The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina voted last week to deny churches the opportunity to give through the convention to the Baptist Center for Ethics, thereby ending an almost 20-year partnership.
Traditional Baptists in SBC-affiliated churches must decide if they want to be bound in organizations retreating from the 21st century, Parham writes.
No state convention executive or elected leader ever called to explain what it was that we did or did not do that created the need to rupture the partnership. Neither did they bother to disclose information about their pending decision. No formal communication was exchanged.
State convention messengers made a decision in 2008 to begin pulling up the drawbridge to the conservative castle. A year later, they sealed the drawbridge, cutting off relationships with the non-fundamentalist Baptist world and fortifying relationships with the fundamentalists who run the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
"No sideline passes will be distributed for the Baptist State Convention's (BSC) annual meeting in Greensboro Nov. 9-11. You need to be in the game," wrote the convention's state paper editor in a cutesy way. "Come to Greensboro. Get into the game."
By getting into the game, he apparently meant in part that supporters could benefit from "a great lineup of breakout sessions." One of those sessions was led by a man connected with the North Carolina Family Policy Council, a Christian Right organization that believes in thought police, opposes the teaching of evolution in schools and thinks the United Nations is undermining families.
Neither the state convention's action nor its right-wing workshop represents the best of North Carolina Baptists.
From my perspective, I regret the loss of such a long-time partnership. I was not totally surprised, however. I had warned in an editorial in January 2004 about the challenges facing North Carolina moderates. That piece upset some state convention moderates who wanted to avoid thinking about the future and addressing honestly the existing dynamics.
"Know that the Baptist Center for Ethics is grateful for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina," I wrote. "BSCNC provided BCE over $31,000 in funding in 2003. Jim Royston, the state executive director, reviews books on our Web site. Steve Sumerel on the convention staff writes a regular column about substance-abuse issues. Just as BCE expects to continue working with friendly elements within BSCNC, North Carolina moderates will find alliances within the state convention constellation."
A new challenge now faces the theologically thoughtful and morally centrist North Carolinians, who belong to churches no longer allowed to support BCE through the BSC budget.
Traditional Baptists in SBC-affiliated churches must decide if they want to be bound in organizations retreating from the 21st century. They must determine if they want to fund organizations which are aligned with Birthers, Tea-Baggers, Disney-boycotters, anti-public school advocates and preachers who think women ought to only be homemakers. That's who the SBC leadership is. And that's what BSC wants to become.
While thoughtful and centrist church members weigh their decision to stay hardwired to the fringe of culture and theology, these good Baptists need to know in concrete terms what BSC's decision means financially for BCE.
Churches through the state convention provided financial support to BCE of $28,369 in 2004, $26,840 in 2005, $26,031 in 2006, $27,001 in 2007, $23,567 in 2008 and $14,879 through September of this year.
We hope goodwill North Carolina Baptist individuals and churches will decide to make up our loss of funding.
If you read this editorial, then we hope you help us make up this defunding. To make a secure, online contribution, click here. If you prefer to write a check, mailing directions are on this same page.
We also hope you will consider getting BCE in your church budget or supporting BCE through the mission resource plan of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina.
We have a clear moral perspective and a transparent one. We disclose our vantage point every day on EthicsDaily.com, through our documentaries and in our online curriculum units. We frame issues from a centrist Baptist position that is rooted in the biblical witness, seeks to interpret and apply the teachings of Jesus, honors the best of the goodwill Baptist tradition, knows that the headquarters of the Baptist faith is the local church and hopes that we both inform and equip church members. We don't speak for Baptists; we do speak to Baptists and other people of faith.
We hope you will speak up for BCE.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.