Despite muggy weather, a record registration of 18,672 messengers (delegates) trying to jam into a facility with a capacity of about 11,000, and some potentially divisive issues making the rounds back home, the three-day annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Norfolk. Virginia, ended with most feelings remarkably intact.

The highlight of the meeting last month was a fifteen-minute address by President Ford. It was the first time an incumbent President addressed the SBC in its 131-year history. Ford’s speech revealed an awareness of SBC history and concerns (thanks to input by former SBC pastor Richard Brannon, a White House executive), and he was applauded numerous times. The longest applause came when he challenged Southern Baptists to avoid the “shifting sands of situation ethics” and to adopt instead the stand that says, “This is right, this is wrong; there is a difference.”

His remarks were cast against a background of unfolding sex scandals in Washington and the more-distant Watergate revelations. He said America needs a strong moral foundation, and he maintained that public officials “have a special responsibility to set a good example.” He decried the “abuse of the moral imperatives of honesty and decency on which religion and government and civilized society must rest.” The answer, he asserted, is not only in good government, but in “the Bible, the church, the human heart.” Ford said that in his own life he has found the Bible “a steady compass and a source of great strength and peace.” He spoke of praying for God’s guidance.

In his introductory remarks, the President noted that the last time he spoke to an SBC audience (a men’s breakfast at the 1974 convention in Dallas), he was introduced by SBC layman ...

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