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Most SBC entity heads stayed true to moderate convictions

DALLAS (BP)–The conservative resurgence resulted in a change at the top of every Southern Baptist Convention entity, including all six seminaries.

Writer Joni Hannigan compiled a list of the Southern Baptist Convention entity heads serving in 1979 through the subsequent years of the conservative resurgence, detailing their work then and now.

The list, somewhat of a “Where are they now?” compilation follows:

— Keith Parks (served 1980-1992), Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board).

Parks was seen as “apolitical” until 1985 when he wrote to SBC foreign missionaries and told them he could not support the re-election of conservative Charles Stanley as SBC president. In 1990, Parks wrote an open letter printed in Baptist Press which said: “Many Southern Baptists are feeling grief, but it would be a great tragedy for Southern Baptists to revert to an independent church approach for supporting missions and other causes of common concern.” Parks retired from the board Oct. 31, 1992 and the next day became the head of the Baptist Cooperative Mission Program.

Parks served as the coordinator of Global Missions & Ministries for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship from 1992-1999. In 2002, Parks was inducted into the Mainstream Hall of Fame, a listing by Mainstream Baptists of those opposing “the legalism of SBC conservatism.”

In 2004, Parks served as chairman of a Mission Review and Initiatives sub-committee for the Baptist General Convention of Texas in helping to set up a funding source for missionaries unwilling to affirm the 2000 BF&M. Parks acknowledged a lingering question: “Is this a missions-sending organization? We don’t know. It’s not at this point. Whatever you want it to be, it will become.”

— Foy Valentine (1971-1986), Christian Life Commission (now the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission).

Valentine led the SBC in 1971 to approve an abortion rights resolution. Later, Valentine opposed a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion on demand and in 1977 was a national sponsor of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights. He retired from the Christian Life Commission in 1985 for medical reasons, but received a salary until 1988.

Valentine wrote a book on ethics published in 2003 by Smith & Helwys, and is the founding editor of A Journal of Christian Ethics, a website established in 2000. He is a lecturer at the Hardin-Simmons University Logsdon School of Theology in Texas. Valentine formerly headed the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor. He is a trustee for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

— Bill Tanner (1976-1987), Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board).

Tanner led the Home Mission Board when there was a minority of conservative trustees who began in the mid-1980s to ask for doctrinal integrity, stricter staff accountability and pro-life policies. When the appointment of an ordained woman to a student ministry role prompted the personnel committee to vote against her recommendation, Tanner pled for restraint, convincing the board to approve the appointment. He left the HMB in 1987 to become the executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

— Lloyd Elder (1984-1991), Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources).

In 1989 Elder told trustees he had “stayed out of politics” and only spoke in the context of his responsibility as president of the board. “… I do not want to cast aside that which we’re building together. And frankly, I do not believe that you will.” As trustees declared an impasse over “management style, philosophy and performance,” Elder took early retirement in January of 1991.

In 1991 Elder joined the faculty at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. In 1996, he helped establish the Moench Center for Church Leadership, where he served as director until his retirement this year.

— Paul Powell (1989-1998), Annuity Board.

Powell chaired the Baylor regents board when the school voted to break ties with the Baptist General Convention of Texas in the 1980s, citing worries of a “takeover” by conservatives. At the 1994 SBC annual meeting in Orlando, he took aim at critics seeking an “abortion free” fund for investing purposes, stating, “I didn’t take this job to play Mickey Mouse games. Persons on our staff are not Goofy. We’re not going to let Goofy and his friends invest your money,” he insisted. “Your money will be managed professionally, legally, responsibly and morally as long as I am here.”

Powell retired in 1998. In 2001, Powell became dean of Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

— Duke McCall (1951-1982), Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

McCall, who also served as president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary from 1943-1946, retired from Southern Seminary in 1982. He had been openly critical of conservatives and compared their actions to those of communists. Decrying the politics involved, McCall said the issue was power. “Theology is simply the flag they wave.”

From 1980-1985 McCall was president of the Baptist World Alliance. In 1990 he joined Grady Cothen, John Baugh, Lavonn Brown, Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler and several others to form the Baptist Cooperative Missions Program, an alternative channel for funding the Southern Baptist ministries. Soon after its formation, BCMP transferred its resources to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).

McCall’s memoirs were released in 2002 with the title of “Duke McCall: An Oral History.” That same year he was named to Mainstream Baptists’ Hall of Fame for opposing the “legalism of SBC conservatism.”

— Roy Honeycutt (1982-1993), Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In 1984, Honeycutt preached his “throwing down the gauntlet” sermon in which he declared “holy war” on the conservative movement. The school, however, subsequently attained a majority of conservative trustees. Jerry Sutton observed, “Roy Honeycutt was fully engaged in trying to stop the Conservative Resurgence.” Honeycutt resigned in 1993.

Honeycutt has been a longtime member of Crescent Hills Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., a church affiliated with the CBF of Kentucky. An article by Honeycutt appears in a book, “Interpreting Isaiah for Teaching and Preaching,” edited by Cecil P. Staton, Jr., and published by Smyth & Helwys. He also serves as an honorary editor for Review & Expositor, a journal collectively written by moderate Baptist seminaries.

— Russell Dilday (1978-1994), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In a hallway interview in 1990, Dilday said the “political methodology” used during the conservative resurgence “has satanic and evil qualities.” According to a Baptist Press story, Dilday defended his characterization and apologized. Dilday described harms caused by even “noble” causes, and concluded: “Therefore, political methodology on any side is wrong.”

After being fired at Southwestern Seminary in 1994, Dilday was hired to teach at Baylor’s Truett Seminary and retired in 2000. He became interim dean of Truett in 1995. Dilday served at president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 1997-1998 and led the state convention to redirect an estimated $3 million in funding they previously contributed to the seminaries through the Cooperative Program.

In 2002, Dilday was inducted into the Mainstream Hall of Fame. Dilday is also an honorary editor of the moderate journal, Review & Expositor.

— W. Randall Lolley (1974-1987), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

After the seminary attained a majority of conservative trustees in 1987, the faculty — saying it was safeguarding its “academic freedom” — organized a chapter of the American Association of University Professors [AAUP]. Lolley gave his “gauntlet” sermon, “Quo Vadis, Southeastern Seminary?” that same year. When he and five vice presidents resigned to protest trustee changes to the faculty hiring process, Lolley remarked: “I commit from this day forward every moment of my time and every millibar of my energy to restoring this school into the hands of her friends and out of the hands of her foes — so help me God!”

In 1988 Lolley became the pastor of First Baptist Church of Raleigh, N.C. He was moderator of the North Carolina chapter of the CBF from 1997-98 and is a trustee at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C. In 1994, Lolley co-authored a Smyth & Helwys book, “Servant Songs: Reflections on the History and Mission of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-1988.” The Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Va., which opened in 1991, established the Lou and Randall Lolley Baptist Studies Center in 2003. Lolley serves as honorary editor of Review & Expositor.

— Milton Ferguson (1972-1995), Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

By 1991 conservatives were in the majority at Midwestern Seminary. Near the end of his tenure, Ferguson defended the views of professor Temp Sparkman against charges he advocated universalism. Ferguson also sought tenure for Bill Stancil when trustees regarded his view on baptism as outside the bounds of the BF&M. Ferguson retired in 1995.

Currently he fills the pulpit at First Baptist Church of Independence, Mo., a congregation affiliated with the CBF and the newly formed moderate Baptist General Convention of Missouri.

— William M. Pinson Jr. (1977-1982), Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

Pinson called the conservative movement a “serious crisis” and resigned Golden Gate Seminary in 1982 to become the executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, where he served until 1997. He is a T.B. Maston lecture speaker at Carson-Newman College, serves on the faculty of Baylor’s Truett Seminary, directs the Texas Baptist Heritage Center of BGCT and writes for BaptistWay Press, an alternative curriculum produced by BGCT.

— Landrum P. Leavell II (1974-1995), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Leavell, whose uncle Roland Q. Leavell was president of the school from 1946-1958, had early on proposed to keep the seminary free from discord. Despite some dispute over professor Fisher Humphrey’s book “The Death of Christ,” Leavell retired without incident in 1995. The seminary renamed a center after Leavell in 1995, calling it the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health.
Sources: Baptist Press; “A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage” by H. Leon McBeth; “The Baptist Reformation” by Jerry Sutton; and “The Truth in Crisis” series by James. C. Hefley Jr. This story originally appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

    About the Author

  • Joni Hannigan