Moderates ponder future ties with North Carolina Baptist convention

Posted: Friday, January 30, 2004

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) Some 500 Baptist moderates concluded a two-day meeting without deciding whether to break with North Carolina's Baptist convention, in which they feel increasingly isolated.

Moderates already have formed separate state bodies in Missouri, Texas and Virginia in reaction to a conservative shift in the Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest Protestant denomination.

Moderates and conservatives have been at odds within the 1.2 million-member Baptist State Convention of North Carolina for several years.

Moderates feel ''there's no longer a place for them in the North Carolina convention system,'' said the Rev. Bill Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest University Divinity School.

The Rev. David Hughes of Winston-Salem, the losing moderate candidate for state president last November, proposed the meeting. He said his defeat allowed moderates to consider future options such as forming a new Baptist network, joining another national denomination or simply moving forward as independent congregations.

In one session, the state convention's executive director debated the pastor of a Concord congregation that was expelled from the state body last year for baptizing men thought to be gay.

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