June 19, 2007

The Writing on the Wall

Houston attorney Bruce Shortt, a Southern Baptist who is one of the folks leading the exodus-from-public-schools movement, sends along this recap of the recent annual meeting of the SBC:

"As you know, the leadership bottled up our resolution in the Resolutions Committee. Nevertheless, this is clearly the best year we have had at the Annual Meeting. While this may sound somewhat counter-intuitive, please bear in mind that our resolutions have always been a strategy for (a) obtaining free media to communicate our message to the grassroots and (b) engaging the leaders who try to prevent discussion of the education issue. Consequently, because resolutions in the SBC are not binding on anyone, our main objective has always been to create a debate about the education of our children within the SBC and beyond.

"So, if success is measured by how effectively our message was communicated at the Annual Meeting and the potential that communication holds for creating serious discussion about how we are educating our children, this Meeting easily eclipses 2004, 2005, and 2006. How so?

"This year's Annual Meeting was held in San Antonio, and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was the host convention for the Annual Meeting. As the host convention, the SBTC's paper, the Southern Baptist Texan, provided a "Special Edition" free to all of the messengers and their families. The editor of the Texan, Gary Ledbetter, devoted his Annual Meeting editorial to the education issue. Here is an excerpt:
... When I think of the Exodus story I can't help but see Charlton Heston leading a cast of thousands out of a movie-set Egypt. One day there are millions of the Hebrew children in Egypt and a few days later, not one. The removal of Christian families from public schools will not be that way.

Think instead of an oppressed minority leaving a repressive political regime. A few get out early, others need a more urgent threat, others escape through some kind of underground rescue movement, dogs baying in the background. Some will stay too long. I'm convinced that we'll leave, not as a denomination or as churches or even as a faith, but as refugees whose alarms go off according to different sensitivities. Eventually we'll all leave public education or wish we had.
More from Bruce Shortt: "If you follow the link, you will find that Mr. Ledbetter begins by distancing himself from Exodus Mandate, but by the fourth paragraph the substance shifts to a type of argument that we commonly make. Moreover, the conclusion could not have been better.

"Had this year's relatively mild resolution been allowed on the floor, it would have passed without much discussion or thought by the fairly small percentage of messengers present for the early morning session on resolutions, and it would have been forgotten promptly.

"Unlike any of the resolutions offered this year (including the ones that were allowed out of Committee), Mr. Ledbetter's well-written editorial has been read by (a) several thousand of the messengers (virtually all of whom hold some kind of leadership position in SBC life), (b) virtually all of the professional journalists working for the SBC and the state conventions, and (c) many of the leaders in our SBC institutions. The net impact of the editorial is that the question of removing our children from the government school system can no longer be regarded as an issue on the fringe of SBC life.

"Frankly, although the editorial was a complete surprise, we could not have asked for anything more effective. It bears repeating that this editorial appeared in an official Baptist publication that was a special edition specifically prepared for everyone attending the San Antonio Annual Meeting. In addition, I believe Mr. Ledbetter's tone and approach to the topic is perfect for engaging SBC pastors and other leaders and moving them in the right direction. This editorial may well prove to be the beginning of the writing on the wall at the government school Belshazzar's Feast."

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