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Southern Baptists Quit Alliance

June 16, 2004|From Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — The Southern Baptist Convention quit a global federation of Baptist denominations Tuesday as its leaders denounced the Baptist World Alliance and other groups for accepting liberal theology.

At a meeting that affirmed the Southern Baptists' conservative values 25 years after its rightward shift began, more than 8,000 people also cheered as President Bush -- speaking through a live video link -- stressed his support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Outgoing Southern Baptist President Jack Graham called Bush "a man of personal faith whose leadership is great for America" as he introduced him.

Southern Baptists are 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 denomination president.

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 Southern Baptist pullout means the alliance will lose $300,000 next year -- its 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, 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. denomination, American Baptist Churches, includes a group of "gay-friendly congregations."

The Rev. Bobby Welch of Daytona Beach, Fla., was chosen to succeed Graham.

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