Editors rank new BF&M top national story of 2000
January 5 2001 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

Editors rank new BF&M top national story of 2000 | Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Editors rank new BF&M top national story of 2000

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Editors of Baptist state papers ranked last summer's revisions to the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) the year's top national news story. Coming in a close second in the editors' ranking was an autumn vote by the Baptist General Convention of Texas to reduce funding to seminaries and selected other programs of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) by more than $5 million.

The two stories were related. Texas Baptist leaders pointed to the first major rewrite of Southern Baptists' official belief statement since 1963 as a rationale for re-evaluating the state convention's historic relationship with the denomination.

A committee appointed last year by the SBC president recommended changes to the BF&M in June, aimed in part at tightening loopholes in the previous edition that conservatives say once allowed moderates and liberals to infiltrate teaching and other denominational-leadership posts.

Though approved by a wide margin by overwhelmingly conservative messengers at the June 13-14 convention in Orlando, Fla., the revised statement drew critics who said it weakened Southern Baptists' historic commitments including priesthood of the believer and autonomy of the local church.

While secular media focused on the statement's declaration that the Bible disqualifies women from serving as pastors, religious leaders, such as those in Texas, centered on the removal of a phrase that specified Jesus Christ as the criterion for interpreting the Bible. Defenders of the change said that language has been misunderstood and abused, while opponents said the revision goes too far by elevating Scripture to an object of worship.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas, the largest of the autonomous state and regional conventions that cooperate voluntarily with the nation's largest Protestant faith group, has leaders with more moderate theological views than the conservatives who have controlled the SBC since 1990.

While Texas Baptists have taken steps to declare greater independence from the SBC for several years, last year's revisions to the state's unified budget marked the most dramatic denominational realignment to date.

Meeting in late October in El Paso, Texas Baptists reduced funding to six SBC seminaries by about 80 percent, earmarking the money instead for three theology schools in the state. They also cut funding to the SBC Executive Committee, the convention's central planning committee, to a token level and defunded the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission outright.

In an unscientific survey done annually by Associated Baptist Press, all of the 13 Baptist journalists responding to this year's poll ranked either changes to the BF&M or the Texas defunding as first or second in the year's top 10 stories.

Nine rated the BF&M revisions No. 1, while four picked the Texas action as the year's top story.

The other top stories, as ranked by a majority of editors, include:

3. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship adopts a value statement that leaders describe as "welcoming, but not affirming, of gays." The policy says the moderate group will no longer provide direct financial support to organizations that promote homosexual behavior, such as schools that include sexual orientation in their open-admissions policies. It stops short, however, of denying membership to churches that welcome gays.

4. "Mainstream Baptists" form a nationwide network, followed by several similar groups in states, in an effort to mobilize moderates to defend their state conventions against conservative dominance like that in the SBC.

5. Baptist Homes for Children, an agency of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, defends itself against a lawsuit by a former worker who was fired because she is a lesbian.

6. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who achieved a high profile as a Southern Baptist after describing himself as "born again" during his 1976 campaign, announces he no longer regards himself a Southern Baptist. He cites differences with conservative views espoused by the denomination.

7. The U.S. Supreme Court rules that public prayers at high-school football games in Texas violate the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

8. Religious violence escalates in Indonesia.

9. The Supreme Court rules that the Boy Scouts of America are not required to accept homosexuals as scout leaders.

10. Albert Mohler, the conservative president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, makes comments critical of E.Y. Mullins, who shaped Southern Baptist thought as primary author of the denomination's first doctrinal statement, the BF&M, in 1925.

Mohler, who served on the committee proposing a new BF&M last summer, charged that Mullins gave too much credence to religious experience, ultimately contributing to a loss of confidence in biblical authority among Southern Baptists.

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1/5/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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