Looking back at the Baptist Center for Ethics' shaky start in 1991 from the high ground of success, I sometimes marvel that we ever made it.
On the Friday before we announced BCE's launch, James Sullivan, former president of the Baptist Sunday School Board, leaked a letter to Herb Hollinger, head of Baptist Press. Sullivan's leak set off a wave of anxiety in the Southern Baptist Convention's executive building, which housed the Christian Life Commission where I worked.
Sullivan clung to the false hope that moderate Baptists could remain part of the SBC, even though all the evidence showed that the fundamentalist's rhetoric about parity was morphing into a rightwing agenda of ideological purity. Hiding behind a request of confidentiality, Sullivan wanted to stifle BCE's birth.
A few days later, Richard Land, the fundamentalist director of the Christian Life Commission, said, "I don't think there is any confusion over who speaks for the majority of Southern Baptists in the year of our Lord 1991."
"It is not the Baptist Center for Ethics," he said. "It is the Christian Life Commission."
His claim to speak for Baptists came after I promised that BCE would not be "a pontifical group." Instead, we would be a pro-ethics network providing careful moral reflection and practical solutions to real problems.
We have kept that promise. We do not speak for Baptists. We do speak to Baptists. And a lot of Baptists are "listening."
According to our Web site tracking software, a rapidly growing number of folk are reading the editorials, columns, news articles and movie reviews on EthicsDaily.com.
In October 2003, we had 44,198 page requests, one measurement of Internet activity. In January, we had 88,019 page requests, compared to 97,885 in March.
In April, we watched a huge wave of activity on EthicsDaily.com. Over 180,000 pages were requested.
We are not sure what it means. We hope it means that EthicsDaily.com has begun to establish itself as a primary source for news and information for global Baptists. Launched two years ago, EthicsDaily.com is clearly becoming the moderate Baptist flagship.
Our Web site success is due in larger measure to the synergy we have created between two component initiatives. On one hand, we provide hard-hitting, content-rich news articles, thoughtful columns, timely movie reviews and practical book reviews. On the other hand, we offer first-rate educational resources, especially our online adult Sunday school curriculum that is being used in churches throughout the United States and in Canada and Australia.
Despite our many successes, we have flagged in one area—funding.
Ironically, a fundamentalist director of missions, then the chair of the Christian Life Commission's board of directors, said at our beginning that he doubted that we could stay afloat financially.
He was wrong. We've more than stayed afloat. Yet we are far from reaching our potential.
We ended our first quarter this year in the red. We anticipate declining funding in the months ahead from two entities upon whom we have depended. Because of the changing Baptist landscape, we must turn to individuals.
If you trust what we have done, if you believe in what we are doing, if you want a resilient, compelling and influential Baptist witness, then we need your financial support.
We need those who benefit from and enjoy EthicsDaily.com to help us with their gifts.
You have the power to empower BCE to become a stronger, more visible and more productive news, information and education organization.
If you would like to make a contribution, you may do so online. Click on the link below and make a donation on our secure site with your credit card.
If you would like to write a check, make it out to Baptist Center for Ethics. Mail it to Baptist Center for Ethics, 4219 Hillsboro Road, Ste. 210, Nashville, TN 37215.
Know that your contributions will be kept confidential and are tax exempt.
Click here to make an online donation to the Baptist Center for Ethics.