Magazine article The Christian Century

Moderate Baptists Adopt Constitution

Magazine article The Christian Century

Moderate Baptists Adopt Constitution

Article excerpt

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, an organization of Southern Baptist moderates, formalized its structure by adopting a constitution and bylaws at the closing session of a meeting in May in Birmingham, Alabama. Former President Jimmy Carter, a Southern Baptist who endorsed the moderate group earlier this year and recently pledged financial support, was the keynote speaker for the gathering, which drew about 5,000 participants.

The fellowship, which seeks to provide alternatives for Southern Baptists opposed to their denomination's fundamentalist leaders, has been mapping its course for three years. Under the new bylaws, the group will begin in 1994 to equate membership with financial support. Members will be defined as individuals or congregations "who contribute annually to the ministries and operations of the fellowship."

In his address Carter said, "In the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship my wife and I have found a home." Carter, a deacon at his congregation in Plains, Georgia, said he values his religious heritage as a Southern Baptist but believes the 15-million-member denomination's bitter internal politics of the past 14 years has taken that heritage away from him. Several weeks ago Carter said he and his wife, Rosalynn, would begin giving money to the fellowship. The group was formed in May 1991 by Southern Baptists eager to bypass the denomination's official agencies and programs. So far the fellowship has not declared itself to be a separate denomination.

Carter praised the group for upholding such Baptist principles as the autonomy of the local congregation, the priesthood of all believers, and the separation of church and state. …

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