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Southern Baptists are gathered in Dallas this week for the denomination's annual gathering and business meeting against a backdrop of concern regarding members of its leadership, a continued decline in membership and a vote to decide who will become the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Delegates, referred to as messengers, also will vote on a resolution affirming that men belonging to the largest Protestant denomination in the United States have abused, silenced and objectified women.

The vote comes on the heels of an announcement Friday that Paige Patterson had withdrawn from giving the keynote sermon at this year's meeting.

Patterson -- a two-term president of the convention who led the denomination's conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, and who is a former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth -- was fired May 30 from the seminary's top post because of his mishandling of a rape allegation while he was president at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina.

Patterson was moved into the position of president emeritus by the seminary's board of trustees after video surfaced concerning a sermon in which he defended a boy who had been "ogling" a girl, saying the boy's response was "biblical," and after he advised a woman to remain with her physically abusive husband.

Greg Addison, associate executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, said Patterson's decision to recuse himself from the role at this week's annual meeting was "for the sake of unity and to be as little of a distraction from the important work at the annual meeting."

Two other former Southern Baptist national leaders also have come under scrutiny this year.

Paul Pressler, a former vice president of the convention who along with Patterson led the denomination's conservative resurgence decades ago, has been accused in a lawsuit of sexual abuse.

Frank Page resigned as president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee in March because of what he described as a "personal failing." Florida pastor Stephen Rummage, a chairman of the executive committee, said in a released statement that Page resigned because of a "morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past."

Concern about the denomination's leadership comes as Southern Baptists continue to see a drop in their numbers.

Lifeway's annual church profile shows Southern Baptist membership has dropped for a 12th consecutive year, to just more than 15 million members. The more than 211,000-member decrease from 2016-17 represents nearly 1.4 percent of the denomination and is part of an overall decline of more than 1.2 million since 2007.

The number of Southern Baptist churches continues to climb for the 19th year, with more than 250 more churches nationwide, but the number of baptisms decreased by more than 26,500. That follows a decline of more than 14,000 baptisms last year.

Addison attributes the steady decline of Southern Baptist membership in part to the growth of the religious "nones," those people who do not adhere to any particular faith. A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that more than a quarter of adults in the United States -- 27 percent -- consider themselves spiritual but not religious, a figure that has grown from the 16 percent who identified as nonreligious in 2006.

Also, Addison said nondenominational churches have grown, taking in large numbers of former Southern Baptists, and members of small churches are migrating to larger churches with more resources. Those also are partly responsible for the decrease in Southern Baptist numbers.

The vote to decide on the convention's next president will be Wednesday when Steve Gaines completes his second consecutive term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Gaines, the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, will be succeeded by J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., or Ken Hemphill, a longtime leader of the Southern Baptist Convention who is serving in a leadership role at North Greenville University in South Carolina.

State Desk on 06/10/2018

Print Headline: Southern Baptists to reflect on numbers


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  • 23cal
    June 10, 2018 at 7:57 a.m.

    "Addison attributes the steady decline of Southern Baptist membership in part to the growth of the religious "nones," those people who do not adhere to any particular faith."
    Addison is correct. Folks are disgusted with the hypocrisy as shown by the SB leaders above. Folks are disgusted with the homophobia, the misogyny, the xenophobia, the right wing politics, anti-science, anti-intellectualism, anti-modernity, and the plain old mean-spiritedness of people who see everything as either black or white in a world filled with shades of gray.
    You see examples of these people commenting on here regularly. The Southern Baptists are losing membership because too many of its members are people whom loving and tolerant folks do not want to be around. These people are leaving because the egregious meanness of the flock is enough to drive them away despite a lifetime of indoctrination.

  • PopMom
    June 10, 2018 at 8:36 a.m.

    Well said, 23 Cal.

  • Delta2
    June 10, 2018 at 8:58 a.m.

    Ditto on 23cal. It's also something of a parallel of our political parties. More and more people today don't like being put into a box.

  • GeneralMac
    June 10, 2018 at 11:05 a.m.

    23Cal............Jesus described marriage as being between one MAN and one WOMEN.

    Vocal gay posters can't accept that so they label anyone who does as....."homophobics"

  • Delta2
    June 10, 2018 at 11:24 a.m.

    Private, what about divorce, between one man and one woman? Are they condemned to Hell? And what about all those Old Testament guys with multiple wives? No saving them either?

    But to your bigoted point, homophobia isn't necessarily about gay marriage, it's being anti-gay people period. And that's not Christian. Neither is your xenophobia.

  • 23cal
    June 10, 2018 at 11:26 a.m.

    NaziMac: I see you can't tell the difference between state-sanctioned marriage and holy matrimony. Or, if you can, then you ignore it to justify your homophobic bias.
    The Bible (not just Jesus) has a lot to say about what constitutes marriage.
    Marriage in NOT holy matrimony.
    Holy matrimony is religious. It happens in the church. Its sanctity is defined and can be defended.
    Marriage is a social and legal contract that provides rights, obligations, privileges, and protections that are not afforded to those who are unwed. Unlike holy matrimony, marriage is a civil right. To deny civil rights to our own citizens is, quite frankly, the most un-American thing we can do.
    Even Bill O'Reilly gets it. He said, "The compelling argument is on the side of the homosexuals. 'We are Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else.' And, to deny that, you have to have a very strong argument on the other side.
    And the other side hasn't been able to do anything but THUMP THE BIBLE."

    Genesis 2:24 describes how a man leaves his family of origin, joins with a woman, consummates the marriage and lives as a couple. There were quite a few differences between the customs and laws of contemporary North Americans and of ancient Israelites. In ancient Israel:

    Inter-faith marriages were theoretically forbidden. However, they were sometimes formed.

    Children of inter-faith marriages were considered illegitimate.
    Marriages were generally arranged by family or friends; they did not result from a gradually evolving, loving relationship that developed during a period of courtship.
    A bride who had been presented as a virgin and who could not be proven to be one was stoned to death by the men of her village. (Deuteronomy 22:13-21) There appears to have been no similar penalty for men who engaged in consensual pre-marital sexual activity.
    Polygynous marriage: A man would leave his family of origin and join with his first wife. Then, as finances allowed, he would marry as many additional women as he desired. The new wives would join the man and his other wives in an already established household.

    There are many references to polygynous marriages in the Bible:

    Lamech, in Genesis 4:19, became the first known polygynist. He had two wives.

    Subsequent men in polygynous relationships included:
    Esau with 3 wives;

    Jacob: 2;

    Ashur: 2;

    Gideon: many;

    Elkanah: 2;

    David: many;

    Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth;

    Rehaboam: 3;

    Abijah: 14.

    Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jeholachin and Belshazzar also had multiple wives.


  • 23cal
    June 10, 2018 at 11:28 a.m.

    Levirate Marriage: The name of this type of marriage is derived from the Latin word "levir," which means "brother-in-law." This involved a woman who was widowed without having borne a son. She would be required to leave her home, marry her brother-in-law, live with him, and engage in sexual relations. If there were feelings of attraction and love between the woman and her new husband, this arrangement could be quite agreeable to both. Otherwise, the woman would have to endure what was essentially serial rapes with her former brother-in-law as perpetrator. Their first-born son was considered to be sired by the deceased husband. Ruth 4 reveals that a man would be required to enter into a levirate marriage not only with his late brother's widow, but with a widow to whom he was the closest living relative.
    A man, a woman and her property -- a female slave: As described in Genesis 16, Sarah and Abram were infertile. Sarah owned Hagar, a female slave who apparently had been purchased earlier in Egypt. Because Hagar was Sarah's property, she could dispose of her as she wished. Sarah gave Hagar to Abram as a type of wife, so that Abram could have an heir. Presumably, the arrangement to marry and engage in sexual activity was done without the consent of Hagar, who had such a low status in the society of the day that she was required to submit to what she probably felt were serial rapes by Abram. Hagar conceived and bore a son, Ishmael.
    A man, one or more wives, and some concubines: A man could keep numerous concubines, in addition to one or more wives. These women held an even lower status than a wife. As implied in Genesis 21:10, a concubine could be dismissed when no longer wanted. According to Smith's Bible Dictionary, "A concubine would generally be either (1) a Hebrew girl bought...[from] her father; (2) a Gentile captive taken in war; (3) a foreign slave bought; or (4) a Canaanitish woman, bond or free." 1 They would probably be brought into an already-established household. Abraham had two concubines; Gideon: at least 1; Nahor: 1; Jacob: 1; Eliphaz: 1; Gideon: 1; Caleb: 2; Manassah: 1; Saul: 1; David: at least 10; Rehoboam: 60; Solomon: 300!; an unidentified Levite: 1; Belshazzar: more than 1.
    A male soldier and a female prisoner of war: Numbers 31:1-18 describes how the army of the ancient Israelites killed every adult Midianite male in battle. Moses then ordered the slaughter in cold blood of most of the captives, including all of the male children who numbered about 32,000. Only the lives of 32,000 women - all virgins -- were spared. Some of the latter were given to the priests as slaves. Most were taken by the Israeli soldiers as captives of war. Deuteronomy 21:11-14 describes how each captive woman would shave her head, pare her nails, be left alone to mourn the loss of her families, friends, and freedom.

  • 23cal
    June 10, 2018 at 11:30 a.m.

    After a full month had passed, they would be required to submit to their owners sexually, as a wife. It is conceivable that in a few cases, a love bond might have formed between the soldier and his captive(s). However, in most cases we can assume that the woman had to submit sexually against her will; that is, she was raped....for the rest of her miserable life.
    A male rapist and his victim: According to the New International Version of the Bible, Deuteronomy 22:28-29 requires that a female virgin who is not engaged to be married and who has been raped must marry her attacker, no matter what her feelings were towards the rapist. A man could then become married by simply sexually attacking a woman that appealed to him, and paying his father-in-law 50 shekels of silver.
    A male and female slave: Exodus 21:4 indicates that a slave owner could assign one of his female slaves to one of his male slaves as a wife. There is no indication that women were consulted during this type of transaction. The arrangement would probably involve rape in most cases. In the times of the Hebrew Scriptures, Israelite women who were sold into slavery by their fathers were slaves forever. Men, and women who became slaves by another route, were limited to serving as slaves for seven years. When a male slave left his owner, the marriage would normally be terminated; his wife would stay behind, with any children that she had. He could elect to stay a slave if he wished.
    So, there you go, NaziMac. You want to pound the bible, pound this.....and pound sand.

    June 10, 2018 at 11:35 a.m.

    GM isn't a Christian.

  • GeneralMac
    June 10, 2018 at 11:35 a.m.

    If one wants to be a Christian, they should read Jesus' description of marriage.

    He didn't say " man shall cling to man and they shall be one in flesh "

    Yes, I ..AM..talking about Christian marriage because this article..IS..about a Christian religion.

    You follow that gay handbook from the 1980's to a "T" .

    Especially the directive that says........."label churches that oppose gay marriage as ...churches of hate..."