A leap of faith

A public official bringing attention to regularly reading the Bible has thrust Flower Mound into the national spotlight.

Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden read a proclamation announcing 2014 as the Year of the Bible during the public participation portion of the Dec. 16 town council meeting. The action, in Hayden’s view, underscored a call from the heart to bring the community together.

When word started to get out about the proclamation this month, talk show hosts, bloggers and social media lit up with opinions ranging from praise to outright indignation.

Call to action

A couple years ago, Hayden (then a Flower Mound councilman) attended an event where former Dallas Cowboys lineman Chad Hennings spoke about the circumstances which led to him to become a Christian. The message motivated Hayden but doubt appeared as well.

“I procrastinated in moving forward with speaking about Christ because I knew people would be opposed or have concerns about it,” Hayden said. “But God uses people and puts them in situations to help speak His word.”

That led to Hayden contacting around 30 pastors and clergymen in Flower Mound and explaining his idea a couple months ago. His initiative invoked memories of another politician’s move: President Ronald Reagan announced a similar proclamation in 1983.

Not everyone was on board with the idea, according to Whitney Waller, a local minister who attended the meeting to express her concerns and offer what she described as a progressive Christian perspective.

“I stressed to the mayor that I felt he should at the very least give preemptive notice to other faith communities concerning his initiative. He expressed that he did not believe this necessary,” said Waller. “I struggle with an expression of faith that intentionally and unapologetically excludes others, especially when that faith expression comes from a person holding political office and appears to have ignored or disregarded his constituents.”

Simple proclamation

While Hayden recognizes his proclamation could offend some, he says his intent remains simple: bring a community together through a common interest and belief.

“Many people in our community read the Bible and that message is all I was after,” Hayden said. “I want our residents to know, it’s OK to talk about the Bible and Jesus Christ.”

In a society where the mere mention of religious preference can ignite a storm of protest, Hayden emphasizes the proclamation is not a personal mission or political posture.

“This is not about me and not in any way an official town council action or law; it’s simply a proclamation,” Hayden said. “I issue proclamations for many other things, such as Hindu culture month. Regardless of what church our residents attend, many people in our community are reading the same passages regardless of denomination. This is just to encourage members of our community to read the Bible.”

Resource for all

Once Hayden shared his idea with local church leaders, Jon Bell, Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Church in Flower Mound, went a step further. He engaged members of his church to put together the website thebible2014.com.

“Our intent was just wanting people to read the Bible together in the community,” Bell said. “We are excited to launch this website as a connecting point to fulfill the Mayor’s vision.”

The website offers visitors a version of the “One Year Bible” program, which divides the book into 362 daily readings from both the Old and New Testaments in sequential order. Spending 10-15 minutes a day, a participant will read through the entire Bible in a year’s time.

The site recently collected almost 100,000 hits in one day from visitors across the globe. In fact, so many visits to the website rendered it temporarily unavailable for several hours on Jan. 2.

Reason to speak

“We just want people to know God because we live in a time where people are really confused, hopeless and see horrible events unfold,” Bell said. “The Bible is an anchor in the hope that God gives us. It’s not meant to be controversial or a threat…just let’s read the Bible together.”

Although some residents have voiced their disapproval of the proclamation, others say that this is a good example of Hayden’s candid, straightforward style.

“Tom has never been afraid to take a bold stand, going back to his early days on Town Council sounding the alarm against urban gas drilling,” Flower Mound resident Ladd Biro said. “His ‘Year of the Bible’ proclamation is yet another vivid display of the leadership by conviction that has characterized Tom’s tenure in public office. I’m proud to be a resident of Flower Mound, and equally thankful that Tom Hayden is our Mayor.”

A mayor and his town’s religious leaders spoke their beliefs, not for personal promotion they say, but an encouragement to an already close knit community.

“I’m not ashamed and if one soul discovers Christ, all is good,” Hayden said.

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