Conservatives re-elect Charles Stanley as president, and a ‘peace committee’ is formed in an attempt to restore unity.

A record turnout was expected for last month’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), but nobody predicted that 45,431 messengers (delegates) would show up. Southern Baptists clogged Dallas’s freeways as they hurried to the expected shoot-out between conservatives who want to stop a perceived “liberal drift” in denominational seminaries and agencies, and moderates who say they desire “unity amidst diversity.”

Conservatives claimed the major victory by re-electing Charles Stanley as president of the 14.3 million-member denomination. Garnering 55 percent of the votes, Stanley defeated Winfred Moore, the candidate backed by denominational moderates. Moore is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas, and president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He later was elected to the office of first vice-president, a position that has no appointive powers.

A gulf has been widening between denominational conservatives and moderates since 1979, when Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers was elected SBC president with conservative support. Conservative-backed presidential candidates have been elected every year since. Stanley’s victory last month moved conservatives closer than ever to gaining control over the institutions of the nation’s largest non-Roman Catholic denomination.

In an attempt to bridge the gulf between the opposing factions, SBC messengers approved a denominational “peace committee.” The committee was proposed by an ad hoc task force of state Baptist presidents and former SBC president Franklin Paschall. ...

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