‘Faith’ in a Vision Statement?

September 20, 2006

The word “faith” has sparked a conflict in Lynchburg, Virginia. The city was considering a new vision statement that would have included the words “faith and family.” However, at a city council meeting, councilman Mike Gillette argued against the word “faith” being included because it might be viewed as “code” for Jerry Falwell and Thomas Road Baptist Church. People for and against the inclusion of “faith” are now speaking out.

Robert Paul Reyes wrote a column arguing that it was a correct decision to leave out the word “faith” and that Gillette was correct about it being “code.” He argued:

When a city council issues a “vision statement” I expect the report to emphasize words such as “diversity, bipartisanship and excellence.”

City councilpersons should strive to be uniters and not dividers, using words that bring the community together and omitting words that cause divisions.

... But even if the word “faith” wasn’t code for “evangelical Christianity” it has no place in an official city document. I don’t want the city of Lynchburg’s future plans predicated on “faith”.

... Let the Southern Baptist Conference include the word “faith” in their vision statement, but that word should be anathema in the official publications of a city government.
Falwell has responded to those arguments. He contended:

Christians are the only group today in the culture that can be slandered, maligned, ridiculed or defamed on national TV without fear of reprisal.

... But because he was able to say, ‘We don’t want Lynchburg to be known because of its Evangelical Christians - using faith as a code word for Evangelical Christians - no one says a blooming word. Because it’s politically correct to slam Christians, but nobody else. Well, slam on and I’ll just slam back.
Falwell also urged people to vote against Gillette in the future: “You people in Rivermont, who put Mike in office, ought to remember that next time around.”

Gillette may have overreacted, but Falwell definitely did. Is it really a good demonstration of faith to threaten retaliation? And Falwell wonders why some in the community may not appreciate him?!

This is an interesting discussion. Not sure what the suggested wording was, but it does seem odd to include the word “faith.” After all, faith is an individual virtue, not a community one. Maybe if people saw faith lived out in the lives of every Christian, then there would not be a need to put it in a vision statement.

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