Fundamentalist Texas Baptists who led a fight last summer to elect a conservative pastor as head of the Southern Baptist Convention now have challenged the orthodoxy of Baptist-related Baylor University, particularly its religion department.
At issue is a book, "People of the Convent," written by Dr. H. J. Flanders and two other scholars in 1963 when they taught at Furman University, a Southern Baptist school in Greenville, S.C. Flanders is currently chairman-elect of Baylor's religion department.
The Rev. Jimmy Draper, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Euless, Tex., has sent the Baylor trustees a detailed critique of Flanders' book, charging that it departs from a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Draper charged that Flanders' book "is not anywhere close to the historic Baptist tradition" and that it should be removed from the classrooms of Baptist schools.
Draper and the Rev. Paige Patterson, president of the Criswell Bible Institute and a staff member of Dallas' First Baptist Church, have been part of the Southern Baptist right wing that has complained about growing liberalism in Baptist seminaries.
In the Flanders case, they want Baylor trustees to reconsider his election as head of the school's religion department unless he is willing to sign a statement asserting that he has changed his mind about some of the ideas in his book.
Draper is a Baylor trustee and heads the committee that recommended Flanders as head of the religion department, an action that was taken before Flanders' book came to Draper's attention.
"The appointment was made routinely, without study," Draper explained. "We, like other committees, rely on the administration and faculty recommendations. This one just slipped through."
According to critics of the Flanders book, the work portrays Adam and Eve as symbolic of humanity rather than as an account of an actual man and woman, and interprets the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale as an allegory rather than actual history.
Differences over the understanding of the Bible and its role in the life of Christians recently have emerged among Southern Baptists, the nation's largest Protestant body.