Magazine article The Christian Century

The Costs of SBC Conflict

Magazine article The Christian Century

The Costs of SBC Conflict

Article excerpt

Contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention's primary national mission and operating fund were down nearly 9 percent in March--the second straight month of hefty declines, according to convention officials. Like other large denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention is struggling with a decline in giving due in part to the recession, even as it is obliged to meet steep increases in such areas as health insurance. The denomination is also dealing with the effects of internal turmoil over the past decade as moderates and conservatives have fought for control of administrative machinery.

In the past year that turmoil has extended to the foreign and domestic mission programs, which for years managed to stay on the sidelines of the fray; the result for some has been a crisis of confidence in the programs. In the latest round of internecine battle, another Foreign Mission Board vice-president, Harlan Spurgeon, in announcing that he will take early retirement, charged that the foreign mission board's trustees have subordinated mission to church politics--a charge sharply denied by church officials.

In his retirement letter, addressed to the agency's acting president, Spurgeon charged that trustees require that all who are around them be "politically correct"--that is, support the fundamentalist agenda--and said the agency's leaders had been deprived of "the freedom to discuss issues openly without fear of reprisal." "We have lost heart, causing this great agency to move at a snail's pace. …

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