GREENSBORO, N.C. – Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention refused Wednesday to support a resolution urging the denomination to form a strategy for removing children from public schools in favor of home schooling or education at private schools.
The "exit strategy" proposal, offered by Roger Moran of Troy, Mo., and Texas author Bruce Shortt, came as many Southern Baptists are concerned about how classrooms are handling subjects such as homosexuality and "intelligent design."
But the SBC's resolutions committee instead called on members to "engage the culture of our public school systems" by exerting "godly influence," declining to put the proposal from Moran and Shortt before delegates to the SBC's annual meeting.
The committee instead forwarded a more moderate resolution titled "On Engaging the Direction of the Public School System," which was to be debated Wednesday evening at the final session of the denomination's annual meeting.
On Tuesday, the SBC elected a new president, the Rev. Frank Page. The 53-year-old pastor at First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., was supported primarily by younger pastors and others who felt marginalized by an older generation that led a conservative takeover of the denomination in the 1970s and 1980s.
The public schools issue has been simmering for several years. A resolution similar to Moran's, offered two years ago at the annual meeting, did not pass. Delegates at last year's annual meeting passed a resolution urging parents and churches to "to exercise their rights to investigate diligently the curricula, textbooks, and programs in our community schools."
"We are commanded biblically to train our children in the nurture of the Lord," said Moran, who sits on the SBC's executive committee. "The public schools are no longer allowed ... to even acknowledge the God of the Bible."
Moran, who owns a company that makes construction supplies, is a father of nine children, ages 18 months to 18 years. All have been home-schooled or attended Christian schools, he said.
The proposal from Moran and Shortt, author of "The Harsh Truth About Public Schools," complains that curricula teaching that "the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable" are being implemented in public schools. It also criticizes a federal court ruling last year that banned a Pennsylvania school system's classroom mention of "intelligent design" — the notion that life is so complex it must have been created by a higher intelligence.
The resolution approved by the SBC committee mentions the Pennsylvania decision, but also goes out of its way to "affirm the hundreds of thousands of Christian men and women who teach in our public schools."
Also Wednesday, the SBC unofficially barred members who drink alcohol from serving as trustees or members of any SBC entity.
The ban, part of a larger anti-alcohol resolution that was easily approved by delegates, was proposed by Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. While stopping short of officially preventing drinkers from serving, it "urges" that no one be elected or appointed to SBC offices if they are "a user of alcohol."
"Use of alcohol as a beverage can and does impede the message of Jesus Christ" that Southern Baptists are trying to spread, Richards said.