Fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell has entered the theological controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention, urging the denomination to sever ties with universities he considers liberal. Falwell’s comments, in an interview with editors of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, drew immediate criticism from several Southern Baptist leaders, including James T. Draper of Euless, Texas, the president of the convention. Although Falwell is a Baptist and lives in the South, he is not a Southern Baptist. His Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, is an independent congregation.

Liberalism in the Southern Baptist Convention has become one of the fundamentalist leader’s latest targets. The February issue of his Fundamentalist Journal contains several articles on the subject, including one, “Liberalism Brews Within the Southern Baptist Convention,” by William A. Powell, Sr., editor of the independent Southern Baptist Journal, which has publicized any sign of liberal teaching in the denomination’s seminaries for the past decade.

In his interview with the Fort Worth newspaper, Falwell said he felt churches “ought to dissolve connections with those schools that no longer support them theologically.” He singled out Baylor University in Waco, Texas, as one school that should no longer get Southern Baptist support. With regard to the denomination’s six seminaries, Falwell said “hard-handed” actions should be taken to remove liberal influences from them.

In response to Mr. Falwell’s comments, Draper said, “I think it was a generalization, and any generalization goes too far. In every school we have some very fine conservative teachers. We have some at Baylor and we have others there that aren’t as conservative as we would like them to be.” Draper opposed the suggestion that Southern Baptists withdraw support from schools considered too liberal. “Most of us would prefer not to give up the millions of dollars we’ve invested and the years and years of influence these colleges have had,” he said. “We would rather stay and try to make changes if they are necessary.”


Evangelical Nuclear Conference Will Hear All Views

Concern over the nuclear arms build-up was the top religious news story of 1982, and interest in the issue shows no signs of waning. To freeze or not to freeze—that is the question to be discussed in Pasadena, California, May 25–28, at a conference called “The Church and Peacemaking in the Nuclear Age.” The conference is unprecedented in that outspoken representatives from all sides of the issue will sit at the same table, express their views, and, hopefully, lend their ears to other alternatives.

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“We believe we’ve succeeded in bringing together people who represent the diversity within evangelicalism on the nuclear arms issue,” says Chuck Shelton, a conference codirector. But the fear among some conservatives, dubbed “peace through strength” people in conference lingo, is that the conference will be weighted with liberal opinion.

Shelton and his associates have tried to emphasize that the purpose of the conference is to educate, and not to offer a statement, to raise issues, and not to show favoritism to a particular viewpoint.

Some conservatives, however, are skeptical about the supposed balance. The National Christian Action Coalition (NCAC), for example, stated in its February newsletter: “We have heard that there will be a meeting in May in Pasadena, California, of ‘evangelicals’ supporting a nuclear freeze.” The NCAC’s director of operations, Bob Billings, could not easily conceive of a conference without the purpose of advancing a position. “It would be a waste of time just to hold a discussion,” he said. “You don’t change a whole lot of minds on this issue.”

Billings said that in conservative circles, the talk is that the conference will wind up favoring a nuclear freeze.

If the liberals do have a hidden agenda, it is very well hidden. While the list of participants includes such noted pacifists as Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action and Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine, it also includes conservatives such as U.S. Senator William Armstrong. (R-Colo.), John Perkins of Voice of Calvary Ministries, Ed Robb of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and David Allan Hubbard, president of Fuller Theological Seminary. Other participants include Bill Pannell of Youth for Christ, Ted Engstrom of World Vision International, who chairs the board of organizers, and John R. W. Stott.

The list of sponsoring organizations is also well balanced. It includes Calvin College, Eternity magazine, Evangelicals for Social Action, Fuller Theological Seminary, the National Association of Evangelicals, Sojourners magazine, Voice of Calvary Ministries, Young Life International, and Youth for Christ.

Just a few months ago there was concern among organizers that the “peace through strength” advocates were a minority among those leading workshops at the conference, and that this could hurt the cause. Many who were asked to participate, including Billy Graham, Prison Fellowship’s Charles Colson, the “700 Club’s” Pat Robertson, Sen. Mark Hatfield, theologians Carl F. H. Henry and Francis Schaeffer, former Wheaton College president Hudson T. Armerding, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Vessey, Jr., declined. Shelton and Bauldauf are convinced that nobody is running away from the conference and that those who declined did so because of schedule conflicts.

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Late last year, the National Association of Evangelicals aired publicly its concern that the conference would be imbalanced in favor of a freeze. The NAE recommended the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Robb, who later accepted a major speaking role. Both Robb and NAE Washington lobbyist Robert Dugan believe that profreeze workshop leaders still outnumber “peace through strength” leaders. However, neither thinks this will prevent both sides from being heard.


Lloyd Elder, executive vice-president of Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, has been selected to be president of the Sunday School Board, the huge publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. He succeeds Grady Cauthen, who is retiring. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest American Protestant denomination, with 13.6 million members. The Sunday School Board publishes its educational literature, music, books, and Bibles, and operates two conference centers and 65 bookstores.


Lillian Dickson, 82, for 50 years a missionary to Taiwan, founder of the Mustard Seed, Inc., an organization created to underwrite support for urgent needs on the mission field, author of the book These, My People, subject of the biography Angel at Her Shoulder; January 14, in Taipei, Taiwan

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