The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), with conservatives firmly in control, voted to rebuke President Clinton for his veto of the partial-birth abortion ban, to censure Disney for promoting "anti-Christian" values, and to recommit themselves to Jewish evangelism.

The three measures were among 14 resolutions approved at the denomination's annual convention in New Orleans, and all three drew rapid rebuttals from their intended targets.

Although the convention's attendance was 30 percent lower than in 1995 and the lowest since 1981, the 13,700 Baptist messengers, or delegates, at the Superdome were quick to reaffirm the conservative direction of the nation's largest Protestant body by selecting as their new president Tom Elliff, a third-generation Southern Baptist pastor from Del City, Oklahoma. Last fall, 80 top conservatives met in Atlanta to agree on Elliff as a consensus candidate. This election was the first in at least 50 years in which a new president was elected without an opponent.

Elliff, following his election to a one-year term, clearly aligned himself with conservatives, saying, "We are a Word-driven denomination with a mandate from Christ to spread the gospel." He said he is committed to using the appointive authority of the presidency to place into leadership individuals who affirm the "inerrancy" of the Bible.

However, outgoing president James Henry, Jr., during his final address, sounded a more conciliatory note, saying, "We as Southern Baptists are a diverse people. We must appreciate and appropriate this diversity for the common good."

PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION: Prior to the convention, Henry and 10 former SBC presidents wrote a letter of protest to Clinton because of his veto of the partial-birth abortion bill ...

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