Thursday, November 16, 2000

Kentucky Baptist Convention chooses moderate for president

The Associated Press

        The new president of Kentucky's Baptist Convention describes himself as a “compromiser.”

        That could prove an important trait in a state and national religious group torn over its own mission statement.

        Retired missionary Jim McKinley, a moderate leader, won a close vote Tuesday to become the convention's new president.

        It's a one-year, voluntary role. Mr. McKinley won 1,091 ballots out of 2,073 votes cast. Pastor Kevin Ezell, a conservative leader from Louisville, got 978 votes.

        Ever since the Southern Baptist denomination passed its “Bap- tist Faith and Message” in June, the statement of beliefs has sharply divided the national and state groups. The message denounces homosexuality as immoral, bars women from becoming pastors and accepts the Bible as the final standard for interpreting their faith.

        Ex-President Carter criticized the statement as too rigid and broke from the church this month. Texas Baptists also cited the creed in voting last month to weaken ties with the national denomination.

        Tuesday, at the annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention in Louisville, the issue was tabled for more consideration.

        The Southern Baptist Convention is America's largest Protestant denomination, with 15.8 million members. It has become increasingly divided in recent years over what some see as a creeping conservatism. The Kentucky Baptist Convention is a direct state affiliate.

        In conferences this week, state Baptist organizations elsewhere split their decisions about the belief statement.

        Alabama Baptists overwhelmingly affirmed the creed Wednesday, but not before several of the 1,200 delegates walked out.

        “These people are not Baptists. The Baptists are leaving,” said Mary Goodhue of Huntsville as she left.

        Some 2,000 Louisiana Baptists meeting this week passed a resolution supporting the creed by 252 votes.

        South Carolina Baptists left the issue off their agenda, and Virginia's decided Wednesday to let local congregations decide.

        “Our attitude is to not continue fighting and bickering,” said the Rev. Reginald R. McDonough, executive director of the Virginia Baptists. “We cannot pick and choose who we embrace based on a creedant statement.”


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