“It was,” said Bob Fox, pastor at Faith Baptist Church, “an interesting experience.” There he was, joining at least five dozen other pastors and leaders from Baptist churches and organizations across the country at the Eisenhower Office Building on the White House grounds to discuss issues confronting the nation. “It was a diverse group. There were Baptists from 20 states, African-American Baptists, Hispanic Baptists and about 20 women,” Fox said.
“It made me a little hopeful. You think of government as this empty bureaucracy, but these were human faces, real people who are kind, and good and hoping to do the right thing,” Fox said.
Fox was invited by Robert Parham, a friend who is part of the Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville, which worked with the District of Columbia Baptist Association and the non-political White House Office of Community Engagement to hold the March 7 gathering.
“It was a great honor for myself and our church” to be chosen to attend the meeting, he said.
“There were eight different people from different aspects of the administration who spoke to us,” Fox said.
“Some really pointed questions were asked,” he said.
The Baptists – a denomination that historically resists the intrusion of government into church life – took a biblical attitude into the White House complex, Fox said.
“Parham told them the Old Testament kings would go see the king, and they would say, ‘Let justice roll down like water,’” Fox said.
This group, too, delivered a message, he said: “Serve those who most need to be served.”
Among the issues discussed was human trafficking – modern-day slavery that reaches around the world. Experts say no nation escapes the issue; even the United States has at least 17,000 women and children who are trafficked, primarily as prostitutes.
“The Obama administration is starting an initiative regarding human trafficking, and they’re looking to partner with Baptist groups and churches,” said Fox.
“At times, the things we’re concerned with intersect” with administration goals, he said.
Other issues that came up involved disaster relief, predatory lending, the environment, health care, education and immigration, Fox said.
The meeting’s organizers urged the Baptists to share the meeting with friends and congregation members via Twitter. Fox did, using his robertmfox Twitter feed.
As the meeting ended, “They said they hoped it wouldn’t be a one-time thing but the beginning of a dialog,” Fox said.
“That would be my hope too,” he said.