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Fundamentalists Unchallenged at Southern Baptist Convention : Atlanta meeting: The 23,500 delegates strike a patriotic pose, giving thanks for Operation Desert Storm and saluting President Bush.

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From Associated Press

Southern Baptists, flying a fundamentalist flag without challenge for the first time in 13 years, also struck patriotic colors at their annual meeting here this week.

About 23,500 delegates gave thanks for Operation Desert Storm and saluted President Bush for his role in the allied military victory in the Middle East. Bush, in an emotional speech Thursday, returned the favor by praising the fundamentalists’ stance on faith.

Delegates to the annual Southern Baptist Convention also gave political support to the President’s effort to promote parental choice in education through tax incentives for private schools.

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The votes taken before Bush’s address Thursday were in contrast to resolutions approved Wednesday that criticized the President for his handling of the National Endowment of the Arts controversy and what delegates said was a trend of federal support to organizations that “promote sexual immorality.”

The three-day annual meeting opened Tuesday with the Rev. Morris H. Chapman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, Tex., being easily reelected president after urging the convention to “just say no” to those who do not believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

“For those of us who believe the Bible is the . . . inerrant word of God, the issue in our convention is settled. For those among us who do not believe it, the issue will never be settled,” Chapman said in his presidential address.

The decisive election battle in the 15 million-member denomination was won last year by Chapman over so-called moderate forces who have argued unsuccessfully that traditional Baptist freedom of belief was being trampled by the fundamentalist leaders. Ultraconservative appointees have gradually assumed control of Southern Baptist seminary, missionary and educational boards.

The delegates showed little inclination for compromise now that they are on the inside.

Delegates cut off funding for the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, an inter-Baptist lobbying group on church-state issues. Fundamentalists had long criticized the group for stands opposing school prayer and tuition tax credits for private schools.

Church leadership had proposed allocating $50,000 to the Washington-based lobbying group that is funded by a coalition of Baptist denominations, but offered no defense of the budget after the motion to delete the funding was presented.

In his address, Chapman spoke often against compromising with convention moderates, thousands of whom established their own group--the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship--last month in Atlanta.

“May God give Southern Baptists the fearless faith to just say no when anyone tries to compromise our conviction about the word of God,” Chapman said.

In the resolution on tax incentives for private schools, the convention said many Southern Baptist parents believe that public schools are increasingly hostile to Christian convictions.

The resolution opposes direct aid to churches, but said tax incentives can give parents the right to educate their children according to their religious convictions without violating the Constitution’s sanctions against the government establishing religion.


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