Last month in Atlanta, Southern Baptist moderates laid plans that could lead to a new Baptist denomination.

Former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Jimmy Allen had an announcement to make to the nearly 3,000 disenchanted Southern Baptist “moderates” who met last month in Atlanta. Allen, convener of the Consultation of Concerned Baptists, merely wanted to inform participants that copies of the three-day meeting’s program were available outside the assembly hall. In making this matter-of-fact announcement, Allen suddenly found himself fighting tears as he suggested the program would someday be a collector’s item, a valuable memento of a major landmark in Baptist history.

The uninvited emotion supported the interpretation of the meeting that was offered by Albert Mohler, Jr., editor of the Christian Index, newspaper of the Georgia State Baptist Convention. Said Mohler, “What is happening here is the birth of a new denomination, being undertaken by people who, in their hearts, don’t want to take that step.”

Indeed, various moderate spokespersons said their purpose was not to divide the SBC but to seek renewal. However, they said they could no longer in good conscience support many of the SBC’s goals and programs as they are being defined and carried out by its present leadership.

Speakers made frequent, disparaging references to what they called the “fundamentalist takeover” of the 14.9 million-member denomination. Said Daniel Vestal in his keynote address, “[The fundamentalists] have not only maligned and libeled good and godly people, but they have caricatured and misrepresented others.”

By winning 12 straight elections (CT, July 16, 1990, p. 40), ...

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