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.