Baptist Board Head Has Conservative Record

From Religious News Service

The man elected to take over the influential Southern Baptist Sunday School Board is billing himself as a reconciler between the denomination’s two warring factions. But as head of the denomination a few years ago, he advocated an uncompromising conservative loyalty test.

The Rev. James T. Draper Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1982 to 1984, was picked Thursday to succeed the Rev. Lloyd Elder as head of the Sunday School Board, the nation’s largest religious publishing house. The Nashville, Tenn.-based board publishes the curriculum for the denomination’s 38,000 congregations.

Elder, who has been president of the Sunday School Board since 1984, has been under fire from conservatives who charge that he has become involved in the theological and political controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention.


“I like to think I can help people find common ground and do it without compromise of anyone’s convictions,” Draper said. “We can find ways to work together, to magnify things to keep us together.”

Draper has been a hard-line conservative advocate of doctrinal guidelines for the denomination and its institutions.

As a trustee of Baylor University in Waco, Tex., Draper led a campaign in 1980 to deny an academic promotion to Old Testament professor H. J. Flanders, author of a religion textbook that does not treat Adam and Eve as historical people. He was unable to block Flanders’ appointment to chair the Baylor Religion Department, but the book was removed from the list of required texts there.

In November, 1983, during his second one-year term as Southern Baptist Convention president, Draper said the denomination should establish four doctrinal “guidelines,” including belief in the full humanity and deity of Christ. “If there are leaders or teachers who find they cannot accept these four things, they ought to leave,” he said.

In 1988, Draper joined with two other past presidents of the denomination, the Revs. Adrian Rogers and Bailey Smith, in a statement affirming “the Baptist right to set parameters for the institutions and agencies which are supported by Baptists.”

Draper, 58, pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Tex., was the unanimous choice of the 10-member search committee. If he is elected by the 93-member Board of Trustees at a special meeting July 18, he will succeed Elder, who agreed in January to leave the presidency within a year.