Southern Baptists, more than other denominations, are caught on the horns of a higher-education dilemma. On the one hand are rising costs and the pressure of maintaining high standards in the face of rapid change. On the other is fear of government influence that would conflict with the strong Baptist emphasis on the separation of church and state.
In frank self-appraisal, 300 Southern Baptist leaders met in Nashville June 13–16 for the first Baptist Education Study Task (BEST). A broad spectrum of problems facing the fifty-four Southern Baptist colleges and universities were discussed by twenty-two study groups. While the participants have no power to bind either the SBC or any of the institutions represented, the findings of the study groups are an index to thought trends among Southern Baptist educational leaders.
Government aid, the most controversial subject discussed, has long been a point of contention. The full conference did not at any time vote on the question of government aid to Baptist schools. However, the two groups that discussed the matter of financing the institutions agreed that the federal-grant decision should be left to the trustees of the several schools. Most of the colleges and universities are controlled by separate boards and are owned by state Baptist conventions. The conventions set the basic policy, and school trustees abide by convention decisions.
One of the study sections adopted the following statement: “We suggest that the various state conventions of our denomination consider authorizing boards of trustees of the institutions to accept those government aids which in their judgment do not interfere with their program of Christian higher education.” This suggestion is particularly significant in view of the test case on government subsidies to church-related institutions currently being appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (see June 24, 1966, issue, p. 40).
The same section suggested that the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs in Washington, D. C., study the matter of church-state separation in regard to aid to education and report by January, 1967.
Although the suggestions of this group were not voted upon, they reflect a growing concern over inadequate financial support of those Christian institutions not accepting government aid. At the opening conference session, the educators heard Felix C. Robb, newly elected director of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, comment on the government aid quest: “You are going to miss providing a great educational service to the nation if you don’t ride with the tides on this issue.”
Reuben Alley, editor of the state Baptist paper of Virginia, vigorously opposed government aid, saying that it would be immoral to receive government money without accepting government control. Alley said that if Baptist schools were not distinctive from schools that get government funds, they didn’t deserve “one nickel of Baptist support.”
Many institution heads have for some time complained that if their schools are not to receive government grants, then the denomination should assume more financial responsibility.
Every one of the eight reports summarizing the study-group proposals cited the need for a clear statement of the philosophy of Baptist higher education.
Rabun Brantly, chairman of the conference and head of the Southern Baptists’ Education Commission, commented that all the reports agreed also on the need for “improved communications between the colleges and Baptist people.” These two needs, according to Brantly, outweighed consideration of the controversial question of government aid.
A total of 84 problems were enumerated by the study groups, and 120 solutions were suggested. Among the subjects considered were the following: denominational affiliation of faculty members, faculty recruitment, academic freedom, consolidation of schools, and public relations.
A second national study conference will be held in Nashville in June, 1967. A special eighteen-member findings committee is charged with summarizing the results of the study. This summary will be made available to college trustees, state conventions, and other interested groups.
Before the entire matter is settled, as many as 10,000 Southern Baptists may become involved. Discussions will be held in 200 selected churches, at least fifty pastors’ conferences, at many of the colleges and universities, and at twenty-four regional BEST seminars scheduled for the first quarter of 1967.
Perhaps the chief value of the conference was in stimulating thought on the future of higher education among Southern Baptists.
At the conclusion of this initial meeting of the study, Editor John J. Hurt of Georgia’s Christian Index summed up his reaction: “We came with the answers, and left with the questions.”
This Year’S Christmas Stamp
For the second consecutive year, the Post Office Department will issue a Christmas stamp depicting a religious subject.
This year’s stamp shows the central portion of Hans Memling’s oil painting, “Madonna and Child with Angels,” which is in the National Gallery of Art.
The vertical five-color stamp is from a picture painted on wood by the Flemish master about 1480. It shows the Madonna holding the infant Jesus.
In the past, controversy has arisen over whether the Post Office should issue stamps having religious themes. This intensified last year when the first stamp of that nature was issued. It showed the Angel Gabriel blowing his horn and was taken from a painting of a New England church weathervane.
Here is the National Gallery’s description of the portion of the painting to be reproduced: “The Virgin in a blue-green robe and red mantle seated on a red canopied throne. She holds in her lap the infant Christ who, with one hand touches the pages of the Missal.”
First day of distribution will be November 1 at Christmas, Michigan. The initial print order is for 1.2 billion stamps.
When thousands rioted in Chicago’s Spanish-speaking community June 12 and 13, city officials were perplexed. It had been the Negro minority from which disturbances were expected.
One executive in the Chicago Conference on Religion and Race heard an official say: “We always thought the Puerto Rican and Mexican peoples were happy. If they get any happier they’ll tear the town apart.”
For weeks publicists had saturated the mass media with analyses of the strategy Negro leaders were planning for Chicago this summer. It was a surprise to find rioting where unemployment was low, where the level of education was higher than in the Negro ghetto, and where little effort had been made to organize a movement for civil disobedience.
Called to Chicago after last summer’s mass rally organized by leaders in the Church Federation of Greater Chicago, Martin Luther King arrived at the city’s west side early last January. Since then he has spent minimal time in the city, but a staff headed by brilliant Andrew Young and shrewd James Bivel have developed a semblance of organization while maintaining contact with the grass roots and the more violent element.
This summer’s demonstrations and marches, run by the Community Council of Commission Organizations—Southern Christian Leadership Conference (which is advised by Alvin Pitcher, professor of ethics at Chicago Divinity School), will begin with a mass rally in Soldiers’ Field, July 10.
Hans Mattick, professional criminologist and critic of the movement, explains away CCCO-SCLC as a nebulous structure that seems to vaporize when its member organizations are studied. He portrayed the racial problem as one of selective communication in which the top echelon of the power structure is not aware of the frustrations among the rank and file.
King is the symbol by which the movement is able to draw attention to Chicago. He intends to dramatize the injustice of this northern city by making the most of particular inequities.
One critic within the movement warned, “There will be violence; it cannot be avoided. King’s staff is organizing gangs for demonstrations, and its leaders know the consequences of such efforts.”
Critics outside the movement include leaders of the National Baptists U. S.A., Inc., and several other denominations, totaling more than six million Negroes. This bloc tends to support Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, who is a target of frequent criticism from the King group.
No immediate direct connection was seen between the riots in the Spanish communities and the Negro freedom movement. The melee erupted when police attempted to break up a gang fight and a youth was wounded by gunfire. Some experts have charged irresponsible use of authority by leaders in city government and police brutality.
A handful of power centers have arisen, groping for an answer. Protestant ministers and Catholic priests, although not working actively together, have met to discuss problems. Spanish-speaking ministers have canvassed the community and have advised city leaders in an effort “to give Christian shape to thoughts and decisions made.”
José Torres, pastor of the First Congregational Church in the Spanish community, summarized the problem of both Negroes and Spanish when he said, “We are a very unhappy people. We need peace.”
WILL NORTON, JR.
Holding Off Famine
Christian groups around the world are credited with helping India avert a food crisis. A listing of church-related groups that have responded to pleas for relief was published in the May–June issue of the magazine of the Food and Agriculture Organization.
FAO Director-General B. R. Sen said, “This manifestation of good will on the part of people at all levels, young and old … is one of the most encouraging signs that we can see. It gives the hope that at last a world community is going to be built.”
Food aid is said to be holding off famine in India for the time being. Whether India will have enough to eat in coming months depends upon the extent of the summer harvest. If summer monsoons don’t produce enough rain, the world’s spare stocks of food may not be great enough to fill the gap. Nearly 500 million people, or about one-sixth of the world’s population, live in India.
Dr. Sen, after a survey trip to the populous Asian subcontinent, was asked about India’s hordes of cows, which consume scarce food but are never butchered for meat because Hindus regard them as sacred.
“It is true that religious tradition stands in the way of slaughtering cattle which have become useless,” he said. “This is something which is part of the traditional life of the country. Over the past decade continuous efforts have been made to educate public opinion.”
According to Dr. Sen, “the need for help from abroad is as urgent as ever, and the need increases daily. Nor is there any reason to think that the people and leaders of India are not deeply grateful for the spontaneous manifestation of good will and for the generous promise of help. The fact that actual famine has not occurred and so far starvation deaths are not evident should not be construed as suggesting that the Government raised a false alarm. On the contrary, there is a real shortage of food over a widely dispersed area, and the Government has acted with commendable foresight in taking preventive measures at an early stage.”
In addition to other church-related relief efforts (see April 1 issue, p. 52) there is now a joint effort in the Calcutta area by the National Association of Evangelicals and the Mennonite Central Committee. The NAE is accepting funds to purchase food for distribution through MCC representatives. The MCC also is engaged in a self-help program in the Calcutta area.
India’s last critical famine was in 1943, when an estimated total of more than three million persons died within six months, many of them in the streets of Calcutta.
Drought brought parts of India to the edge of famine in 1951–52, when Madras peasants barely survived on a cup of semi-liquid gruel a day and women of the Darbhange district of Northern Bihar reportedly fed children cakes of soft mud in a desperate attempt to keep them from starving.
India again had bad crops in 1962 and 1963, and in 1965 it suffered its worst drought in recent history. This led to the current emergency.
Coordinating Christian Compassion
Dozens of international service agencies motivated by Christian compassion have sprung up since World War II. Key people in these groups now say it would be to their mutual benefit to bring about a degree of coordination.
With such possible coordination in mind, representatives of eighteen of the organizations met for two days at Wing-spread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin, this past spring. The conference was sponsored by the Johnson Wax Foundation and Laubach Literacy, Inc. (one of the international agencies involved).
Separately, these agencies can perform an impressive range of services overseas, from advising a missionary how to make mud bricks that will not melt in the rain to conducting a nationwide cooperative community development program, including such services as literacy, agriculture, health, food, machinery, and literature. Their aggregate budget runs to about fifteen million dollars a year.
An executive committee, established to explore specific avenues of joint effort, met in Kansas City on June 6. Their findings and recommendations will be presented at a meeting of the full group in early October.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
More from this Issue
Read These Next
- TrendingWorship Music Is Emotionally Manipulative. Do You Trust the Leader Plucking the Strings?The Spirit is at work, but so are the mechanisms around high-production sets.
- From the MagazineHow One Family’s Faith Survived Three Generations in the PulpitWith a front-row seat to their parents’ failures and burnout, a long line of pastor’s kids still went into ministry. Why?
- Editor's PickI Find Comfort in the Divine WarriorA surprising psalm changed my view on God’s presence during seasons of trial.