Participants in a closed meeting in Atlanta last month of fundamentalist and conservative Southern Baptist Convention leaders, including SBC President Adrian Rogers and his three immediate predecessors, said the gathering was held "to discuss appropriate responses to the widespread political activity of the 'moderates' throughout the Southern Baptist Convention."
Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, told reporters he was "not at liberty to say who called the meeting, who invited me or who attended."
An official of the Airport Marriott hotel where the meeting was held said it had been scheduled by First Baptist Church of Atlanta, whose pastor, the Rev. Charles Stanley, is the immediate past president of the SBC. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the sponsor was the Rev. Fred Powell, senior associate pastor of the Atlanta church.
Fundamentalists have gained majorities on SBC mission boards, agencies and seminaries, but moderates turned out in unprecedented numbers to win victories at key state convention meetings last month.
The Rev. Jimmy Draper of Euless, Tex., SBC president from 1982 to 1984, said the Atlanta meeting was not a specific response to the state convention developments. "No specific things were decided," he said, "but in all candor, we do have to make some response to the aggressive tactics of the moderates and to the continued caricatures and misrepresentations of conservatives."
In a statement issued following the meeting, the approximately 40 participants declared that "the possibility for genuine and enduring peace rests ultimately on the reaffirmation of the total reliability of the word of God in confession and in action."
The group alleged that "the continued use by 'moderates' of terms such as 'fundamentalist' to describe conservative evangelicals serves only to obscure and confuse the real issue of biblical authority."
Draper said he did not believe the group's meeting violated the SBC Peace Committee's appeal against holding "political" meetings in the denomination.
"We are trying to find out how we can react in a positive and healthy way," he said. "We are not trying to create problems, and in fact some of us have been laying low for the last 18 months in order not to create problems."