A definite thrust toward social concern was generated by the Southern Baptist Convention in its annual meeting of 15,000 messengers over the Memorial Day weekend in Miami Beach. It was unclear immediately whether the thrust would be enough to overcome some forces of reaction and maintain a course that would put the nation’s largest Protestant denomination in a new orbit.
“The name of the game is ‘involvement,’ and it is played not just on Sunday but on every day of the week,” declared the Rev. James L. Pleitz, the Pensacola, Florida, pastor who was elected chairman of the SBC Executive Committee. The extent of that involvement must be worldwide, the unusually quiet messengers were told by Senator Mark O. Hatfield. And that involvement must be in concert with other Christians, particularly other evangelicals, insisted the Rev. J. D. Grey.
Ignition of the theme took place in the pre-convention meetings of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference and the Women’s Missionary Union. Nearly every speaker dwelt on the need for social concern. The hardest-hitting was the Rev. Buckner Fanning of San Antonio, Texas, who said:
“Unless our churches become places of worship where people of all races and classes meet together in Christ through through worship and fellowship; unless we become great streams of new life flowing out from our sanctuaries into the hot, parched prairies of human needs; unless we Baptists experience a change of attitude and a change of direction, then we too will pass into the graveyard of denominations.”
In his own church, Fanning reported, the tradiational “study and do nothing” organizations have been dumped in favor of groups actively involved in ministering to the needs of people in such places as classrooms ...1
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