Southern Baptist membership climbs to record level

Posted: Friday, April 27, 2001

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Membership in the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, climbed to record levels in 2000, reaching nearly 16 million despite internal controversies over the church's heightened conservatism and fundamentalist views.

''We credit our evangelism efforts for the growth,'' SBC spokesman Todd Starnes said Thursday. ''Sharing our faith across the world has helped us reach more people.''

Membership is up despite controversy that erupted last summer at the denomination's annual meeting, where delegates approved a reworked ''Baptist Faith and Message,'' the church's doctrinal platform.

The revisions included provisions discouraging women from serving as pastors and encouraging them to be subservient to their husbands. The document also added new wording condemning homosexuality and abortion.

Since then, the revised platform has drawn protest and fund-cutting from Baptist churches across the country and resulted in the defection of one of the organization's most prominent members, former President Jimmy Carter.

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