Would you pay $12.50 to eat breakfast with President Carter?
Fewer than 5,000 of the Southern Baptists gathered for their annual convention here have been willing thus far to shell out that amount for such an opportunity, scheduled for Friday morning and sponsored by the Baptist Brotherhood.
So, to avoid the embarrassment of 10,000 empty seats in the massive auditorium they hired for the affair, convention officials have decided to swallow their pride - and a considerable deficit - and are beating the bushes among local Baptist congregations for people to attend the Friday morning affair, minus the bacon and eggs, free of charge.
The brotherhood breakfast is the first national Protestant gathering Carter has agreed to address in person since his inauguration. He has responded to the many requests from such bodies in the past by sending U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young or Vice President Mondale.
Convention leaders here have a variety of explanations for the sluggish ticket sales - the breakfast comes at the end of a long and exhausting week of meetings (the convention officially closes tonight); pastors who have been away all week must get back home and prepare for Sunday services, and the price is too high. "Most men come with their wives, and at $12.50 each that's $25," one member explained. "Most of them can't afford it."
In business sessions yesterday the convention adopted a resolution calling for "political action on behalf of human rights around the world," despite complaints from some messengers, as delegates are called, that such involvement might jeopardize missionary efforts in some parts of the world.
Unlike more liberal denominations, which seem to churn out resolutions on every political and social issue, Baptists traditionally have been chary of speaking out on questions other than religious or the more conventional moral ones.
The human rights declaration adopted here yesterday departs from the usual Baptist preoccupation with human souls and their destination in the hereafter to the virtual exclusion of concern over the conditions of life on this earth.
The question of ordaining women as clergy was raised in a resolution which proposed a poll of messengers here on that issue. In the Southern Baptist congregations clergy are ordained locally, and Baptist tradition zealously guards the autonomy of the local church to make its own decision as to the qualifications of those it would ordain. So far only a handful of women throughout the 13-million-member denomination has been ordained as ministers.
Messengers rejected the effort to force the convention to speak its mind on the question by supporting overwhelmingly a motion to table a request for a straw vote.