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Mohler: Carter has been estranged from SBC mainstream for decades

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Former President Jimmy Carter’s recent denouncement of the Southern Baptist Convention was apparently timed to sway votes at this week’s Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting, even though he has been out of step with mainstream Southern Baptists for decades, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. wrote in a column in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Oct. 29.

Mohler’s column came on the heels of a series of comments about the SBC by the former president. On Oct. 19 Carter released a statement critical of the newly revised Baptist Faith and Message, saying he had been disappointed and had felt excluded by the adoption of “an increasingly rigid SBC creed, including some provisions that violate the basic premises of my Christian faith. I have finally decided that, after 65 years, I can no longer be associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The statement was mailed to 75,000 Baptists across the country and was accompanied by videotaped comments by BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade discussing BGCT proposals that would reduce funding to the SBC by more than $5 million. The BGCT meeting is taking place in Corpus Christi, Texas, Oct. 30-31.

Carter’s efforts “at peacemaking, international negotiation, home construction for the impoverished and the eradication of diseases in Africa have earned him the world’s respect,” Mohler acknowledged, and his announcement drew national media attention. “After all, it isn’t every day that one of the world’s most famous citizens denounces his denomination.”

But, Mohler noted, the former president actually began distancing himself from the Southern Baptist Convention years ago.

“Carter cited several reasons for leaving the SBC,” Mohler wrote. “All are related to one central fact. The former president is solidly identified with the liberal wing of the SBC and has opposed the conservative leadership elected by the convention for the last two decades. On an entire spectrum of theological and moral issues, Carter has been estranged from the SBC.

“On issues ranging from homosexuality and abortion to the nature of the gospel and the authority of Scripture, the former president is out of step with the majority of Southern Baptists.”

The former president “shifted his identification to another denominational fellowship years ago,” Mohler wrote.

Carter’s announcement was seemingly timed in order to aid anti-SBC leaders for this week’s BGCT meeting, Mohler said.

“His much-trumpeted denunciation of the SBC is a post-presidential publicity stunt, apparently timed for maximum assistance to the Baptist General Convention of Texas in its break with the SBC Cooperative Program. In the end, it says far more about Carter than about the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Mohler said the former president’s “favorite theologians are drawn from the left wing of Christianity” and that his recent shift of allegiance “to the liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship” is nothing new. Mohler said that the theological divide between Carter and mainstream Southern Baptists is vast.

“In recent years he has stated that he doubts the validity of some of the miracles recorded in Scripture,” said Mohler, quoting Carter as saying, “But I now believe that, even if some of the more dramatic miracles recounted in the Gospels could be untrue, my faith in [Christ] would still be equally precious and unshaken.”

Mohler said that Carter “has also denied that faith in Christ is necessary for salvation.” As evidence, Mohler quoted Carter as saying, “I cannot imagine innocent persons being deprived of God’s eternal blessing because they don’t have a chance to accept Christ.”

“Carter has been unclear concerning other religions as avenues to salvation,” Mohler wrote. “In a startling affront to the SBC, Carter criticized witnessing to Mormons — but seemed not to know that Mormons do not accept the Christian gospel.”

Mohler also answered Carter’s criticism of the Southern Baptist Convention’s belief that the office of pastor is limited to men, as stated in the Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs adopted by the SBC in June.

“This is the position shared by the vast majority of Christians throughout the world,” Mohler wrote. “Carter, whose pastor is a man, is outraged by this restriction and blames ‘fallible human beings’ who were the human authors of Scripture for this restriction.”

Mohler said the “chasm between Carter and the Southern Baptist mainstream is most clear on moral issues. As President, Carter made abortion rights a priority and organized the infamous 1979 White House Conference on Families — now recognized as a watershed event. Evangelical outrage prompted by the conference contributed to Carter’s electoral defeat in 1980.”

Carter’s stance on homosexuality is also out of line with rank-and-file Southern Baptists, Mohler said.

“In his port-presidential years, Carter has supported the cause of homosexual rights and raised money for gay rights,” Mohler wrote. “All this is in direct conflict with the beliefs of Southern Baptists, who refuse to compromise clear biblical teachings on these controversial issues.”

Mohler’s column can be read in its entirety at

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  • Michael Foust