Adrian Rogers elected as president of the Southern Baptist Convention
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Founder
Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson, Paul Pressler
Time Period
4/12/1979  - 4/14/1979
Description
Theological conservatives and moderates in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) had periodically clashed during the mid-20th century. In 1962, conservatives ousted a moderate seminary professor over his view of creationism during the "Genesis Controversy." Despite the victory, conservatives continued to worry that the denomination's seminaries were being infiltrated by liberal professors.

In the late 1960s, Paul Pressler, a federal appeals court judge, and a seminarian named Paige Patterson met and concocted a multi-step strategy to thwart the advance of liberalism in the denomination. In 1979, Patterson and Pressler held dozens of rallies in 15 states encouraging conservative turnout at the upcoming Houston convention. The plan worked and conservatives elected Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers, who would be the first of an unbroken string of conservative presidents during the 1980s.

Many of the remaining moderates left in the late 1980s and early 1990s, leading to further conservative control of the SBC.
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Narrative
Theological conservatives and moderates in the Southern Baptist Convention had periodically clashed during the mid-20th century. In 1962, conservatives ousted a moderate seminary professor over his view of creationism during the "Genesis Controversy." Despite the victory, conservatives continued to worry that the denomination's seminaries were being infiltrated by liberal professors. The litmus test for liberalism, in the conservatives' minds, was the issue of Biblical inerrancy, the belief that the Bible was fully accurate, consistent, and reliable. Given that vanishingly few Southern Baptists were true theological liberals -- e.g., denying the reality of miracles or the virgin birth -- Southern Baptists who disagreed with the conservatives were given the label of "moderates."

In the late 1960s, Paul Pressler, a federal appeals court judge, and a seminarian named Paige Patterson met and discovered that they shared the desire to do something to arrest what they saw as the advance of liberalism in the denomination. They concocted a multi-step strategy over the next few years. If the conservatives could elect their own candidate to the presidency of the SBC, they would then control the president's power of appointment over the trustees of the SBC's seminaries. If they could fill those trustee positions with reliable conservatives over the course of several years, then they could push out the liberal professors and seminary presidents. Pressler believed that "the lifeblood of the Southern Baptist Convention is the trustees. We need to go for the jugular -- we need to go for the trustees."

In 1979, Patterson and Pressler pulled the trigger on their plan. First, they shared their strategy with several hundred fellow "messengers," the Baptist name for delegates to the SBC's annual convention. Then they held dozens of rallies in 15 states encouraging conservative turnout at the upcoming Houston convention. The plan worked and conservatives elected Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers, who would be the first of an unbroken string of conservative presidents during the 1980s. The rise of the conservatives affected not only the theology of the SBC but also its political activism. In 1980, the SBC passed a resolution condemning abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment, a hard tack to the right in comparison to previous political resolutions by the Convention. After a series of hard-fought convention battles between conservatives and moderates, many in the moderate camp withdrew in two waves in 1987 and 1991. By 1993, conservative trustee appointments had paid off, leading to the election of a conservative, Al Mohler, as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mohler promptly pushed out most of the moderate faculty and became a leading voice in the continued conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2000, the conservative resurgence that started with the election of Adrian Rogers in 1979, reached full fruition in the publication of a revised denominational statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message, explicitly limiting the pastorate to men and clarifying its position on inerrancy.
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Biographies
Mohler, Albert "Al"
Photographs

Adrain Rogers speaking- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Hernan Riquelme (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Adrian Rogers portrait- Wikimedia Commons- from Love Worth Finding Ministries
Source(s)
Ammerman, Nancy Tatom, 1993. Southern Baptists Observed: Multiple Perspectives on a Changing Denomination. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
Web Source(s)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Baptist_Convention_conservative_resurgence
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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