Monday, August 3, 2009

Brief History of the SBC Conservative Resurgence

The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. -Psalm 119:160

1. In the 1970s Southern Baptists were still strong in doctrine and evangelism, but slowly headed toward theological liberalism. This had already occurred in several mainline denominations. Once it happened, it seemed there was no turning back.

2. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) had historically believed in the inerrancy of the Bible. This view, however, was being seriously challenged in SBC seminaries and literature.

3. The SBC was firmly controlled by moderates and some liberals.

4. Previously conservatives had passed motions against liberalism. These had very limited success. Officials and trustees were often defensive, obstructive, even deceptive in dealing with doctrinal concerns.

5. Real, lasting correction would only occur by changing SBC leadership: the president, committees, trustees, agency leaders.

6. To change these leaders, conservatives would have to attend the SBC in large numbers, vote for solid conservative presidents, who would then make solid conservative appointments. This would eventually filter down to the trustees and the leadership of our agencies. Since trustee terms are staggered, this process was estimated to take at least ten years.

7. Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson, and a multitude of pastors and laymen began to explain these issues to the churches and common people of the SBC. It all centered around the necessity of Baptists attending the convention as duly elected messengers and voting their convictions; especially voting for a conservative president. Some of these meetings were large, most were small. Some meetings involved as few as two or three, but the message was spread.

8. The primary issue was the inerrancy of the Bible. Conservatives believed our mission money should not go to support those who believe the Bible contains errors.

9. The Conservative Resurgence was a spiritual concern. Conservatives prayed and voted, out of a profound concern for the faithful proclamation of God’s Word. They poured out their hearts and souls to ensure future generations would hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed in truth and clarity.

10. In the year of our Lord 1979, conservatives came to the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston, Texas. Many attended at great personal sacrifice. The majority were just common Baptists from some of the largest, and smallest, SBC churches.

11. The election was between six nominees. On the first ballot, Adrian Rogers was elected the new president of the SBC. He then appointed and nominated conservatives to SBC committees.

12. Conservatives stayed faithful to the cause. Against great opposition, they would continue to elect conservative presidents, and confirm presidential nominees. Conservative presidents included: Adrian Rogers, Bailey Smith, Jimmy Draper, Charles Stanley, Jerry Vines, Morris Chapman, Ed Young, Jim Henry, Tom Elliff, Paige Patterson.

13. Some conservative changes were made as early as 1979 and 80. Substantial changes began to be made in the late 1980s and 1990s. In the 1990s all the presidents of our seminaries would affirm the inerrancy of the Bible.

14. The Conservative Resurgence firmly established that Southern Baptists believe the Bible is without error. Inerrancy is a crucial, basic doctrine. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (doctrinal statement of the SBC) would affirm, “all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.”

15. Southern Baptists owe undying honor and respect to conservative leaders Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, Bailey Smith, Jimmy Draper, Charles Stanley, Jerry Vines, Morris Chapman, Ed Young, Jim Henry, Tom Elliff. They saved the SBC from liberalism.

16. Southern Baptists owe great respect to those multitudes of dedicated, common, regular Baptists who faithfully attended the conventions in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s and voted their biblical convictions. Because of their sacrifice and dedication, millions will be blessed.

17. Baptists should never forget that we have historically held to the inerrancy and final authority of God’s Word. We should never forget the battle that was fought over inerrancy. Teach it to the generations to come. Be eternally vigilant in keeping the Southern Baptist Convention lashed to the infallible Word of God. Never forget!

1. Conservative - believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and considers it a non-negotiable. Insists SBC leaders, professors, missionaries, employees believe that God’s Word is totally true and trustworthy. Our mission money should not go to support those who believe the Bible contains errors.
2. Moderate - someone who may or may not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. What contrasts him from conservatives, is that with him inerrancy is negotiable. A moderate will tolerate, accept, ignore, protect, maybe even welcome SBC leaders, professors, missionaries, employees who do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.
3. Liberal - in the context of the SBC, one who believes there are errors, or could be errors in the Bible.
4. Inerrancy - the Bible is inspired by God and is without error. It is totally true and trustworthy. This refers to the original manuscripts of the Bible, not to a particular Bible translation. “Infallible,” “totally true and trustworthy” are used synonymously with “inerrancy.”

Read more about it:
The Truth In Crises by James C. Hefley, Hannibal Books, Garland, TX, (six volumes); 1986-1991.
A Hill On Which To Die by Judge Paul Pressler, Broadman & Holman, Nashville, TN; 1999.
The Baptist Reformation by Jerry Sutton, Broadman & Holman, Nashville, TN; 2000.
Anatomy Of A Reformation: The Southern Baptist Convention, 1978-2004 by Paige Patterson, Office of Public Relations, SWBTS, Fort Worth, TX; 2004.
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-by David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 3, AD 2009.

Related Articles:
Q & A on SBC Conservative Resurgence, part 1
Q & A on SBC Conservative Resurgence, part 2
Differences Between the 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message


  1. I have a hard time believing that you are naive enough to believe that anything that you just posted about the conservative resurgance is true. The issue was not the inerrancy of scripture. There were very few, if any at all in the seminaries that were teaching what you call "liberal" ideas. The move centered in a desire to hold power and influence. People did not vote their convictions, they voted how these fundamentalist leaders told them to without question. Now they are stuck with what they have. By your definition at the end of the post, I am a conservative. But, I would never sign the BF&M 2000 or support it in any way.

  2. Robert,
    You can agree or disagree, but I do not write the above comments out of ignorance or naiveté. I was there and I voted my biblical convictions. I did not just vote as I was told. One of the greatest days in my life was in 1979 when I voted for Adrian Rogers and later heard he was elected.

    The Conservative Resurgence obviously involved personalities, but it was primarily about doctrine. That doctrine was primarily about inerrancy. Even the SBC Peace Committee agreed / admitted that the controversy was primarily over doctrine.

    The only reason leaders and trustees had to be replaced is because they were unresponsive to the majority in the SBC; the majority who did not want our mission money supporting those who believe there are errors in the Bible. Trustees were not fired; when they rotated off the boards, they were simply replaced with conservative trustees.

    Liberalism has been well documented in the books I list. SBTS & SEBTS were especially infected with liberalism. On top of that I personally experienced some of that liberalism. And I am using the definition listed for liberal, not just accusing someone because I don’t like them. When I get a chance, I may list some of the definite, documented instances of liberalism in the SBC. There was a real, serious, growing problem with liberalism in the SBC in the 1960s and 70s.
    David R. Brumbelow

    1. David, your claim to not have written these comments out of ignorance or naivete does not remove your obvious intent to REVISE history.

      I was there too, neither ignorant or naive.

      The CR was political PR. Plain and simple and nothing more. Tragic.

  3. It is impossible to be wrong when you are referring to personal experience. So, I believe when you say that the CR was all these things to you and a handful of others. My experience, and the majority of others out there has no resemblence to anything you listed on this post. The facts lie somewhere between the two experiences. The majority of books I have read on the subject, including those you listed, and interviews, and quotes, etc... paint an entirely different picture for the people on the outside.

    You say that at that time trustees were replaced because they were unresponsive to the majority in the SBC. I say that today the SBC itself is unresponsive to the majority of the now educated church goer. These people now know what the CR was really about. The "majority" that voted in all of the presidents during the CR was only a majority of people that were at the meeting. They did not represent the majority of Southern Baptist. We have seen that in the last decade.

    I am also not naive to believe that my personal experience may not represent total and exhaustive fact. I do believe that I have employed far more critical resources to understanding the CR than just what those who devised it said. I would suggest reading some materials that are on the other side of the fence before making a statement of fact based on your own personal experience.

  4. Robert,
    I have considered, listened to, and read both sides. Including moderates like Russell Dilday, Daniel Vestal, Charles Wade, Richard Jackson, Lloyd Elder…

    I have read Southern Baptists Today (later Baptists Today), Texas Baptist Committed, Baptist Standard, etc. I have been taught by moderates and even a couple of liberals.

    Most recently I have read Cecil Sherman’s autobiography. I believe Cecil Sherman is a good, Christian man, a great husband and father, a man of integrity. I just seriously disagree with his theological position. While he does not believe the Bible is full of errors, in his own book Sherman points out that he does believe there are errors in the Bible. Dr. Sherman was one of the moderate leaders in the CR.

    I have considered and read both sides. But that there was a theological problem with liberalism in the SBC is not an opinion, it is a fact. The books I reference give facts and quotes about this liberalism. By the way, have you read any of the books I list? Maybe you have only been reading / hearing one side?

    You can speculate about the SBC majority, but ultimately the only majority that matters is when votes are taken. Southern Baptists at their annual convention have consistently voted for the conservative position from 1979 to 2009.
    David R. Brumbelow

    1. Was your extensive reading done before, after or during your volitional decision to agree, participate with and encourage the CR?

  5. David said,

    "But that there was a theological problem with liberalism in the SBC is not an opinion, it is a fact."

    With all the respect I can muster, that statement could not be any more false. It is your perception based on your experience. It is a skewed statement. It has been deemed as fact by a small group of people that want to see others that disagree with them about minor theological issues removed from service.

    The facts are there were a few moderates that were labeled liberals. This number was greatly exagerated in order to reach a political objective and gain power and prestige. This group used deceit to convince others that they needed to vote a certain way, and continue to do so. We have a convention of churches that follow their pastors blindly without going to the Bible themselves. Only recently have people been reading it for themselves and realizing the real reason behind the CR. I can't wait for the day when the veil is torn and everyone finally sees the CR for what it really was.

    I know you do not need my sympathy, but I really do feel sorry for people that are trapped by the untruths that continue to be spun throughout the convention. I pray for them daily.

  6. The CR was a failure. It destroyed a great denomination.

  7. Tom,
    Southern Baptists have voted for conservative presidents, ones who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, for 30 straight years. So I think the majority of Baptists would disagree with you.

    Destroyed a great denomination? Compare the SBC in areas of giving, evangelism, new church starts, baptisms, missionaries, fidelity to the Bible - with the moderate groups like CBF, Alliance of Baptists, BGCT, BGCV. Also compare the SBC with other mainline denominations who did not take a stand on the basic doctrines of the faith. It will not take long to find out the Southern Baptist CR saved, rather than destroyed, a great denomination.
    David R. Brumbelow

  8. David:

    You said to me--"Southern Baptists have voted for conservative presidents, ones who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, for 30 straight years. So I think the majority of Baptists would disagree with you."

    So many of the SB's gave up voting somewhere around the 1980's when they saw the handwriting on the wall. They did not want to use the same tactics the conservatives were using to win the Presidential elections.

    You may say as you choose but I really do not believe the SBC is as representative of the SB denomination as you try to point out.

    I know I will not change your mind and you will not change my mind, but I stand by what I said.

    The CR was never about the Bible it was about absolute power. They have had it and look at the mess that is even going on as I type these words. You go along or out you go--ask Dr. Hammond.

    The SBC is in a major decline and it appears so many are so blinded by the CR they can not even see what is ever so clear.

    I really do hope that I am wrong but the SBC in just a few more years will be irrelevant.

  9. What we need to do is compare our denomination now with the one of the past. You can not have an accurate evaluation comparing it to other denominations. Is the SBC reaching people today for the cause of Christ or are we back biting ourselves into oblivion? Are our numbers up in Baptisms, decisions, giving, and membership? The CR may not have destroyed our denomination, but it is nowhere near as impactful as it was in the past. All for the sake of power and the need to always be right.

  10. Tom,
    About the NAMB - I seriously doubt that the president’s resignation had anything to do with the CR. After all, he came to NAMB from the conservative Virginia state convention, and he would have obviously been in agreement with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. I don’t look at the resignation as a conspiracy or that you have to “go along or out you go.” Whether conservative or moderate, some working relationships just don’t work out. Also, just because SBC leadership is conservative doesn’t mean we will never disagree. Of course, we don’t have all the details and probably will not, since personnel matters are often kept confidential. I wish the best for those resigning, the trustees, and for NAMB.

    I believe the greatest days of the SBC are ahead. I do believe the CR was primarily about the Bible, and I will post more on this in the future.

    You said, “I really do hope that I am wrong but the SBC in just a few more years will be irrelevant.” I have good news for you. You are wrong :-).

    I know you and I will disagree on some points. You may be surprised to know, but I do believe there are good folks on both sides of this issue. I just sincerely disagree with the moderate and liberal viewpoints.
    David R. Brumbelow

  11. Robert,
    Southern Baptists are certainly not perfect. But hundreds of thousands are being reached for Christ through the uncountable ministries of Southern Baptists. We have a clear message of salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are preaching and teaching that every word of the Bible is true and trustworthy. That was not always happening before the CR, as I will later demonstrate. We can always do better, but I praise God for what He is doing through the people called Baptists.
    David R. Brumbelow

    1. Is there any way of knowing how many hundreds of thousands have kept Christianity at arms distance because of SBC chicanery?

  12. Why are you so blinded? Yes the SBC has some great ministries and we are reaching people, but it is no where close to the impact the SBC was having 20+ years ago. And just for the record, most are not teaching that the Bible is true and trustworthy. They are teaching that their interpretation of the Bible is true and trustworthy. There is a big difference.

  13. The CR was not about interpretation of the Bible, but the nature of the Bible. Is the Bible itself truth without any mixture of error?

    The CR established that Southern Baptists believe and want taught in their schools and literature, the concept of the inerrancy of the Bible.
    David R. Brumbelow

  14. Ok, whatever you want to think. One day you will know and understand the truth. I do believe in the inerrancy of scripture. I do not believe in the inerrancy of recent SBC interpretations that have made us exclusionists.

  15. Well this I know,
    Your 'resurgence' is built on sand because it was raw politics. I was there too. New Orleans seminary, 1984-87, and I saw good men, godly men, believing men savaged by COWARDS who called themselves Christians and pastors, secreting in recording devices to 'catch' the professor in liberalism. I confronted some of these cowards.
    So tell it to some one else. I KNOW who you people are.
    David S. Clark

  16. Notice the tone of the previous comment.

    Notice my article did not call moderate leaders cowards or other pejorative names. Rather, I dealt with the issues.

    So many on the moderate/liberal side, rather than deal with the issues, viciously attack the character of conservatives.
    David R. Brumbelow

    1. No....but you did definitely infer that they are LIBERALS. Can't take that one back David.

  17. dr. james willinghamOctober 4, 2015 at 7:40 PM

    Dear Robert and David: David is right, Robert, concerning the seminaries. At least four of the six were teaching the Higher Critical Approach to Scripture. Hardly a view favorable to inerrancy or anything else of that nature. I was a student at SEBTS for 4 yrs. and took two degrees from it. Not a single professor believed in verbal inspiration, and I was told by the Dean and a professor that they could not have such teaching when I told them that they would not have such fussing if they had someone teaching that viewpoint. Midwestern, of course, was noted for Ralph Elliott and his book, The Message of Genesis which a psychology professor (a grad of Southern and a Ph.D. candidate at Wash. U at the time) decided it was time for us to learn the documentary hypothesis, etc. To which one former gang member replied, "Aw, ______, your an atheist." Anyway, the battle for the Bible began, when the libs, after the leaving of Toy, formed a group called the doedekers (a transliterated render of the Greek word for 12) with the aim of placing libs. in leading position throughout the SBC. By 1925 at the adoption of the 1925 BF&M, they had enough power to stop an amendment against evolution by presenting and passing a resolution against evolution. Then they said there was no need for the amendment, because they had a resolution against it anyway. You all know how well that worked. In 1959 or 61 a fellow from North Carolina, Dr. James Bulman was bodily dragged from the convention platform, when he sought to object to liberalism. By 1963 many, of not the majority, thought they were voting against liberalism, when they voted for the BF&M of 1963. I was present and voted and was as ignorant as the rest. It is also true that a number of Conservatives used the controversy to feather their own nests and to advance their own cause, themselves. The real truth, I suspect, is that both groups were controlled by forces external to the SBC which has the aim of destroying the last great mission force in Protestantism. The only thing that will save us now is a Third Great Awakening for which I have prayed since 1973. Our conservatives, if the matters covered at MWBTS are any indication, have insured our dissolution by their plan to rid themselves of associations, state conventions, combining various boards. In short, the are going get the money directly, supposedly, for missions, but I suspect the real aim by their controllers is the destruction which I have mentioned..

    1. If he was out of order in a parliamentary meeting he deserved to get dragged out....right or wrong on substance notwithstanding.

    2. :0 Doesn't look like "95%" of those interacting on this site believe the CR was "necessary". Go figure that.

  18. "Officials and trustees were often defensive, obstructive, even deceptive in dealing with doctrinal concerns."

    Ralph H. Elliott, author The Message of Genesis and hardly one to label a fundamentalist, wrote this about the double-speak practice of some: “Professors and students learn to couch their beliefs in acceptable terminology and in holy jargon so that although thinking one thing, the speaker calculated so as to cause the hearer to affirm something else.” (From The ‘Genesis Controversy’ and Continuity in Southern Baptist Chaos: A Eulogy for a Great Tradition, p. 33.)


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