Two decades ago, conservative activist Paige Patterson began laying the groundwork to gain control of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) agencies and institutions.

The strategy of Patterson and retired Houston judge Paul Pressler to reshape the 15.9 million-member denomination through presidential appointments has been wildly successful.

Patterson, who last month became the first seminary president to lead the SBC since 1940, told CT the methodology used to wrestle the denomination back may not have been wisest. Nevertheless, he called the battle "an essential and necessary exercise for self-definition." He has no plans to offer an olive branch to those not in his camp.

"Anybody who wants to believe that the Bible is true and is deeply concerned about reaching the world for Christ is going to be increasingly happy in the Southern Baptist Convention," Patterson told CT. "Those with serious questions about the validity and veracity of certain portions of the Word and who do not have a deep commitment to evangelism and missions will be less comfortable with the Southern Baptist Convention of the twenty-first century."

The pursuit of doctrinal uniformity by Southern Baptist leaders has come at a price. Deep fractures within the denomination are still evident.

"The controversy that has been settled at the national level has moved to the state conventions and local congregations," says Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest Divinity School. "There are diverse responses at the state level. It's not a slam dunk for either side."

Bitterly fought battles throughout the 1980s spurred disenfranchised Southern Baptists to form a separate yearly Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) gathering in the 1990s, complete with their own missionaries and ...

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