Southern Baptists denounce liberal theology
- Southern Baptists Quit World Alliance1 hour, 12 minutes ago
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By RICHARD N. OSTLING, AP Religion Writer
INDIANAPOLIS - The Southern Baptist Convention quit a global federation of Baptist denominations Tuesday as SBC leaders denounced the Baptist World Alliance and other groups for accepting liberal theology.
Slideshow: Southern Baptists Quit World Alliance
At a meeting that has affirmed the SBC's conservative values 25 years after its rightward shift began, more than 8,000 Southern Baptists also cheered as President Bush (news - web sites) � speaking through a live video link � stressed his support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Outgoing SBC President Jack Graham called Bush "a man of personal faith whose leadership is great for America" as he introduced him.
The SBC is the world's largest Baptist denomination and America's largest Protestant body, with 16.3 million members. It helped launch the alliance 99 years ago and was a strong supporter before its move toward strict conservatism with the election of a right-leaning president a quarter-century ago.
On Tuesday, it took just a show of hands vote to approve the withdrawal from the alliance after a brief debate.
The alliance, based in Falls Church, Va., is a federation of 46 million Baptists in 211 denominations.
The SBC's pullout means it will lose $300,000 next year � the alliance's current budget is $1.7 million � but "our concern is not financial," said the Rev. Denton Lotz, general secretary of the alliance. "Our concern is schism and division. Christians need to be a united voice."
The Rev. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, told the meeting the problem was a liberal drift within the alliance.
Patterson said some in the group question the inerrancy of the Bible and that one U.S. member denomination, American Baptist Churches, includes a group of "gay-friendly congregations."
Graham's address as outgoing president said the 2004 "election matters because there are two different viewpoints on where this culture needs to be on the moral issues of our time."
He urged Southern Baptists to lobby Congress in favor of an anti-gay marriage amendment.
Bush, who has spoken to the annual Baptist meeting three years running, delivered what sounded much like a campaign stump speech. He was greeted warmly, with a minute-long ovation, and got the biggest applause when he said that "I support a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman."
A Tuesday night presentation will urge congregations to join the SBC's new voter registration campaign. And it's possible that on Wednesday a resolutions committee will ask the meeting for formal action on the gay marriage issue.
In other business, votes were being counted in the election of Graham's successor as president. The favored candidate, the Rev. Bobby Welch of Daytona Beach, Fla., faced a last-minute challenge from the Rev. Al Jarrell, of Riverside Baptist Church in Merry Hill, N.C.
On the Net:
Southern Baptist Convention: http://www.sbc.net
Baptist World Alliance: http://www.bwanet.org
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