The Rev. Bruce Edwards said today he is resigning effective April 30 as minister of the Plains Baptist Church, of which President Carter was a member and deacon until he moved into the White House.
The minister said criticism of him had been building and he was "sure it was the backlash" of efforts he made last fall to integrate the all-white church after a black minister from Albany, Ga., applied for membership.
Edwards said he had resigned after a special conference to discuss payment of an outstanding church bull had developed into a motion "that I be alleviated of my responsibilites immediately."
Internal bickering had been brewing at the church since the Rev. Clennon B. King had attempted to become a member just before the November presidential election.
Church deacons, in refusing to grant King membership in the church in this southwest Georgia hamlet of 683 persons, then had cited a resolution barring blacks passed at the height of the civil rights movement a decade ago.
Edwards and Carter had disagreed with the resolution, which was subsequently thrown out in a church vote. But in January the church still decided to refuse the black minister's individual petition for membership, based on his not being a member of the community.
Edwards, 30, had called the resolution barring blacks "immoral," and he said today he was "sure this is the backlash" from his stand on church integration since "there was no criticism of my ministry until the incident with Clennon King came up."
"This thing was worked up and there were people here today for this special conference that hadn't been here in a long time," Edwards said.
"I don't feel that the majority of the church wanted this to happen, but then, these things just happen."
About the meeting, he said: "There was a lot of discussion about it (the call for Edwards' firing), and I submitted my resignation effective April 30 and was given an indefinite leave of absence."
Edwards said state Sen. Hugh Carter, a Plains Baptist Church deacon and the President's cousin, spoke in his behalf at the meeting.
Carter is no longer a member of the church, having transferred his membership to the First Baptist Church in Washington. But when he returned to Plains for a recent visit, he attended services at his old church.
In Washington, a White House spokeman said the President would have no comment today onEdwards' resignation.