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Raleigh Church Leaves Baptist Convention

September 26, 1998|Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — After 153 years, Raleigh's oldest Baptist church has broken away from the Southern Baptist Convention, in part because of the denomination's call on women to "submit graciously" to their husbands.

Members of the First Baptist Church voted 264 to 23 Wednesday to leave the convention.

Churchgoers said they could no longer tolerate "authoritarian trends" within the 15.6-million-member denomination.

As a theologically "moderate" church, First Baptist has a long list of grievances with the conservative convention, including a 1984 resolution against the ordination of women and a 1997 measure calling for a boycott of the Walt Disney Co. over the extension of benefits to same-sex partners of employees and Disney-owned ABC's sitcom "Ellen."

The breaking point came in June when the convention told women to "submit graciously" to their husbands. At First Baptist, the first female deacons were elected in 1874, and half of the 48-member deacon board is female.

"I'm very sad we were in a position that we had to make a decision," said the Rev. Daniel Day, senior pastor. "The mood of regret and sadness was heavy within the room."

Two western North Carolina churches left the denomination over the summer, and a church in Durham will decide Oct. 4.

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