ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship sponsored a seminar informing CBF activists how to spearhead moderate political activity in their state conventions through “Mainstream Baptist” and “Baptists Committed” networks.
Participants were told that such state-level movements could lead to partnerships with the CBF by state conventions and to the defunding of SBC agencies by their state conventions. Participants were counseled, however, not to identify these networks overtly with the CBF.
The seminar, “Your State Mainstream Baptists Organization and CBF: How Do the Two Relate?” was held June 30 at the CBF’s annual General Assembly.
It was led by David Currie and Charles McLaughlin of Texas Baptists Committed; Bruce Prescott of Oklahoma Mainstream Baptists, Tony Woodell of Arkansas Baptists Committed, and Rob Marus of Mainstream Missouri Baptists.
“CBF of Missouri will have a difficult time to grow, if they have a hostile Missouri Baptist Convention,” Marus said, explaining his organization’s strategy to recapture moderate control at this year’s “pivotal” state convention meeting.
“If you win your state convention, you can partner with the CBF,” Currie told participants.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas’ increasing alienation from the SBC is not “an isolated incident,” Currie said, but is an example of what can be done in other states.
He pointed to the defunding of the SBC seminaries as a high priority for Texas Baptist moderates.
“If the BGCT decides to change giving and doesn’t give money to Southwestern Seminary — guess what — Paige Patterson doesn’t get that money,” he said.
“Maybe they’ll sell Southwestern to us one day,” he said.
Currie spoke optimistically of moderates in the state conventions diverting money from the International Mission Board to other groups since “conservatives don’t care about missions … they’re fighting a culture war.”
“I think we ought to take up a ‘Save the Missionaries’ offering instead of Lottie Moon and write ’em all a letter and say ‘y’all want to work for someone else?'”
The panel counseled CBF activists not to identify their “mainstream” organizations with the CBF since such an overt identification would alienate potential moderate voters.
“We have people in our group who wouldn’t touch CBF with a ten foot pole,” Woodell said.
“There are lots of people in your churches who are not fundamentalists, but who will never be a part of the CBF,” Marus said.
The panel suggested various strategies to keep or gain moderate control of the state conventions. Telling laypeople that conservative SBC leaders are putting the Bible over Jesus and are threatening the priesthood of the believer and soul competency is one factor.
Others include assisting pulpit committees in finding moderate pastors, organizing moderates to come to the state convention and association meetings, and providing subscriptions to the Texas Baptist Standard to laypeople across the nation. The panel handicapped moderate chances of success in the various state conventions. The Florida and Oklahoma conventions are “hopeless cases” for moderates, the leaders said.
They noted that conservative-led Louisiana is a prime target for a moderate victory at this year’s state convention. Georgia may also be reclaimed for the moderates, Currie said. The Mississippi and Alabama state conventions are the “most untouched” by conservatives, they said, while Tennessee seems to swing back and forth between conservative and moderate leadership.
Noting “the real battle has now shifted from the states to your association and your local church,” Prescott urged participants to mobilize moderates to prevent associations from adopting the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message since the confessional statement “reflects a completely different understanding of what it means to be Baptist than what we believe to be Baptist.”
Prescott said that although he can rarely assemble a majority of moderate messengers in his state, “my chance right now is to stop [the BF&M] with a 1/3 vote” since his local association requires a 2/3 vote to adopt a new confession of faith.
Prescott said that moderates should fight the new Baptist Faith and Message state-level “Mainstream” groups instead of through the CBF since the CBF has never adopted the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message.
“They can’t fight that battle,” he said. “It’s not their confession of faith.”
“The battle has been lost on the national level and we have to realize that,” Woodell said. “Now the battle turns to the state conventions, to the associations, and to the local churches.”
“This is going to be won or lost at the state convention elections and it’s up to you,” he continued.
Marus refused to be interviewed by Baptist Press following the panel, but told BP he was combating “liars” and “cunning fundamentalists such as Missouri conservative Roger Moran” who utilizes “guilt by association” tactics.
When asked about specific Moran allegations of moderate Baptist collaboration with gay and lesbian, abortion rights, and other liberal groups, Marus retorted that the SBC supports “whacko right-wing causes” such as home schooling and Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.