Moderates have lost a steady stream of contests throughout the Southern Baptist Convention in the last 12 years, but they found themselves on the winning side in the annual meeting of the denomination's state convention in Virginia.
The Baptist General Association of Virginia took control of half of the state's denominational contributions away from fundamentalist-dominated agencies of the convention at the annual state meeting this week in Richmond. The Virginia association's total contribution is $5.5 million, according to its treasurer, Nat Kellum.
The Virginia convention had been closely watched throughout the 14.9-million-member denomination because it has been a hotbed of moderate resistance to fundamentalist control. A record-setting total of 4,317 "messengers" from local churches attended the 1990 session, causing a temporary halt to proceedings when officials ran out of ballots after registrations passed the 4,000 mark.
According to the new financial plan, which was approved by a ratio of 4 to 1, churches in the Virginia Baptist Association would have three options:
State executives would determine which national Southern Baptist agencies would receive Virginia Baptist association funds.
The denomination would distribute national contributions through its Cooperative Program budget.
Each congregation would specify how much of its money each church agency should receive.
The first option, which is new, now becomes the automatic arrangement under which contributions from Virginia Baptist churches to the state association will be distributed unless a particular congregation specifies otherwise. It is considered a significant change because most congregations do not designate how they want their money distributed.