Stated Clerk Attends Meeting with Disney Official
On July 23, Stated Clerk Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist attended a conference in Washington, DC, which was to be a meeting between a dozen representatives of evangelical and conservative groups and executives of the Disney Corporation. As reported in the press, Mr. John Cooke, Disney Executive Vice President, at the last minute backed out of the meeting and sent a lower level person instead.
Among the organizations represented were American Family Association (AFA), Concerned Women for America, King for America, Coral Ridge Ministries, Focus on the Family, and Family Research Council. According to Dr. Gilchrist, "The consensus of the organizations attending was a general support for the Southern Baptist position"-namely, that of boycotting Disney.
In his August 15, 1997, "Stated Clerk's Letter," Dr. Gilchrist wrote: "It has become clear that the Disney Corporation is on a deliberate course of promoting the homosexual agenda and marginalizing the evangelical and conservative church and making them seem irrelevant to our culture. A representative of the conservative element in the Roman Catholic Church, attending the meeting, emphasized in strong terms the anti-Christian emphasis of Disney as demonstrated by such films as the 'Priest' and the upcoming ABC series 'Nothing is Sacred.'" Dr. Gilchrist mentioned in his letter the statement of the 1996 General Assembly: "We abhor what Disney and other corporations do to promote the homosexual lifestyle." He continued: "In light of our 1996 position and recent developments at Disney, it seems that PCA churches and pastors would want to express approval and support for the boycott. As Don Wildmon [United Methodist minister who heads AFA-Ed.] . . . reiterated, these people are not persuaded by anything but the economic impact. He also said it may take 3 years for this to be felt."
In his August 15th letter, Dr. Gilchrist quotes from a press release issued from the Stated Clerk's Office. That statement maintains that the PCA "did not join the boycott during its General Assembly in June of this year (1997), but pointed instead to a position adopted in 1996." (From the 1997 minutes, it is not apparent by what action this year's Assembly "pointed" to the 1996 position.-Ed.) In that letter, Dr. Gilchrist wrote: "It's interesting that since the SBC [Southern Baptist Convention] boycott was announced, Disney stock has gone down 8-10%. Imagine the potential impact if all Christians really took this matter seriously as a declaration of war and responded actively. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the ball is in each of our courts. Obviously this carries no official weight but I would ask each of us to seriously pray about our involvement. May the Lord bless you in knowing how to express your concern to the Disney Corporation."
A more recent press release reads: "Technically speaking the PCA has not joined the boycott against Disney although it seems clear that we would be viewed as being supportive of it. Therefore the local church has the liberty to determine how they will respond to the issues involved."
Both press releases quote from other action the 1996 Assembly took in condemning homosexuality; though neither document notes that the Assembly did not directly connect those other statements to the action on Disney. Not mentioned in either press release or the letter is the fact that the 1996 Assembly voted down a personal resolution which would have encouraged consideration of a boycott of Disney. Among the statements in the resolution which the Assembly specifically did NOT affirm were these: "That we encourage Christians to give serious and prayerful reconsideration to their purchase and support of Disney products"; "That we encourage churches and presbyteries of the PCA to assist in informing the Christian community of these issues"; and "That the General Assembly instruct the Stated Clerk to send copies of this resolution to Michael Eisner, CEO of The Disney Corporation, and to the news media."
A Gilchrist spokesman stated that, judging by communications received in the Stated Clerk's Office, there "continues to be considerable interest regarding the Disney boycott issue." Assistant to the Stated Clerk Bob Fiol also stated that the Clerk "said he's speaking as a personal member of the denomination" in the sentiments expressed in the Stated Clerk's letter. According to Mr. Fiol, who is also Interim Press Officer, the Clerk attended the meeting in Washington "as Paul Gilchrist" and that he "was not representing the denomination."
According to the President of the King for America,
Inc. which had set up the meeting, Don Wildmon of the AFA had
been the one who had suggested that Dr. Gilchrist be invited.
Art Rocker stated that Dr. Gilchrist had been invited on the basis
of his being an official of the PCA. According to Rocker, Dr.
Gilchrist was cautious in his attendance at the meeting. Among
other things, Dr. Gilchrist was reportedly concerned about any
additional motives that attendees may have had. He was also concerned
about the potential impact to various ministers, such as Dr. D.
James Kennedy, who utilize ABC television stations. Rocker stated
that Dr. Gilchrist said that he was there in order to listen and
"to see what could be done" to get the backing of the
Presbyterian Church in America. President Rocker said that the
only time Dr. Gilchrist was positive rather than tentative was
when he expressed support for the concept of "One America",
which is being promoted by King for America. The organization,
founded by Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.,
is seeking to implement the dream of King for an America in which
race would not be a distinguishing characteristic among Americans.
According to Rocker, Dr. Gilchrist stated that this was something
concerning which he could go to the PCA and ask it to embrace.
Mr. Rocker's organization is seeking financial backing for this
Mr. Art Rocker, President
King for America
PO Box 7426
Atlanta, GA 30357