|One thing became crystal clear in 2007: Baptist Center for Ethics became better known as EthicsDaily.com.Again and again, when I introduced myself to global Baptists at the Baptist World Alliance gathering in Accra, Ghana, as being with the Baptist Center for Ethics, I received a blank response. When I referenced EthicsDaily.com, folk from Liberia to Australia immediately recognized the name and said that they read our Web site regularly.
In an all-too-brief debate with a Southern Baptist fundamentalist on FOX News, the cable network decided to identify me with EthicsDaily.com.
The online version of Time Magazine credited reports from EthicsDaily.com.
A noted newspaper columnist even asked me the week before Christmas if BCE was no more.
EthicsDaily.com has become our primary imprimatur. This development is the inevitable consequence of our rapidly expanding readership that one month in 2007 recorded almost 280,000 page requests and another month recorded over 4 million hits.
As more and more readers know us primarily as EthicsDaily.com, we have discussed what we should do about this organizational dynamic.
We are committed to the best of the centrist-to-progressive Baptist tradition. We have no interest in abandoning our Baptist roots and forsaking our beloved Baptist community. At the same time, we are being drawn into more constructive engagement with the ecumenical community and larger religious world.
Our resource development in 2007 reflected this tension, evidenced by our production of two DVDs.
One was a Baptist-centric DVD with online resources related to Luke 4 and the New Baptist Covenant. This educational initiative was designed primarily for North American Baptists. Some 1,500 DVDs were distributed by American Baptist Churches, U.S.A., Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baptist General Convention of Missouri, North American Baptist Fellowship (BWA), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and some of its state affiliates. The free, online Luke 4 commentary was written by the School of Religion faculty at Belmont University, an historic Baptist college.
The other, "Golden Rule Politics: Reclaiming the Rightful Role of Faith in Politics," was a documentary-styled DVD that included interviews with a Church of Christ minister, a Lutheran congressman, two Methodist lay people and an Episcopal bishop. That DVD found appeal within the ecumenical, academic and political communities that exist well beyond the Baptist boundaries.
Another example of our holding fast to heritage while reaching out to others appeared in EthicsDaily.com articles. Most of our 2007 columnists were Baptists with an increasing number of pieces written by those belonging to ABC, U.S.A. At the same time, we're beginning to post regular columns from a rabbi blogger, a Nazarene homemaker and a Methodist teacher.
In terms of content, EthicsDaily.com kept an intense focus on Baptists with some 70 articles over the past 15 months about sex abuse of children by Baptist clergy. Without our unrelenting scrutiny, Southern Baptist leaders would still be in denial about this systemic moral failure in the nation's largest Protestant denomination and even further from reformation.
Our text and video-shorts content also covered Mormons, the National Council of Churches, Mennonite peacemakers and a famous Catholic opponent of the death penalty.
We are at the crossroads. That is a good place to be. Crossroads are dynamic places where ideas flourish and opportunities abound.
At the religious crossroads, white Southern Baptists are synonymous with theological fundamentalists and political extremists. Here BCE has the obligation to offer a countervailing voice, a prophetic witness to a more biblically faithful message. Therefore, we cannot and should not forfeit the name. The name gives us opportunities to voice a more progressive vision in the pages of major newspapers, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dallas Morning News and The Tennessean.
Constructive social change hinges on the realism of knowing where one is and what can be accomplished. Our geography, our location, determines our affiliation. Affiliation shapes identification. Identification decides direction and perception. So, we are Baptist.
Don't expect us to be exclusively Baptist, however. We will have an open range for even more ecumenical engagement and interfaith work in 2008.
BCE/EthicsDaily.com enters the New Year morally more relevant, organizationally more robust and educationally more prudent than at any point in the past 17 years. We enter it with a seasoned enthusiasm, unafraid of hard work and innovations.
We do need the help of our readership.
We ask our readers to vote for EthicsDaily.com with their gifts at end of the year. If every reader gave just $50 on a single day, then we would not have to appeal for funding on EthicsDaily.com for the next year. Yes, we have that many daily readers.
If you haven't given this year, please click here to make a secure online contribution or to secure our mailing address.
We also ask our readers to recommend EthicsDaily.com to their friends. If you like what we do, tell others. What better way to advance the common good than giving to your family and friends links to timely news stories and cutting-edge commentaries. Help us create constructive social change by expanding our readership.
Finally, thanks for your faithful support. We know the truth of the African proverb: "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
We want to go far with a goodwill community for the common good.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.