As they have done for over a decade, conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) expect to vote their candidate into the SBC presidency at next month’s annual SBC meetings in New Orleans. Buoyed by the appointive powers of a succession of conservative leaders, those espousing a hard-line view of scriptural inerrancy have taken virtual control of SBC institutions, including its seminaries.

“The ball game is over as far as control of agencies within the denomination is concerned,” said Stan Hastey, executive director of the Southern Baptist Alliance (SBA), formed three years ago to counter the influence of conservative leadership. “A lot of moderates have still not been able to admit that to themselves, but for at least the next ten years, conservative control of the denomination is a foregone conclusion.”

“Conservatives” and “moderates” within the SBC part paths essentially on their fundamental views of Scripture. Both sides believe the Bible as originally written was infallible insofar as it tells the story of salvation. Conservatives maintain additionally that the original autographs were inerrant in all matters, including history and science.

The conservative stance on inerrancy has been defined largely in terms of definite positions on certain issues, including the view of Adam and Eve as historical persons, and strong opposition to women’s ordination. In contrast, SBA emphases include support for women in ministry, and, more fundamentally, advocacy of individual (and congregational) autonomy.

Last Stand?

Both groups say their positions are more representative of SBC membership. But according to the moderates, conservatives do a better job of getting out the vote at each annual convention. (Virtually all “messengers” ...

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