Tuesday, May 03, 2005

On Timid Leadership

Moderate Baptists have been cursed by a plethora of timid leaders.

The current chapter in this sad and long tale of ineptitude is being written at historic First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. A church once graced with the leadership of strong moderates like Dr. Gene Garrison and Dr. Jeff Zurheide has stumbled into the trap of appeasing their most fundamentalistic and conservative members.

There is no doubt that First Baptist OKC has been subjected to extensive and intense pressure from fundamentalists loyal to the Southern Baptist Convention. After leading the church out of the SBC, their last pastor was subject to an anonymous written smear campaign orchestrated by a trustee of the fundamentalist dominated Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO).

You might expect a church so thoroughly exposed to slanderous propaganda against itself to have developed enough perception and discernment to recognize scandalous propaganda being used to discredit others. Alas, such is not the case in this instance. Apparently, enough people at FBC OKC still ascribe credibility to the fundamentalist screeds of Oklahoma's Baptist Messenger for the leadership of the church to be ambivolent about both Americans United and Mainstream Baptists. Here are a couple pertinent examples of the journalistic artistry of Oklahoma Baptist leaders regarding Americans United and Mainstream Baptists.

The last link is an article raising opposition to the Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection that Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists and the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United organized last year. Here's a link to more accurate information about that event. Which brings us to the subject of this blog.

This year we organized a second Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection and we asked Barry Lynn, national Executive Director of Americans United, to speak at our event. Barry agreed and we wanted to give people who could not take off from work to hear him to have an opportunity to hear him speak. We could have asked any of a number of churches for the use of their facilities. We asked First Baptist of Oklahoma City and they agreed. Then we wrote newsletters (here and here)and purchased advertising (it will appear tomorrow here) and talked with media (here and here) to promote our event. Our work paid off. It helped having had a year's experience under our belt.

Then, at an hour too late to revise tomorrow's advertising or stop the presses, I was indirectly informed that First Baptist was rescinding permission to use their facilities and that they were issuing a press release to that effect. Here's a link to that press release and my response.

I'm praying for a spine to grow in some leaders at that church.


Dr. Mike Kear said...

Hi Dr. Prescott,

What a shameful and pusillanimous act on the part of FBC!

I wonder what they mean when they say, "appropriate separation of church and state"?

As I wrote in an article on The Emmaus Theory blog a few days ago, "Baptists have traditionally stood strong for freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state. Apparently that is a thing of the past. I think it is time for Southern Baptists to be honest about their departure from the commonly accepted and regular baptist faith and practice. They are Baptist in name only if they are choosing the path of church-sponsored politics and are attempting to manipulate the consciences of the priesthood of believers. Do we need to re-read the history of the Baptists?"


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a case of switch and bait on Bruce's part to me. For someone violently apposing church and state issues, but wants to use the church to support his issues. If you want church and state issues separated, why should you then expect the church to open its doors to your point of view as a minister.

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...


Until now, the doors of Baptist churches have always been open to discussions of separation of church and state.

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Dr. Mike,

I'm still waiting to hear what "appropriate" separation means myself. Obviously, they know better than to deny that Baptists have traditionally championed separation of church and state.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that it only matters to keep church and state issues separate, depending on which side of the issue you stand. Open the church doors if you are liberal, close the doors if you are conservative.

Greek Shadow said...

I think the problem is one of timing. They could have chosen not to open their doors when first asked, no harm no foul. This is pulling the rug out at the last minute. Dirty pool.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Greek Shadow on the timing. I don't know why they considered opening the door in the first place.