If you want to know what Southern Baptist Convention leaders really think about public education, follow them to school.
The most visible nominee for the presidency of the SBC is Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark. His church has its own school, Shiloh Christian School. On his blog, Floyd lists the school as one of his three favorite Web sites.
The school has some 650 students from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade. Shiloh Christian School estimates that half of its students belong to First Baptist and its mission, the Church at Pinnacle Hills. Only 3 percent of its students are children of color, compared to the Arkansas classroom average of 10 percent.
The once-rumored presidential candidate, Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, has one son at Oklahoma Bible Academy and another one at Emmanuel Christian School in Enid, Okla.
A number of SBC presidents serve or served at churches with Christian academies.
The 2002-2004 president, Jack Graham, is pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, which has a ministry named Prestonwood Christian Academy. The school has over 1,400 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade with 7 percent students of color, compared to 30 percent average in Texas schools.
Another SBC president (1994-1996), Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., started The First Academy as a church ministry in 1987.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and SBC president 1998-2000, joined the staff of First Baptist Church in Dallas shortly after it started First Baptist Academy in 1972.
During Pattersons presidency at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, he bragged that over 100 faculty, staff and students were homeschooling their children.
The chief officer of the SBC's publishing house, Thom Rainer, sent his children to Christian Academy of Louisville, when he was on faculty of Southern Seminary. The organization he now leads, LifeWay Christian Resources, produces homeschool curriculum, a new product line begun by Jimmy Draper, who was the 1982-1984 SBC president.
At least two of the 10 members of the 2006 SBC resolutions committee have Christian academies connected to their churches.
Forrest Pollock, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., has the Bell Shoals Baptist Academy as a church ministry for students from kindergarten through 8th grade. The academy's mission statement says that "The Bible is the basic textbook."
Darrell Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla., has the First Baptist Christian School that runs from preschool through the 8th grade. Orman is a graduate of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and Liberty Baptist Seminary.
Started in 1978, Grove Avenue Christian School is a ministry of Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., where many International Mission Board employees attend. Mark Becton, the church's pastor, is first vice president of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and on the 2006 SBC committee on committees.
Emmanuel Christian School is a ministry of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Manassas, Va., another member of the SBCV. The church's pastor, Rodney Autry, has been nominated to serve on the powerful SBC Executive Committee.
Stephen Rummage, associate pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., is also a 2006 nominee to the SBC Executive Committee. His church houses the Hickory Grove Baptist Christian School.
Calvary Baptist Church started Calvary Baptist Day School with a first grade class in 1971, under the leadership of pastor and SBC leader Mark Corts.
More names could be added to the above list.
Layer after layer discloses that the SBC leadership puts its backing behind Christian academies and homeschools, the de-facto exit-system for fundamentalists from public schools.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
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