A news brief on Saturday's Religion page incorrectly quoted the Dalai Lama, who gave the closing address Wednesday at the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town, South Africa. The quote should have read: "Changes only take place through action--not through prayer, not through meditation." (Published 12/14/99)
Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson said a division is in the offing for the nation's largest Protestant denomination. But he is uncertain when the split will take place and predicted that less than one-tenth of the convention's member churches actually will leave.
"Inevitably, there will come a divide in what is today known as the Southern Baptist Convention," Patterson wrote in the Biblical Recorder, the news journal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. "No one knows exactly what form that will take."
Patterson's estimate of the size of a split ranged from "between 600, at the least, and 3,500 at the most, of the denomination's 40,000 churches," he said in an article titled, "The SBC on the Brink of the New Millennium."
Several "new entities and relationships" could evolve from the division, Patterson wrote. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a moderate organization whose churches generally have kept ties to the convention, could break away entirely, he said. Other churches might leave because they desire "greater allowance for diversity in doctrinal and ethical matters" and are disenchanted "with certain conservative leadership."
In an interview also published in the newspaper, Patterson said a split might be for the best, given the continuing friction between moderate Baptists and the denomination's conservative leadership, which took control of the denomination in 1979.
"We're much farther apart theologically than some people imagine," said Patterson, one of the architects of the SBC's conservative resurgence and president of Southeastern Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. "Why sit around and cripple what everybody's doing?"
Patterson declined to set a timetable for the division, saying, "We're probably on a three- to five-year play-out."
Dalai Lama Welcomes Help
The Dalai Lama, a key speaker at the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town, South Africa, said he would welcome overtures to China by Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the question of Tibet.
"They can make a contribution, of course, no doubt," the Dalai Lama said Sunday during an interview with a South African television network. "I personally would appreciate" such an offer by the former South African president and the retired Anglican bishop.
China has occupied Tibet since 1950, sending the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist nation's religious and political leader, into exile. Although the Dalai Lama has said he would accept China's rule, he has lobbied worldwide for greater Tibetan autonomy. China has rejected his efforts.
More than 4,000 religious leaders and experts, representing many groups from around the globe, were in Cape Town for the meeting, the third such parliament in 106 years. The event began Dec. 1 and ended Wednesday.
The Dalai Lama gave the closing address at Good Hope Centre, saying the world needs "genuine respect for each other's traditions." But he reminded Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and other spiritual leaders that ending religion-related conflicts, poverty, corruption and other worldly ills requires action.
"Changes only take place through action--not through prayer, not through mediation," the Nobel Peace Prize winner said. The next parliament will convene in 2004.