Watergate, women, Weber, and The Wonderful World of Disney.

Those were four of the topics considered at last month’s 117th annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, attended by a record 18,000-plus messengers (delegates).

Watergate was alluded to in several talks and a resolution. Pastor Edwin Young of the 4,300-member First Baptist Church of Columbia, South Carolina, issued a stinging rebuke of President Nixon in a speech to SBC pastors. He called the transcripts “one of the most pornographic, vulgar, and blasphemous documents” he’s ever read. Not once, said Young, does one find in the tapes the President asking “What is right?” “What is moral?” “What is honest?” Young was given generous applause after the Watergate reference, but later he was also given some stiff reprimands privately by the opposition.

Introduced as a committed Christian, Texas governor Dolph Briscoe declared that when government departs from the principles of justice, equality, and morality, “it ceases to serve the people.” He said ministers can play a vital, dominant role in building a state and nation that is “dedicated to the best interests of all the people.”

Pastor W. A. Criswell of the Dallas First Baptist Church lamented the President’s language. Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, an active SBC layman (he’s a deacon and Sunday-school teacher in Atlanta), predicted Nixon will be impeached. He chided Christians for lack of involvement: “There has never been an adequate role played by Christians in this nation … in shaping the standards and quality of public life.”

Vice President Gerald Ford, however, evoked thunderous applause at a laymen’s meeting when he said he’d prefer to speak on what’s right about America.

Without debate the messengers ...

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