Negative headlines and criticism on social media for turning down a donation from an atheist group turned into a windfall for a Baptist ministry serving Native American children in Oklahoma.
Officials said the recent fifth annual Murrow Indian Children’s Home fundraising powwow drew record crowds and raised $40,000 — $10,000 more than last year — thanks in part to reaction against unsolicited negative publicity after administrators respectfully declined a $100 gift from a donor who designated the money in honor of the Muskogee Atheist Community.
“More people know about Murrow now that had never even heard of them,” Murrow board member Ben Sullivan told American Baptist Home Mission Societies. “Because of this, several local businesses pledged sponsorship for the powwow.”
Sullivan, a Native American Ministries coordinator for ABHMS, called it an illustration of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Located on the campus of Bacone College in Muskogee, Okla., the Murrow home — one of 16 Neighborhood Action Program Christian centers across the country supported by the domestic missions arm of American Baptist Churches USA — operated peacefully for more than 100 years until August, when Muskogee Atheist Community launched a GoFundMe account to shame the Christian ministry into reconsidering the decision to decline the designated gift from the atheist group’s co-founder.
The $1,000 campaign quickly raised more than $28,000 before organizers shut it down and donated most of the money to a summer camp for the children of “freethinking” parents.
Criticism of the decision to refuse the atheist money grew so intense that the home decided to shut down its Facebook page.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies launched a separate GoFundMe account as a show of support for Murrow Indian Children’s Home on Sept. 3. It raised more than $6,000 toward a $25,000 goal, and ABHMS kicked in matching funds to provide a $15,000 gift to the home on behalf of the broader American Baptist family.
“All of us at ABHMS were profoundly troubled by the recent undeserved attacks on Murrow from the Muskogee Atheist Community,” ABHMS Executive Director Jeffrey Haggray said in a press release. “We deeply respect and admire the firm stance that Murrow took in defense of its Christian principles, even as it recognized that doing so entailed waiving receipt of a potential financial windfall.”
“The home’s stance embodied courage, conviction, strength and faith,” Haggray said. “The gift is our way of letting Murrow know that the American Baptist family stands with them.”