What a difference a year makes! What a difference many of you have made for me over the past year.
I have gone from no hair to hair, from no weight to the weight room, from a lot of memory holes to a lot fewer memory holes. And perhaps I’ve gone from cautious realism to throwing caution to the wind.
I’m grateful for your many acts of kindness. Cards, calls and a box full of emails provided me with good energy.
Please don’t misread my personal gratitude as a sign of going mushy about the mission of BCE.
Like the Dixie Chicks, I’m not ready to make nice. I’m not ready to make nice about drug profiteering, debt-crippling poverty, deception in the rush to war and demonizing of public schools. I’m not ready to make nice about the wrong direction of fundamentalists, the misdirection of the right wing and the lack of direction of mushy moderates. I hope you’re not ready to make nice either.
I think BCE is ready to continue supplying Baptists and others with a nutritional diet of news stories, columns, movie reviews and sermons on EthicsDaily.com.
BCE is ready to continuing taking pro-active initiatives like supporting public education.
BCE is ready to continue creating synergistic networks for the common good on common ground with good folk.
BCE will soon be ready to release two ethics education DVDs. One will advance good will for centrist Baptists within the Jewish community. The other advocates support for Baptist World Aid and its partners addressing global poverty.
BCE is ready to continue articulating Baptist principles with an ecumenical spirit.
I think that what we do is in the best tradition of Henlee Barnette and T.B. Maston. As with Joshua in the hill country of Gibeon, “the sun stayed in the midst of heaven and did not hasten to go down” (Joshua 10:13) on Barnette and Maston.
They were given more time than most, because most of us needed more of their time.
Perhaps God knew we need more light from these men to ward off the Baptist affliction–too much doctrine and too little doing.
Now, many of us have drunk from wells they dug. We have warmed ourselves on fires they kindled. We have crossed bridges they built.
Unless we act incisively and decisively, future generations will inherit sand-choked wells, smothered fires, busted bridges and famished fields.
Already, too many seminaries know not of Barnette and Maston. They know not of the wonderful prophetic and pragmatic traditions of Baptist ethics.
So, we need to be about strengthening Baptist ethics work, not diminishing it.
On the TV show “My Name Is Earl” the chief character, Earl, has a list of good deeds to do.
We, too, need a list of ways to strengthen Baptist ethics work. That’s going to require discernment.
Jesus called us to discernment. He said be wise as serpents. He called for the practice of serpenthood.
As we go, let’s go with a commitment to practice serpenthood in making a list for what we can do to underwrite the Baptist Center for Ethics; to expand ethics teaching in our new seminaries; to prioritize ethics education in our churches; and to foster stronger ethics networks.
As we go, let’s go with gratitude for our heritage and fire in our souls to do justice.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.