ST. LOUIS, JUNE 16 -- The Rev. Adrian Rogers was elected today to a third one-year term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, as fundamentalists further consolidated their control of the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
Late tonight, on a show of hands, the convention adopted the report of a committee that was working to bridge the gap between moderates and fundamentalist Southern Baptists. The report backed the conservatives. But this so-called Peace Committee also said the two sides should end their warring.
Fundamentalists believe in a literal, or "inerrant," interpretation of the Bible; moderates do not say the Bible must always be literally interpreted.
The Peace Committee said that all newly hired administrators and professors at the denomination's six seminaries should agree to adhere to a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Rogers, a Memphis pastor, is the first president in 40 years to serve a third term. He defeated the moderate candidate, the Rev. Richard Jackson of Phoenix, 13,980 to 9,331.
Jackson's candidacy was viewed as a last-gasp effort by moderates in the nation's largest Protestant denomination to regain the control they began losing nine years ago.
At a news conference, Rogers said, "I feel grateful to God that Southern Baptists are coming back to who they are."
In the Southern Baptist organization, the president appoints the Committee on Committees, which in turn controls membership on boards that direct the denomination's institutions.
After an uninterrupted nine-year succession of fundamentalist presidents, 19 of the denomination's 20 agencies, including its mission boards and theological seminaries, are under fundamentalist control.
The messengers, as delegates to the convention are called, agreed to continue to provide funds for Southern Baptist participation in the Washington-based Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs -- which includes other Baptist groups such as the American Baptist Convention.
A move last year to cut off funds for the pan-Baptist lobbying and educational agency was blunted by an agreeement to study the matter for a year.
After the joint committee changed its bylaws to allow more Southern Baptists on its board, the Southern Baptist convention approved the study committee's recommendation to continue participation.
The long-awaited report of the denomination's 22-member Peace Committee also calls for extending the tenure of that committee for at least three years "to encourage compliance" with its recommendations.
"It's the Baptist equivalent of the Holy Office of the Inquisition," said the Rev. Glenn Hinson, an outspoken moderate who teaches at Southern Seminary in Louisville.
Hinson, who was visiting professor at Catholic University last year, predicted that if the convention adopts the Peace Committee's recommendations, it will produce Baptist equivalents of the "Father Curran case." The Rev. Charles Curran, a Catholic theologian, has been suspended from teaching at Catholic University on orders of the Vatican because of his dissent from some traditional Catholic teachings on sexual ethics.
But Judge Pressler of Houston, a leader of the fundamentalist faction now largely in control of the denomination, called the Peace Committee report "absolutely splendid . . . it shows us the path to peace."
He denied that the committee's recommendations would provide any threat to theology faculty members "unless they act without responsibility to the ones who are paying their salary."
Rogers told the news conference there would not be wholesale firings. Instead, he said, the leadership would rely on "attrition" and voluntary resignations by those who "see themselves out of step . . . . "
The report of the Peace Committee, named two years ago to try to bring together the two warring elements in the church, says that "most southern Baptists . . . believe Adam and Eve were real people," that God created the world in seven days and that miracles described in the Bible are literally true.
Therefore, the report says, denominational institutions such as seminaries and mission boards should "build their professional staffs and faculties from those who clearly reflect such dominant convictions."
The debate over "Biblical inerrancy," which has become the watchword of fundamentalists, has been marked by a great deal of confusion over precisely what the term means.
The Peace Committee report generally avoids use of the word "inerrancy" in favor of "authoritative" as a description of the Bible. "The Bible when properly interpreted is authoritative to all of life," the report says.
And it admonishes all Baptist publications to "refrain from the use of intemperate and inflammatory language."