by Charles Cherry
I thank God for the SBC.
The nearly 16 million member Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant church, has elected its first ever black president, Fred Luter. Justifiably the media have highlighted the historical irony of a church founded amid schism before the Civil War in defense of slavery that has now come full circle in its racial attitudes. But the larger context of Southern Baptist history and influence should also be appreciated.
What if Southern Baptists had become another liberal Mainline Protestant denomination? It perhaps almost happened. Many Southern Baptist seminaries liberalized in the 20th century, and Southern Baptist elites in the 1970’s were not always too different from Mainline elites. In 1971 the Southern Baptist Convention backed abortion rights, just a year after the United Methodists did. In 1973, Southern Baptist officials joined with United Methodists and other Mainliners to found the notorious Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights.
Unlike the Mainline denominations at…
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