church representatives also approved a call to amend the U.S. Constitution to bar gay marriage (search). The 16.3 million-member SBC is the nation's largest Protestant body.
Earlier this year, a statement denouncing "government schools" as "officially Godless" had been proposed by retired Air Force General T.C. Pinckney of Alexdandria, Va., and attorney Bruce Shortt of Spring, Texas.
The meeting's resolutions committee rejected that in favor of a broader and less pointed warning against "the cultural drift in our nation toward secularism."
Pinckney took the floor to move a briefer amendment encouraging parents to provide their children "a thoroughly Christian education" through private day schools or home schooling (search). That was defeated by a show of hands after the most spirited debate of the meeting.
The Rev. Calvin Wittman of Wheat Ridge, Colo., who chaired the resolutions committee, said half its members are home schoolers but the panel opposed Pinckney's bid because parents must decide.
Baptists must be careful "not to usurp the authority that God has placed firmly in the home," he said, and there isn't enough consensus among church members to issue such a statement.
The gay marriage resolution passed without debate. It commended President Bush, who spoke to the meeting Tuesday, for supporting a proposed federal marriage amendment.
The text said "the union of one man and one woman is the only form of marriage prescribed in the Bible as God's perfect design" and "this traditional family is the fabric of all social order and the foundational institution that builds and maintains strong societies."
Other resolutions that were approved Wednesday without dissent by the staunchly conservative gathering:
—-Urged all U.S. Christians to register and "vote in accordance with biblical values."
—Expressed "pride and strong support for our American military."
—Praised Ronald Reagan for his "strong belief in the Bible and its answers to life's problems" and pledged to "perpetuate the positive values" his life exemplified..
—Thanked those who led the "conservative resurgence" in the SBC beginning 25 years ago that "led us back to our historic biblical moorings."