With the virtual withdrawal of its moderate faction from national denominational politics, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) concluded its least contentious annual meeting in over a decade last month in Atlanta. In place of the political showdowns of recent years, the convention took on the flavor of a five-day “God and Country” rally, with a liberal dose of “Religious Right” politics mixed in for the estimated 20,000 participants.

Since 1979, control of the convention’s leadership has been held by conservatives, who view the Bible as “inerrant.” Moderates last year said they would no longer challenge the “fundamentalists” at the annual conventions. In May, a group of 6,000 dissenting moderates formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in an effort to bypass the Nashville-based SBC executive committee’s missions budget (CT, June 24, 1991, p. 60).

As a result, conservative pastor Morris Chapman of Waco, Texas, was re-elected without dissent to a second one-year term as president of the 15 million-member SBC.

Flexing their conservative muscle, SBC messengers (delegates) also voted 53 to 47 percent to cut off financial backing for the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. The Washington-based agency, supported by ten denominations, including the American Baptists and the three main denominations of black Baptists, has long been a sore point for conservatives.

The meeting also gave final approval to a $140.7 million Cooperative Program budget that represents a 1.5 percent boost in spending by the SBC’s head office. An increase of 6.3 percent went to the Christian Life Commission, the SBC’s own “moral concerns agency,” which has lobbied the White House against federal funding of abortion and “obscene” arts projects.

Messengers ...

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