Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Dr. Morris H. Chapman
Advocates of home and Christian education are pointing to an article by one of the top executives of the Southern Baptist Convention as evidence that the nation’s largest Protestant denomination is growing increasingly fed up with the godlessness taught in America’s public schools.
The article printed in The Baptist Messenger by Dr. Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, criticizes the public school system for increasing secularism and moral erosion and proposes that Southern Baptists “bolster (their) investment in Christian elementary and secondary schools.”
Dr. Bruce Shortt, author of “The Harsh Truth about Public Schools” and a board member of Exodus Mandate, a ministry that encourages and equips families to give their children a Christian education, is among those celebrating a change in tone at the denomination’s highest level.
“Historically the Southern Baptist Convention has been joined at the hip with the public school system,” Shortt told WND, “but this article indicates recognition of what the public schools have become and will take the Convention in a new direction.”
Since 2004, Shortt has cosponsored resolutions to the Annual Meeting of the SBC every year, urging Baptists to remove their children from government schools and, instead, give them a Christian education. The resolutions, however, have been met with resistance and even outright hostility, viewed as an extreme response to admitted struggles Christian parents face within the public schools.
But in 2005, when Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Theological Seminary, called for the SBC to develop an “exit strategy” from the government’s schools, Southern Baptists began debating the proper role of government and faith in the education of children.
Now with the Dr. Chapman’s recent article, Shortt told WND, the SBC may soon be ready to admit that Christian children are better educated in a Christian environment, rather than a secular school.
In the article Chapman advocates “a course correction in an area that seems to have suffered neglect – the protection and nurturing of the spiritual health and growth of children and adolescents.
“In far too many public schools throughout the country,” Chapman writes, “our children are being bombarded with secular reasoning, situational ethics and moral erosion.”
Chapman then advocates that the SBC adopt a two-pronged strategy to bolster Christian education: the establishment of Christian schools in the inner cities, where they might best be welcomed as a help to struggling families, and cooperation between SBC churches to establish a Christian school in every association area.
Shortt pointed out to WND that Chapman’s two proposals echo the steps he and others have been drafting in their resolutions to the SBC for years, the “first steps,” he said, of implementing Dr. Mohler’s “exit strategy.”
“Dr. Morris Chapman’s clarion call for a major expansion of Christian elementary and secondary schools is an example of bold leadership, not only for the SBC, but for the entire Christian community,” said Chaplain E. Ray Moore, director of the Exodus Mandate Project, in a statement. “This could not have come at a more opportune moment when families are crying out for assistance with their children and churches are losing the next generation of youth to worldliness, humanism and postmodernism due to public schooling.”
As WND has reported, advocates of Christian families turning to Christian education point out that youngsters spend 14,000 hours in the course of a typical education being discipled in the government school system. Moore has estimated, based on statistics, that 70 to 80 percent of children “will abandon the church and their faith in a public school career.”
Chapman’s article, however, while advocating Christian education and criticizing the public school system, stopped short of Moore’s call for an exodus from government schools.
“Kingdom education should not be a reaction to public education,” Chapman wrote. “The focus should not be to abandon public schools, but to be certain not to abandon our biblical responsibility to come alongside parents in training up a child in the way he should go.”
Nonetheless, Shortt told WND, Chapman’s article reflects the leadership of the SBC is undergoing a major shift in its approach to education.
“As the chief administrator of the SBC, Dr. Chapman’s voice is extremely powerful,” Shortt said in a statement. “All Christians should note this sea-change in sentiment within the SBC. The spiritual, moral, and intellectual pathologies of the government school system are now obvious even to casual observers. Christian parents and pastors need to ask themselves just how much longer they intend to render our children to Caesar’s spiritually dark, morally decaying, and physically dangerous government schools.”
Indeed, Chapman’s article reflects an urgency in reevaluating a Christian family’s role in its children’s education.
“Can we ignore the enormity of this need any longer when our children so desperately need to be fortified with strong biblical precepts as well as history, grammar, literature, civics, math and science?” Chapman writes. “In recent days, two questions have weighed heavily on my soul. If Southern Baptists don’t do it, who will? If we don’t do it now, do we risk forever losing the opportunity to build schools for God’s glory and the future of our children, grandchildren and the land we love?”
Dr. Shortt, in fact, has already drafted a new resolution for the 2009 Annual Meeting of the SBC, which calls on the denomination to commend Dr. Chapman and encourage churches “to work vigorously as a missional effort to encourage and support the expansion in their communities of (1) Christian schools, (2) homeschooling and homeschool co-ops and (3) alternative models for providing Christian education.”
Shortt’s resolutions have failed five times in the past, but he hopes that at the SBC’s Annual Meeting in Louisville, Ky., on June 23-24, the sixth time will be the charm.