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7th & James Church splits from S. Baptists

Oct. 19, 2000

By JOHN HALL

Reporter

A local church congregation voted Wednesday night to officially break ties with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and another local church is considering taking similar action.

Members of Seventh & James Baptist Church voted to officially break ties with the SBC by a wide margin. The church has not sent money or delegates to the SBC for 10 years. Lake Shore Baptist Church, which has not sent money to the SBC in seven years, is also considering writing a motion to officially break with the SBC. Both churches remain affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), a 10-year-old confederation of Baptist churches displeased with the operations of the SBC. The CBF is not a denomination, but rather a missions organization.

Dr. Frank Leavell, a retired English professor and one of three votes against the motion, compared the motion to the taking down of the secession of the Southern states just before the Civil War.

He said the church had already pulled out of the SBC by not sending money or delegates to the convention and asked the congregation, 'Is [the motion] necessary or an open declaration of war?'

Dr. Naymond Keathley, a religion professor who presented the motion to the church, agreed with Leavell that the church had already pulled out of the SBC, but this step was necessary to make it clear to the public and not a confrontational step against the SBC.

'It has gotten to be an embarrassment to be associated with [the SBC],' Dr. Raymond Bailey, the church's pastor, said.

'Every year when the Southern Baptist Convention meets and takes some bizarre action, we get phone calls from people who say 'How can you do this?' and we say, 'We didn't do this. We didn't have anything to do with it,' but we are guilty by association.'

The motion cites 'the [SBC] convention's systematic exclusion of a moderate voice in the appointment of trustees to its various boards and its tendency to adopt policies and confessional statements that deviate from traditional Baptist values, we feel, make an association of our church with that body untenable.'

'Baptists have no creed but the Bible,' Bailey said. 'We believe in the personal responsibility of every individual to accept Christ and deal with his or her own spiritual relationship with God.'

Bailey and Brett Younger, pastor of Lake Shore Baptist Church, said they believe the SBC is insensitive to some groups, especially women and Jews. They said they believe in the equality of women in ministry, in supporting women as deacons and pastors.

'We don't tell God what to do; we try to discern what God's will is, and when we identify gifted persons, then we try to enable them do whatever God has gifted them to do,' Bailey said.

Concerns about the SBC's relationships with Jews centers on SBC statements in recent years that 'targeted' Jews as a group that should be evangelized.

'When you have a people like the Jewish people who have suffered for centuries ... who have been oppressed through the centuries, to use a word like target is pretty thoughtless in and of itself,' Bailey said. 'To speak of targeting a group alienates that group from all meaningful dialogue with regard to faith or other issues as well.'

The defection of one church and the possible defection of another are part of a larger movement across the southern United States. Bill Brewster, network coordinator of the CBF, said 37 churches nationwide have broken away from the SBC and solely aligned themselves with the CBF for similar reasons as these two local churches.

Brewster said Seventh & James Baptist Church is the second church in Texas to officially break with the SBC, behind Highland Park Baptist Church in Austin.

Younger said the churches breaking away from the SBC 'are trying to say it more to themselves. It's more about personal identity and integrity than tweaking their noses at the SBC. Every church needs to find the best way to stay true to their Baptist heritage.'

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