Southern Baptists will take action to help families, the Convention's Executive Committee voted Feb. 19.
The need is "great and urgent" for "a cohesive and concerted strategy" because "today's family is under severe attack," a study committee reported to the Executive Committee.
Executive Committee members approved the study committee's recommendation to create a "'blue ribbon' Southern Baptist Convention Council on Family Life" in a unanimous voice vote during the opening session of their Feb. 19-20 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
The study committee was created at last June's SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., by Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman. The five-member SBC Committee on Family Life was chaired by Tom Elliff, a former SBC president and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla.
Elliff, addressing the Executive Committee Feb. 19, lamented that Southern Baptists "have never declared war on this issue." Mormons should not be the only religious group in America known for their concern for families, he stated. "Why shouldn't that be Southern Baptists? ... We've got the right message for the family," he declared, citing the Bible-based statement on marriage and family adopted by the SBC during its 1998 annual meeting in Salt Lake City.
A strong focus on families "will be one of the greatest tools for evangelism and church growth that we could ever have," Elliff said, noting that the deepest concerns among people regularly focus on family struggles.
The study committee lamented that the public at large may be "uncertain as to just where Southern Baptists actually stand on crucial family issues. They are confused by the fact that in recent years some individuals with national notoriety have themselves become associated with infidelity, pro-abortion stances, and approval of alternative life-styles while noting their affiliation with churches in our Convention. The end result has been that many times Southern Baptist churches are not viewed as lighthouses for the home."
The SBC Council on Family Life, as approved by the Executive Committee Feb. 19, will work for two years, reporting both to the Executive Committee and to the SBC agency leaders' Great Commission Council, with its key recommendations to be forwarded to the SBC annual meeting for approval.
The Council on Family Life "will work cooperatively with SBC entities whose ministry assignments include family emphases to support and multiply such programs," according to the Executive Committee action.
A "cohesive and concerted strategy," according to the study committee, would include:
• drawing together "both our resources and our people with the goal of elevating our families, and the meaning of the word 'family,' to God's standard as clearly stated in the Scripture."
• enabling pastors and church leaders to identify and hold forth "key biblical principles for marriage and family."
• working to build "strong, 'Great Commission' oriented families" and to recognize that "strong churches ultimately grow out of strong families."
• elevating Southern Baptist churches as "great for the community because they are great for the family."
Also needed is "an authentic ministry to those whose lives and families have been fractured and ravaged," the study committee said.
The heightened SBC strategy can be built on "a vast wealth of information, assistance, training, and other resources directed specifically to the needs of the family" currently available from Southern Baptist entities, according to the study committee, citing as examples the "Covenant Marriage" and "True Love Waits" emphases of LifeWay Christian Resources and the For Faith & Family radio broadcast of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Assessing the crisis within American family life, the study committee stated:
"Divorce is at an all-time high. Cohabitation is sky-rocketing in popularity. Over 50 percent of America's school children now live in single parent homes. Infidelity and alternative lifestyles are touted by the media as the preferred norm. At the same time, traditional, Bible-based parental roles and responsibilities are looked upon with disdain.
"Southern Baptists must admit that many of our own families are also in trouble. Sadly, our rate of divorce is scarcely different from that of society at large. Churches are struggling with the break-up of families. Pastors, deluged with family counseling, are often dealing with serious difficulties in their own homes. Though Southern Baptists are properly known for our affirmation of scriptural authority, we are often not perceived by many of our own members as an important contributor to the strength of our families."
Americans "seem to know that their families are in trouble," the report stated, noting that "their desperate search for sound and effective advice" is evidenced by radio and TV audiences "numbering in the multiplied millions each day ... to both evangelical and secular counsel addressing the needs of family life."
The study committee predicted that God "will be eager to attend and bless" Southern Baptist initiatives to build families rooted in biblical principles, in fulfilling the Great Commission, and serving "as salt and light in their communities."