NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Southern Baptist Convention spokesman said June 4 that a former official who is praying for the death of President Obama is out of the denomination's mainstream.
Roger "Sing" Oldham, vice president for convention relations with the SBC Executive Committee, said he believes most Southern Baptists are committed to praying for the well-being of the president as instructed in Scripture.
Oldham said the January issue of SBC Life, a newspaper sent free of charge to all Southern Baptist ministers, carried an open letter from Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee, congratulating Barack Obama for being elected America's first black president.
"I hope you know that there are tens of millions of Americans who did not vote for you who are still very, very pleased that an African-American has been elected president of the United States," Land wrote to the then president-elect.
"The fact that this could happen in a country with as tragic a racial past as America's says something noble and fine about the American experiment and the glorious 'opportunity democracy' it has spawned," Land said. "After much struggle, we as a nation have chosen together to live up to the promises of our founding document, the Declaration of Independence: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'"
Land pledged to pray that Obama would apply biblical values while making policy decisions. "We will also pray that God will bless you with safety, health and all spiritual blessings," he said.
Land said Southern Baptists would work with the president on issues on which they agree and try to persuade him to change his approach on other issues, such as his support for abortion rights.
In the same issue John Revell, the paper's editor, said some who had prayed for a different outcome might wonder why God would allow election of a president with views on abortion and homosexuality contrary to their own, but he also celebrated "the joyful reality that our nation has finally reached the point where the color of a man's skin does not automatically disqualify him from the highest elected position in our great nation."
"Regardless of one's political persuasion, that is good," Revell wrote. "All of us who have longed for such a day have truly seen a dream come true."
Oldham said those articles "stand in stark contrast" to comments made on Fox News Radio by Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., who served as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006-2007.
Drake said June 2 on "The Alan Colmes Show" that he is praying "imprecatory prayer" — reciting as prayer Psalms containing curses or prayers for punishment on enemies of the psalmist — against President Obama. Asked if he was seriously praying that the president of the United States would die, Drake said, "If he does not turn to God and does not turn his life around, I am asking God to enforce imprecatory prayers that are throughout the Scripture that would cause him death, that's correct."
Oldham told Associated Baptist Press that Drake is not a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention and his comments do not reflect the actions, resolutions or positions of the denomination.
"I think it is a fair statement to say that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are committed to praying for the well-being of the president in accordance with the specific instruction given in 1 Timothy 2:1-3," Oldham said, quoting: "First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior.'"
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.