The South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) sent an e-mail memorandum to pastors today urging them to “alert South Carolinians” from their pulpits about “the need to flood” the office of Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., with requests to confirm former Senator John Ashcroft’s nomination for attorney general.
“Please call Sen. Hollings’ Washington office . . . ask him to support Ashcroft’s nomination,” wrote Joe Mack, director of the SCBC Christian Life Concerns Department. “I am asking all pastors to make this announcement from the pulpit this Sunday and to provide the senator’s phone number to the congregation.”
The e-mail memorandum appeared on SCBC stationery and listed Hollings’ Washington office telephone number. Sen. Hollings has announced his opposition to Ashcroft, according to an article in the Washington Post.
“It raises the hair on the back of my Baptist neck,” said Fred Andrea, pastor of First Baptist Church in Aiken, S.C. “Identifying the election of a candidate with the specific will of God is dangerously un-Baptist behavior. An encouragement to endorse a nominee violates our historic understanding of Baptist polity.”
The SCBC memorandum states the Washington office of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) asked the Christian Life Concerns Department to send the “alert” to pastors of the South Carolina Baptist congregations.
“Only the dead can now doubt the sad reality that the fundamentalist-controlled Southern Baptist Convention is joined at the hip to the rightwing of the Republican Party,” said Robert Parham, the executive director of the Nashville-based Baptist Center for Ethics.
Mack and Carlisle Driggers, executive director and treasurer of the SCBC, were unavailable for comment.
“I’m not aware of any inundation of calls,” said Andy Davis, communications director for Sen. Hollings. “I couldn’t give you a number, but it hasn’t been enormous.”
Andrea’s unease with the memorandum has “nothing to do with the merit of the nominee,” he said. Rather, “my reaction is simply to the way in which this is being conveyed to me as a pastor of a South Carolina Baptist church.”
Andrea said he would not make calls in support of Ashcroft and would not announce it from his pulpit.
“I see both former Senator Ashcroft and Senator Hollings as persons of authentic faith,” he said. “Knowing that in my congregation are people like Senator Strom Thurmond [R-S.C.], I want to be respectful of how the cause of Christ includes people of diverse political persuasions.”
Sarah Griffith is BCE’s communications coordinator.