Chapman launches Save-A-Family Council to build awareness of families' needs

by Joni B. Hannigan, posted Wednesday, June 14, 2000 (18 years ago)

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--At one time Southern Baptists agonized they were baptizing only their children. Now, they might not reach even them, said Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.

Chapman's remarks were made during the Executive Committee report June 13 on the first day of the SBC's annual meeting at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

Citing statistics he attributed to youth evangelist Jay Strack, Chapman said 88 percent of teens attending evangelical churches will forsake their church, if not their faith, by the time they are 18.

"They might be the most lied-to generation in history," Chapman said. "They have freedom without responsibility, success without work and sin without consequences."

In citing other problems in families and in America at large, Chapman drew on studies which point to America's "unsafe streets and public places," its "mediocre" and failing schools, its "vulgar, violent and mindless" popular culture and depressed political participation.

In response to these conditions, Chapman announced the selection of Tom Elliff, a former SBC president and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., to lead in developing a Save-A-Family Council under the Executive Committee's umbrella.

Elliff will spearhead the council's initiatives to build a heightened awareness of the needs of families throughout the SBC, Chapman told Baptist Press, and to work in cooperation with other SBC agencies to provided needed resources and materials for local churches.

Chapman, in his comments to the SBC, noted the divorce rate among evangelical Christians has risen exponentially with that of the nation.

"Don't ever let anyone tell you divorce isn't disillusioning and damaging to every member of the family," he said. "Jesus heals the wounds, but the scar remains for the rest of your life -- regardless of how tranquil the divorce may have seemed outside the family."

Recounting his personal experience with divorce, Chapman said his father and mother were married for 21 years and were divorced the summer he graduated from high school. His brother had just finished the sixth grade.

"It is time Southern Baptists collectively and individually question, 'Is it well with my soul?'" Chapman said, referring to the biblical text of 2 Kings 4 where Elisha asked a Shunammite woman who had lost her son, "Is it well with you, your husband, your child?"

Describing the early relationship with his wife, Jodi, whom he called "strong willed," Chapman said they had their share of rough spots and sometimes found it difficult to communicate.

"But, sitting with my grandchildren on my knees, I'm glad we never looked for a way out," Chapman said. "If God is willing, we will grow old together. She always has been and is today my best friend and the love of my life."

Finally, said Chapman, is the question, "Is it well with your child?"

It is in the same nation where people want to save whales, wolves and spotted owls that when one talks about saving the unborn child, they are asked, "Who are you?" Chapman said.

"Children are being aborted and we are doing so little," he said, while suggesting the answer is not political, societal or stereotypical. "The answer is spiritual. We must pray until God brings down his power on the earth ... and changes the heart of men."

Chapman questioned why partial-birth abortion -- which he called the "murder" of a child after it is partially delivered -- is even debated.

"God help us," said Chapman to loud and sustained applause. "Southern Baptists cannot sit by and let our families disintegrate and do nothing."

Drawing to a close, he urged young parents to stay in the Word of God and stand with a breastplate of righteousness and a helmet of salvation, teaching their children in standing for the "absolutes of God's Word."

"We must wait no longer to answer the question, 'Is it well with our Southern Baptist soul?'" Chapman said in suggesting prayer and renewal for the family. "May all over the world, Southern Baptists and the Southern Baptist Convention be known as a body of believers upon whom the fire fell."

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