http://www.abpnews.com/www/1388.article Associated Baptist Press Dueling SBC groups angle to speak for conservative 'young leaders' By Robert Marus Published: September 26, 2006 WINTER PARK, Fla. (ABP) -- A group of young Southern Baptist conservatives has issued a statement to counter the influence of a rival conservative group that has been critical of the use of power by recent Southern Baptist Convention leaders. According to some observers, the dueling groups may be harbingers of more intramural disputes to come within the Southern Baptist Convention's conservative ranks. Meeting near Orlando Sept. 25-26, about 40 pastors and seminary professors calling themselves the Joshua Convergence presented a set of seven "Principles of Affirmation" and heard several speakers well connected in Southern Baptist life. According to a "purpose statement" on the Joshua Convergence website, the event's organizers convened "to give a voice to younger leaders across the Southern Baptist Convention who are strongly committed to biblical inerrancy, who support the goals and leadership of the conservative resurgence, and who unashamedly embrace biblical standards of separation and morality." "Conservative resurgence" is the term that the inerrantists who control the Southern Baptist Convention use to describe their efforts, culminating in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to wrest control from the moderates who had led the SBC for decades. While virtually all of the moderates have left Southern Baptist life for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or other groups since then, conservatives have begun to argue among themselves. In the months prior to the June SBC annual meeting, debates surfaced about how tightly SBC leaders need to hold control of the denomination. Much of the debate was fueled by younger SBC bloggers. Several dozen of them gathered in Memphis, Tenn., last May to issue a declaration repenting for Southern Baptists' "triumphalism" and "narcissism" and promising to be more attentive to holding denominational leaders accountable. Their support of South Carolina pastor Frank Page helped elect him as SBC president over two other candidates, even though Page was opposed by the SBC power structure. In the Florida meeting, the participants heard speakers who praised the small group of leaders who have controlled much of the denomination's direction since ridding it of moderates. The principles participants in the Joshua Convergence affirmed were: -- "Truth" -- affirming "the inerrancy of Scripture" and asserting that "[t]he battle for the Bible must be renewed in every generation. We take our stand to continue in that battle." -- "Gratitude" -- expressing "deep thankfulness for those who have taken our convention back to its theological and spiritual moorings." -- "Service" -- noting that participants "are aware that -- as with any human organization -- the mechanisms of the Southern Baptist Convention can be manipulated. We commit to refrain from such practices." -- "Holiness" -- affirming "personal purity and separation from worldliness" and singling out "the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages." The affirmation said that the denomination "has stood against the evils of alcohol. The present generation can in good conscience do no other." At least one leader of the "Memphis Declaration," Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson, has been criticized for not enforcing total abstinence on his congregation. The Orlando group also said it is "unequivocally opposed to the antinomian attitude in some Christian circles concerning unwholesome and immoral language, cynicism and profanity. We feel strongly that the Bible condemns such actions." -- "Unity" -- noting that within the group there are diverse positions on Calvinism, eschatology, worship, and outreach, "we reject all attitudes of mean-spiritedness, personal attacks, or intellectual and spiritual arrogance in these debates." -- "Identity" -- affirming Baptist ecclesiology and "the fundamental principles which constitute a Baptist church are the very ones which made up a New Testament church." Among those principles it listed was the separation of church and state. -- "Mission" -- supporting the denomination's unified budget. Among the speakers at the conference, held at Aloma Baptist Church in Winter Park, Fla., were several with close ties to Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and often acknowledged as the center of power in modern SBC life. The conference's organizers and speakers included professors and other employees from the three educational institutions Patterson has led, such as North Carolina pastor Stephen Rummage, who was a protégé of Patterson's at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. One popular moderate Baptist blog, written by Baylor graduate student Aaron Weaver (bigdaddyweave.blogspot.com), said the meeting was a sign that fundamentalists in the SBC have finally begun to turn on each other in earnest. "It's rally-the-troops time," Weaver wrote in a Sept. 25 post. "Patterson's minions are putting on their war paint, digging the trenches and preparing for guerilla warfare…. The SBC wars won't stop until the 'other side' is in a body bag. Rather, the SBC wars won't stop until the Fundamentalists stomp out all dissent and the 'other side' ceases to exist." An anonymous blog written by a Southwestern Seminary student, identified only as "SWBTS Underground" (swbtsunderground.blogspot.com), similarly interpreted the rival meetings as the beginnings of another battle. "No one has been inactive in this battle over leadership and authority in the SBC. It is about to flesh out into an all-out war," he wrote Sept. 24. "It is going to be a rehash of the conservative resurgence, but with one key distinction -- both sides feel like they are taking the true conservative position, both sides feel God is on their side, and both sides now have vendettas and past wounds to avenge. This is a scary time in the SBC." But a Joshua Convergence participant named "Steve," who describes himself as a layman from the meeting's host church, said in a Sept. 26 entry on his Kerussopolis blog (www.kerussopolis.com) that the group was not seeking to make war. "I can say with absolute certainty that the Joshua Convergence is not a war-like, combative, forceful movement," he wrote. "But while it is not combative, it is reactionary…. They are concerned that those who do not share their beliefs are speaking for them, and they want to be identified apart from these 'other young leaders.'"