The fundamentalist president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who last year shocked and embarrassed moderates in his church by saying that God doesn't hear the prayers of Jews, faces an unprecedented fight for his office when the convention meets in Los Angeles next month.
Abner McCall, 65, a former justice of the Texas Supreme Court and the retiring president of Baylor University, said yesterday he has consented to be nominated by Baptist moderates to oppose the incumbent the Rev. Dr. Bailey Smith, 42, of Del City, Okla. It is the first time in recent history that a convention president has been challenged midway through the traditional two-year term of office.
The emergence of the McCall candidacy signals a bitter battle at the Los Angeles convention between the moderates who have guided the nation's largest Protestant denomination in recent years, and the bibical fundamentalists who last year put Smith into office.
While Smith has repaired much of the damage caused by his remarks last summer about Jews, moderates in the 13.6 million-member denomination were seriously alarmed last month by Smith's appointments to the powerful SBC Committee on Boards, which oversees both the educational institutions and the massive home and foreign mission operations.