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Gaddy, leading moderate, named head of religious left organization

WASHINGTON (BP) — The Interfaith Alliance, a Washington-based religious left organization, has named C. Welton Gaddy, a leader among moderates in the Southern Baptist Convention, as its new executive director.
Gaddy, who resigned as pastor of Northminster Baptist Church, Monroe, La., to take the post, served in various positions within the SBC but was among the moderate dissenters when a conservative resurgence in the convention began in 1979. He has since served with moderate groups that were formed in response to the SBC’s conservative direction. Gaddy is president of the Alliance of Baptists and was a Louisiana representative on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Coordinating Council when he accepted The Interfaith Alliance position.
He also was president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington-based strict separationist organization, but stepped down when selected by the alliance.
The Interfaith Alliance board includes two moderate Baptists, David Currie, coordinator of Texas Baptists Committee, and Foy Valentine, former executive director of the SBC’s Christian Life Commission, renamed as the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission last year.
When The Interfaith Alliance was established in 1994, its founders described it as a mainstream alternative to what they called the extremism of religious right organizations, especially the Christian Coalition. The alliance, which received $25,000 from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to help get started, has consistently staked out liberal positions, including support for civil rights protection based on homosexuality.
“The time has come for the tolerant majority to be heard and to let the American people know that religious political extremists do not speak for all people of faith,” Gaddy said in a written statement announcing his hiring. “This year we have witnessed religious political extremists outdo themselves in misleading the American people by claiming to speak on behalf of people of faith and conscience. They don’t speak for me or the millions of Americans who, as people of faith and good will, reject their tactics and agenda which tarnish the significant role that religion can and does play in American life.”
Gaddy’s comments were directed especially at Focus on the Family President James Dobson and Family Research Council President Gary Bauer. During the last four months, Dobson has led efforts calling on congressional Republicans to seek passage of pro-life and conservative legislation. Dobson warned Republicans their failure to change will result in him abandoning the GOP and taking “as many people with me as possible.” Bauer has started a political action committee that has supported Republican candidates favoring a ban on partial-birth abortion.
Gaddy, who has written more than 20 books, served as director of Christian citizenship development for the former Christian Life Commission from 1973-77.

Reported by Tom Strode.