We plan to produce a four-part DVD study guide that will equip Baptists for constructive interfaith relationships with the Jewish community, a resource long overdue, and a much-needed educational unit.
Former Southern Baptist interfaith witness leader Glenn Igleheart (left) and the American Jewish Committee's Jonathan Levine at 2004 BCE-sponsored Baptist-Jewish dialogue.
And we need EthicsDaily.com readers to help us make this resource available.
Here's background information that I hope will motivate readers to enable us to take the high ground.
At the Baptist Center for Ethics-sponsored 2004 Baptist-Jewish luncheon, attended by some 500 Baptists and Jews, I said that relationships between the Southern Baptist Convention and members of the Jewish community had hit rock bottom.
Between the 1980 SBC president's statement that "God Almighty does not hear the prayers of a Jew" and the 2004 refusal of Southern Baptist leaders to acknowledge any anti-Semitism in the movie "The Passion," I ticked off a number of problems. They included the passing a resolution which targeted Jews for evangelism, prioritizing Jews for conversion during their high holy days and refusing to participate in joint worship services with the Jewish community after 9/11. I said that such "Christian love" was more than any faith group should bear.
I also cautioned moderate Baptists against moral smugness. I noted that we had taken too few initiatives to fashion good will for the common good and expressed the hope that the luncheon would provide a good step forward in a new era of improved relationships between the two faiths.
BCE posted video clips of the event and continued to carry news stories, mostly about the conflict between the SBC and the Jewish community. We also began carrying columns written by Fred Guttman, rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, N.C.
Nevertheless, we've done too little. We've perpetuated the time-proven, moderate Baptist tradition of being "all hat and no cowboy" or all talk and no walk.
We plan to do a lot better in 2006, beginning with a DVD study guide. We are designing biblically based lessons that review the history of Baptist-Jewish relationships and offer practical handles that will encourage Baptists to engage in respectful, meaningful and productive interfaith relationships. This new educational resource will provide thoughtful Baptists with new stories through which to see, insights upon which to think and act and ideas to implement.
The educational resource packet will include a DVD with clips from the luncheon and other material. It will include four-part student lessons and accompanying teacher material. Both the student and leader materials will be undated and online.
The project will cost $15,000. We've already received $5,000 in gifts and pledges.
The first gift came from a memorial fund at a Temple, representing perhaps the eagerness of the Jewish community for improved, respectful relationships.
A substantial grant came from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia, which has proven time and again its commitment to Baptist-Jewish interfaith work. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas also pledged support. Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Ga., was one of several Baptist churches making gifts. So did individual Baptists.
I still need to raise $10,000.
I hope that EthicsDaily.com readers will see the worth of this initiative and will underwrite the project. If you would like to make a contribution to this project, click here. Be sure to write in the comments box that your donation is for the Baptist/Jewish project. If you prefer to write a check, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page for BCE's street address. Make a notation on your check designating it to this initiative.
From my perspective $10,000 is a modest amount, considering the amount of good that this resource will do in what will likely unfold in the year ahead.
With much anticipation and gratitude, thanks in advance.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
Previous related articles:
BCE Luncheon Aims at 'New Era' of Baptist-Jewish Relations
Fostering Good Will for the Common Good
Why Baptists Need to Dialogue with Jews
SBC Executive Committee Suggests Study of Mission to the Jews
SBC President's Anti-Jewish Remark Helped Spark Conservative Revolution