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Conservatives Gaining Ground in State Conventions, Editor Says

The “conservative resurgence” continues to gain ground in Baptist state conventions, according to a fundamentalist editor analyzing developments in 41 state and regional bodies affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

“With the passing of each year liberal-conservative competitions grow fewer as more states come to share the biblical vision for the SBC,” T.C. Pinckney, editor of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia-related Baptist Banner, wrote in the paper’s January issue.

Pinckney, a retired brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force who in 1999 made the motion at the Southern Baptist Convention that led to revisions in 2000 to the Baptist Faith and Message, identified “five focus states” in his wrap-up of state convention results in 2003:

–Missouri’s state meeting “was the most united convention in decades,” Pinckney wrote. For the sixth straight year, all officers were endorsed by Missouri’s conservative leaders. One “lingering aspect” of old battles between “liberal” and conservative factions, he said, is a lawsuit by the state convention against five agencies that declared themselves independent.

–Conservatives lost a vote for president in Kentucky, Pinckney said, but elected a first vice president who may be elected president next year. “‘Moderate’ leaders are aging and very few younger men are coming along behind them,” he said. “Biblically sound” graduates of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and other SBC schools are moving into open pulpits. “While the struggle is far from over, there is cause for long-term optimism.”

–Pinckney labeled Mississippi “a real problem for conservatives.” A proposed constitutional amendment that would have barred anyone involved with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship from being employed or elected to any position in the state failed. “The problem seems to be at the state office rather than CBF,” he observed. “Conservatives are encouraging churches to send donations directly to the SBC rather than to the state.”

–North Carolina was a “key victory” for conservatives, where wins by all three officers backed by the Conservative Carolina Baptists prompted moderates to “prayerfully reflect” on their role in the state convention. One anticipated issue, North Carolina’s complex giving structure, which allows churches to channel funds to the CBF, didn’t come up this year. “I suspect we will see more efforts to change N.C. giving in the future,” Pinckney commented. “If N.C. liberals are sufficiently discouraged by their repeated losses so that they effectively withdraw from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, perhaps even forming their own mini-denomination, reformation of N.C. giving may come as early as next November.”

–Tennessee “remains a problem for conservatives,” Pinckney said. Conservatives were mixed in their reviews, but a conservative-backed candidate for second vice president managed to win.

Larger state conventions Pinckney counted at conservative included Alabama (“The problems are the state paper and colleges”), Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina. He gauged CBF activity as none or little in Arizona, California, Colorado, the Dakotas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Nevada, Northwest and Ohio.

He described South Carolina’s CBF as “somewhat active but quite minor” and found “only very minimal CBF activity” in Oklahoma. In Georgia, he said, “CBF is weak, although trying.”

The Baptist General Association of Virginia, Pinckney said, chose a president known as a theological conservative in a church that gives to mission causes primarily through the SBC. That is a move “widely interpreted as a signal that churches sympathetic to the SBC are welcome in BGAV life,” he wrote.

While the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention grew to 1,400 churches, the moderate-led Baptist General Convention of Texas “continues to distance itself from the SBC,” Pinckney said.

Pinckney, a former member and officer of the SBC Executive Committee, says he edits the Baptist Banner, an independent paper supportive of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and Southern Baptist Convention, for free. The paper is free, with a claimed circulation of 20,000, but accepts donations. The SBCV, formed in 1996, counts 408 member churches, with 321 uniquely aligned, 45 dually aligned and 42 “church plants.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.