Although former President Jimmy Carter announced he was withdrawing from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), that's not an option for individuals, says James Merritt, the denomination's president. "No individual can disassociate himself from the SBC," Merritt told Christianity Today. "He's still a member. He will remain a Southern Baptist until he moves his letter or Maranatha Baptist Church [Carter's church in Plains, Georgia] leaves."
Carter, 79, is one of the SBC's most famous members.
Carter announced in an October letter to his fellow Baptists that he could no longer remain part of the SBC, the largest Protestant denomination in the nation.
Carter mentioned the convention's opposition to the ordination of women as one reason for his announcement. He has been a key broker in bringing together SBC moderates and conservatives. But he is now openly associating himself with the convention's moderate wing.
Merritt said he wasn't surprised by Carter's announcement. "Anyone who knows the President knows he is not very happy, to put it very mildly," with the SBC. "At best, he is a theological moderate. That's not where we are as a denomination."
Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, said in a Wall Street Journal commentary, "I am sorry to see him go. His departure, I fear, accelerates the very schism he worked with such good faith to avoid."1