Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Southern Baptists Pick New Leader and Their Decision Signals That They've Had Enough of Infighting

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Southern Baptists Pick New Leader and Their Decision Signals That They've Had Enough of Infighting

Article excerpt

Southern Baptists strayed Tuesday from a 15-year tradition and rejected their leadership's candidate for denomination president.

"Messengers," or voting members, chose Orlando megachurch pastor James B. Henry, 56, over the Rev. Fred Wolfe, 56, head of the Southern Baptist Convention executive committee. The vote was 9,876 to 8,023. Both men are theologically conservative, but Henry is viewed as the more personally conciliatory.

His election signals not a doctrinal shift but a clear call for a change of style, Baptists said. Henry was considered to be the candidate of those tired of denominational infighting.

"Jim Henry is not a politicized figure," said Bob Terry, editor of the Missouri Baptist Convention's newspaper, Word & Way. "Jim has demonstrated a spirit of inclusiveness."

Terry and others said also that Southern Baptists appreciated Henry's church for leading all others in financial contributions to Convention programs.

"Also, folks just like Jim Henry," said the Rev. Roy Jones, missions director for the Cape Girardeau Baptist Association. "He represents Southern Baptists at their best. He has a reputation for caring for people."

Some said also that Southern Baptists were tired of letting a small group of leaders pick the president. Henry's election marks the first time since 1979 that the leadership's man hasn't been chosen.

Henry, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Orlando, didn't campaign for the post. But in interviews before the election, he vowed to try to mend fences with conservatives disaffected by fundamentalist politics. …

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