Southern Baptist moderates announced today formation of a splinter group to challenge fundamentalist control of the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
The Rev. Henry Crouch, president of the new Southern Baptist Alliance, which will be based in Charlotte, said the group was formed as an alternative to the narrow views of the current leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"All of us are painfully aware of the stress and changes within the Southern Baptist Convention," he said. "All who do not conform to a narrow doctrinal view have been excluded from leadership and participation in the decision-making process."
"It may be the beginning of a new denomination, but we don't think so," he said. "We represent a large, disenfranchised minority that no longer has a chance to serve on convention boards and agencies. We are trying to preserve a threatened heritage."
Representatives of the 14 million-member Southern Baptist Convention met in Atlanta last summer and one of the hotly debated issues passed at that time was a decision not to pay the salaries of women pastors.
Crouch said the splinter group will pay the salaries of any women affected by that decision. "We've always put our money where our mouth is, and we're going to do it now."
Since 1979, the leadership of the church has been fundamentalist. After conservative Adrian Rogers of Memphis, Tenn. was elected SBC president last June, the conservative faction vowed to rid church agencies of "liberals," Baptists who do not believe in literal interpretation of the Bible.