TYLER, Texas (AP) -- Four Baptist leaders have taken the first legal step toward a new denomination to rival the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant body.
The founding board members say they incorporated and registered the name ''Baptist Convention of the Americas'' with the Texas secretary of state in 1998 in case such an entity is needed, but acted quietly to prevent further discord among Southern Baptists.
One founder, local pastor Paul Powell, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph that the likelihood of a breakaway denomination increases as strife continues between the Baptists' conservative and moderate factions. His colleagues are on the moderate side.
''It sure looks like we're headed in that direction,'' said Powell. ''We know the gap is widening between the two. Everything that happens kind of accentuates that.'' He added that ''mad, narrow-minded and fundamentalist'' Baptists ''are not my kind of Baptists.''
Powell formerly led the denomination's pension board. The other founders are Houston businessman John F. Baugh; Baylor University Chancellor Herbert Reynolds; and the Rev. W. Winfred Moore, who teaches religion at Baylor.
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