Saturday, March 11, 2017

Robert Parham's legacy, as reflected in his own writings
by Bill Jones
Trustee, T. B. Maston Foundation

Robert Parham, founder and executive editor of and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics, passed away Sunday, March 5, following a long illness.

Robert was a Baptist prophet who leaves behind a body of work remarkable for its breadth, its depth, and its impact on not only Baptist life but the lives of the marginalized worldwide. It can truly be said of Robert Parham that he followed the Jesus model and "went about doing good." (Acts 10:38)

I had the privilege of counting Robert as both a friend and colleague in Baptist work, and I'll miss him, as will countless others. Christian ethics has lost one of its most courageous, eloquent, tireless, and effective advocates and voices.

The best tribute I can pay to Robert is to share with you a few of Robert's own words, as published on over recent years, with links to the articles in which those words appeared. Quotes from 25 articles follow.

May Robert Parham's legacy live on in the work, attitudes, and lives of those of us he touched.

Our mission is "challenging people of faith to advance the common good." We think the best way for us to do this is through resourcing and speaking to congregational leaders and congregations.
- Remember what's mission is, how we pursue it, 2/21/2017

We, the founders of the Baptist Center for Ethics (BCE), saw a door with the collapse of the moderate control of the Southern Baptist Convention and the radical right turn of its moral concerns agency. We went through the door without the faintest sense of what was on the other side.
- Behold an open door to readers, 11/22/2016

Wouldn't it be refreshing and rewarding to focus on collaboration for the common good?
- Join in 500th anniversary of Protestant Reformation in 2017, 11/4/2016

One would hope that the Pentagon video is wrong, that religious conflict will not be part of a "defining element in the social landscape." Christianity and other religions have an alternative narrative to conflict. It's advancing the common good through collaboration.
- Security issues may increase on Church's agenda if Pentagon is right, 10/25/2016

We hope that our new documentary, "The Disturbances," will increase the awareness in churches about genocide and encourage churches to be 'watchmen on the gate.'
- Preventing genocide will benefit from Christian, Jewish teamwork, 9/23/2016

Christians and Muslims have different sacred books, different religious holidays, different faith practices. But we do share in common the faith commandment to seek the welfare of others. We need not agree doctrinally to do the right thing.
- As 9/11 nears, Christians can build bridges with Muslims, 9/2/2016

This is an incredible story about ruin and redemption, blood and boldness, denial and dedication, guilt and goodness. "The Disturbances" is both horrifying and inspiring.
- Telling for the first time horrifying and inspiring stories of Christian engagement, 8/11/2016

At its best, protest is a form of moral critique. It has long been part of the American tradition, especially the Baptist heritage. Not all protests or protesters are righteous, however.
- How the Church can speak up for the Thin Blue Line, 7/12/2016

The mother of the moderate movement is unmistakably Babs Baugh. She showed tenacity and courage.
- Observations on CBF's 25th anniversary, 6/30/2016

We're going to have to break the chains of political ideology and loyalty, the prejudice of cultural heritage, the inherited list of church priorities. We're going to need to recover a much more robust commitment to the biblical message that teaches us that we - and those we dislike - are created in the image of God.
- Mass shooting calls Christians to prioritize the fingerprints of God, 6/14/2016

She said they wanted me to heal them. Parham as faith healer! Now that made me uncomfortable. After all, I don't believe in faith healing. I felt ashamed later on. I should have had the faith to pray boldly for their healing, knowing that healing comes from the hand of God, not my words. Lord, forgive my ignorance and arrogance.
- Fragments that have shaped my world view over 25 years, 4/26/2016

When we got back to the hotel, my daughter asked me: Why did that woman in the hat keep writing down everything you said? Yes, Dorothy Patterson was there, spec hunting, taking notes. Hoping I would say something that she and her SBC colleagues could use against me and the BWA. That experience is a lot more humorous today than then!
- Recalling light-hearted moments over 25 years, 3/29/2016

Lebanon has an estimated 1.2 million Syrian refugees. The United States might permit 12,000 by the end of 2016. Big difference: 1.2 million vs. 12,000.
- The tale of two Baptist responses on Syrian refugees, 12/1/2015

As a deepwater Baptist, I know no Baptist speaks for other Baptists. I certainly don't speak for the readers of I have always spoken to Baptists and our readers. I have always clarified and emphasized when speaking to the press this treasured tradition among goodwill Baptists.
- 4 reasons to support Iran nuclear agreement, 8/28/2015

Trump's statements are unkind, untruthful and unbiblical. Trump's immigration plan is also unworkable. . . . We don't need political fantasy, political rhetoric. We need workable solutions. We need bipartisan collaboration to reform American immigration policy.
- Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric runs counter to biblical witness, 8/19/2015

While Baptists claim to be people of the book, we have glossed over the book's message about the environment. Yes, even moderate Baptists, my own village, skirt the issue.
- Praise be for Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, 6/10/2015

Anti-religious cartoons and spiteful bus ads may legally qualify as expressions of free speech. That doesn't mean they qualify as morally responsible speech. Morally responsible speech is truthful, civil, respectful.
- Let's not confuse freedom of speech with moral rightness, 5/11/2015

Advancing equal pay for women, paying a living wage and sharing the tax burden are morally reasonable commitments, worthy of church advocacy.
- Economic inequality is pressing challenge for the Church, 2/3/2015

Ending modern slavery is an issue around which many rank-and-file churches could collaborate. Given the ideological polarization within many U.S. churches, finding common ground issues is critical, especially where tangible common good can be achieved.
- Global religious leaders pledge to eradicate modern slavery, 12/9/2014

Let's reclaim our heritage as human rights advocates. Let's help congregants know that history by observing Human Rights Day in December and know how human rights is Jesus' agenda.
- Observe Human Rights Day in December; "It is our baby", 11/18/2014

Focus on how Robertson uses the Bible. Clearly, he cherry-picks selected passages. He ignores the Sermon on the Mount with no citation of Jesus' teachings related to making peace.
- "Duck Dynasty" patriarch's Phil Robertson plan for ISIS sounds like holy war, 9/9/2014

It was a gift some years ago from the staff. They titled it "Robertisms (Or: How to Speak BCE)."
  • Example One: "If the horse is dead, dismount."
  • Example Two: "That dog don't hunt."
  • Example Three: "What's the next wrinkle?"
  • Example Four: "Let's apply some stress to the situation."
  • Example Five: "We need to leaven that lump."
. . . They certainly highlight my own redundancy, shorthand, wacky framing when it comes to organizational planning and strategizing about social change.
- Learn to speak BCE, 8/8/2014

With so many pressing issues--the Middle East, Ukraine, the flood of undocumented children into the U.S.--American Christians might be tempted to turn away from Africa. Let's hope, instead, we find a way to cross the road to help our neighbors in urgent need.
- Prayer, action needed in response to Ebola virus outbreak, 7/31/2014

When I started out, the challenge was how to get more churches engaged in social change through Christian citizenship—political engagement. Now the challenge is how to keep politics from invading and crippling congregations.
- Keeping secular politics out of the sanctuary, 6/19/2014

McGee and Stassen spent years toiling in the Southern Baptist vineyard when fundamentalists were breathing fire and brimstone about liberalism in seminaries and universities. Fundamentalists falsely accused them of not believing the Bible, a nasty canard given the fact that both men were so thoroughly Christ-centered in their moral agenda, unlike the fundamentalists who favored Leviticus over the Sermon on the Mount.
- A tribute to two ethics professors: Hearing vanished voices, thinking about tomorrow, 4/30/2014

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Remembering Mother, 20 years after God called her home
by Bill Jones
Trustee, T. B. Maston Foundation

Twenty years ago this afternoon, around 1:30, Daddy called and said simply, "Bill, she's gone."

My dear mother had passed away. We had been expecting it for a long time, but you're never ready for the finality of it all.

Vivian Louise Otting Jones was born on March 16, 1906, in Miami (pronounced Mi-am-uh), Indian Territory, a year before it became part of the new state of Oklahoma. She was just two days short of her 45th birthday when I was born, and just 12 days short of her 91st birthday when she went home to be with her Lord.

In a sense, it seems hard to believe it's been 20 years. Yet in another sense, it seems forever (and for her, of course, it's been an eternity - literally).

Mother was the second oldest of 12 children – eight girls and four boys. Each of the four oldest daughters was assigned one of the younger girls and given the responsibility to watch over her. Mother's 'child' was her sister Betsy, and they remained exceptionally close until Mother's death. In fact, in the last weeks of Mother's life, as she shut down . . . quit eating . . . . quit responding, obviously just waiting for God to call her home, Aunt Betsy came and stayed, helping Daddy to take care of her; she was there with them when Mother took her last breath.

Aunt Betsy passed away last fall; it was an honor to be at her memorial service and share with her children and grandchildren in celebrating the life of someone who had meant so much to our family, especially to Mother.

Mother and Daddy were married for over 59 years; yet Daddy, who lived for another 10 years after her passing, always said that those 59 years just weren't enough. Theirs was a special marriage, and Patsy and I were blessed to be part of such a loving home.

Mother was a strong woman. In an age when women typically were known as "housewives" or "homemakers," Mother worked full-time well into her 60s. In 1943, she found herself left at home to take care of their 1-1/2-year-old daughter as Daddy served over 2 years as an Army chaplain in the European Theatre under General Patton's command.

When Daddy returned home after the war ended, he pastored small churches while attending Southwestern Seminary, majoring in Christian Ethics under T. B. Maston; although Mother worked full-time, and Daddy sometimes worked part-time jobs that supplemented his pastor's salary, there was not exactly a surplus of food in the pantry.

Patsy recalls how Mother "always supported Daddy in his ministry - all those every-Sunday lunches that she hosted for his preacher boys when we lived in Montague" (where Daddy pastored First Baptist Church).

Patsy continues, "She worked full-time, of course, took care of us children, sewed many of my clothes, did more than her share of church work, and must have longed for a weekend where she could let down some. We had so little money, but she could feed those hungry guys (and a couple of wives) without too much expense by cooking a small roast and, then, adding lots of mayonnaise, boiled eggs, and pickle relish to make roast salad. And it was delicious to boot!!! She was a great cook. She told wonderful family stories and was so much fun! Stephanie always said that Mother was her party Grandma because she loved to plan tea parties and wienie roasts for us."

I remember when I called Mother and Daddy, my senior year at OBU in the spring of 1973, to tell them I was dating a Chinese girl from Hong Kong. But I need to back up a little; when we moved to Kansas City, MO, in 1962, Mother took a job at Bethany Baptist Church. She was church clerk and also was secretary to our music minister, Richard Lin, who was on a leave of absence from OBU while studying for his doctorate at the conservatory at University of Missouri-Kansas City. During the next year, until the Lins returned to Oklahoma, our families became close friends; their three sons and I would trade off almost every Sunday, with me spending the afternoon at their house or them at mine. Where did I learn to love Chinese cooking? At Julia Lin's dining table on Sunday afternoons.

Their little daughter, Anita, was still little, several years younger than her brothers. With Richard Lin leading the music and Julia singing in the choir, Mother volunteered to sit with Anita in the Sunday morning service every week. It had been a long time since Mother had a little daughter, as Patsy was already out of college and married by this time. So Mother simply doted on little Anita and really loved the time she got to spend with her.

So back to my story. I called Mother and Daddy to tell them about this girl, Joanna Wong, I was dating at OBU. Mother was on the bedroom phone, and Daddy on the kitchen phone, or vice-versa. As they told me the story in later years, as soon as they hung up the phone, they ran to meet each other in the hallway, and Mother blurted out, "We're going to have Chinese grandbabies!"

Well, they were putting the cart a little ahead of the horse, but they turned out to be right. Joanna and I celebrated 40 years of marriage this past September, and those "Chinese grandbabies" are now 35 and 31!

Mother & Daddy with their 'Chinese grandbabies,' Alison & Travis (1991)

Most of all, I remember a gentle, loving Mother who was always ready to sacrifice for her family. She wanted nothing more than for her family to be happy. She was a committed Christian, always serving in the church, teaching Sunday School, GAs, YWAs, and so forth. I remember when I was maybe 9 or 10, asking her why we were Baptist. Mother had grown up in a Presbyterian home but had eventually become a Baptist after meeting and marrying Daddy.

Anyway, when I asked her why we were Baptist, she had a very simple, yet profound, answer: "Because Baptists believe the Bible." And Mother believed the Bible, and she was a devoted follower of Jesus.

Twenty years today! In June, it will be 10 years since Daddy passed away. Patsy and I, and our families, have been blessed. They made a loving home for all of us, and their influence, their legacy, lives on, and will for generations to come.