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La., Fla., Ala. conventions vote to embrace SBC statement of beliefs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–By a 1,112-860 vote, messengers to the Louisiana Baptist Convention adopted the Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs as the state convention’s official statement of belief Nov. 14.

The same day, the Florida Baptist Convention also embraced the BFM as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention during its June annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

And at the Alabama convention, messengers voted to “affirm Southern Baptists for their doctrinal heritage and confessions of faith, then and now,” referring to the new BFM and its 1998, 1963 and 1925 predecessors.

Tennessee Baptists, on Nov. 15, adopted a resolution saying they “acknowledge” the BFM “as a source of information in assisting believers to express their faith.” Messengers debated and then voted 542-428 against a motion to change the word “acknowledge” to “affirm.”

The resolution also stated that Tennessee Baptists have stood with the SBC in recognizing the Bible as “totally true and trustworthy and the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists.”

In South Carolina, the BFM was not placed on the agenda. A conservative pastor, Wendell Estep of First Baptist Church, Columbia, was elected as convention president by acclamation.

And during the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention’s Nov. 9-10 meeting, a resolution of support for the SBC’s six seminaries was adopted.

According to a report in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, messengers to the convention in Alexandria also re-elected conservative pastor Tommy French of Baton Rouge as LBC president, turning back a challenge by Baptist moderates who nominated Perry Sanders of Lafayette instead of according French the usual unopposed second term. The vote in the race was 1,188 to 799.

The newspaper quoted French as saying, “The purpose of a statement of faith is to say these are the basic principles by which we operate.” Donors to Baptist missions and charities “would like a standard by which [their employees] serve. In order to do that, you have to lay down a parameter which they can understand and by which they can live,” French said.

If, however, personal fidelity to the Baptist Faith and Message is a prerequisite for working within the state convention and its charitable institutions, “then there are about 860 of us who will never be asked to share” in that work, said Jon Stubblefield of First Baptist Church in Shreveport.

In Daytona Beach, the affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the nearly 2,000 registered messengers from Florida Baptist churches, according to news reports.

John Sullivan, the Florida convention’s executive director, was quoted by the Orlando Sentinel as saying of the vote, “It does not mean that your church has to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message or that you have to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, if in any way, it violates your conscience.” But, he said, the convention should hold to what most Baptists embrace. “I have no desire to have a theological position broad enough to condone what the Bible does not affirm as truth,” the newspaper quoted Sullivan as saying.

According to a report in the Memphis, Tenn., Commercial Appeal, Tennessee Baptists, in addition to acknowledging the BFM’s place in assisting believers’ witness, stated that the state convention “shares with Southern Baptists a commitment to evangelistic and missionary passion and to doctrinal faithfulness in the midst of a culture dominated by moral relativism and a materialistic worldview.” But, according to the newspaper, the resolution reaffirms that the SBC has no ecclesiastical jurisdiction over local churches or Baptist associations.

Tennessee messengers elected conservative nominees to the convention’s presidency and two vice presidential posts.

The resolution by the Alabama Baptist State Convention, titled “On Doctrinal Heritage and Confessions of Faith,” affirmed the adoption of Baptist Faith and Message statements as “the historic practice of the Southern Baptist Convention” reflecting “the consensus of Baptists” and providing “a resource for understanding and teaching of Baptist beliefs and practices.”

The BFM contains “statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and affirms historic Baptist beliefs including the doctrines of soul competency, the priesthood of all believers, and salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone,” the Alabama resolution stated.

The resolution noted that “the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists” and that the BFM “is a non-binding document that may be used by local churches and associations.” The resolution also noted “the Alabama Baptist State Convention has never written or adopted a confession of faith, and Baptists have consistently honored the Christian faith as a non-creedal people.”

David Mills, pastor of Ladonia Baptist Church, Phenix City, received strong applause when he told messengers in Montgomery that “Alabama Baptists have no interest in dividing from the SBC.”

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