ST. LOUIS — The 22-member Peace Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, buoyed by the reelection of a conservative as its president, released a report affirming beliefs in the authority of the Bible.
The committee, whose report will represent the denomination of 14.6 million Southern Baptists, said this week that biblical accounts of the miraculous and the supernatural are truthful as given by God and recorded by biblical writers.
It also said Baptists believe in direct creation of mankind and therefore believe that Adam and Eve were real persons and that historical narratives given by biblical authors are accurate.
About 25,000 delegates of the Southern Baptist Convention, held at the Cervantes Center downtown, spent a good part of the week passing resolutions praising full-time homemakers; calling for chastity to prevent the spread of AIDS; calling for a tougher anti-abortion stance, asking its agencies and institutions to use their influence to "promote the sanctity of human life", and condemning the spread of pornography.
In other business, Adrian Rogers of Memphis, Tenn., was elected to serve a second term as president of the denomination. He won 59% of 23,000 votes cast.
At a victory speech, Rogers addressed concerns that Baptists are trying to force their points of view on non-Baptists through the statements issued in the Peace Committee report.
"We would not force our views on anyone if we could," Rogers said. "We are not those insisting on a literal translation of the Bible."
The delegates, who are called "messengers," also voted to distance themselves from the PTL ministry and the Moral Majority in an amendment to a resolution deploring the mishandling of church funds.
The amendment said Baptists serving on the PTL board, including independent Baptist Jerry Falwell and the Rev. Bailey Smith, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, "in no way officially connects the Southern Baptist Convention with either the PTL or the Moral Majority."
The Rev. Billy Graham, in a sermon at the meeting Thursday, said without naming names that the integrity of evangelists has slipped due to recent events.
Before his sermon on the need for a revival of Christian spirit, Graham said scandals had shaken politics, business and religion, and that Southern Baptists must continue their lead in missions and evangelism.
"However, sometimes I fear that our message is in danger of being diluted," Graham said. "Somewhere along the line we have lost the authority and the cutting edge of our message."
In an apparent reference to Jim Bakker, Graham said, "The world looks at us and they see the same way of living, the same motives, the same petty jealousies that characterize the world, or they see where leaders have yielded to the temptations of money, lust or power, and they see little reason to believe our message can really change their lives.
"That is why there must be renewal within before there can be witness without to a restless and depraved world."
The Southern Baptists came to their 130th annual session hoping that conservative and moderate factions would make peace, but they ended the convention Thursday divided as ever.
"Moderates will be back at the San Antonio meeting next year and the battle will continue with more intensity," predicted Lynn P. Clayton, editor of the Baptist Messenger of Alexandria, La.
"The moderates will continue the fight, but I don't see the pendulum swinging back the other way for two to three years," she said. "Not until (President) Reagan is out of office and Pat Robertson is out of the political scene."