JONESBORO, AR -- With more than 16 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Baptist group in the world and the largest protestant denomination in the U.S. So when the news came that they were making a change on their beliefs, it arrived with a little confusion.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday morning as Southern Baptist Conventioners' met in San Antonio that the group was reaffirming their faith and identity in a more moderate direction.
"It really wasn't a move to moderate, it was simply that we saw what was happening. We saw that there were forces within the convention that were trying to narrow the scope of what is a good Southern Baptist further than what the Baptist faith and message did," says Rev. Steve Jacobson, the pastor at Friendly Hope Baptist Church, a Jonesboro church member of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Extreme or radical conservative issues such as outlawing Calvinism or the speaking of the tongues were things the convention felt wasn't their place to make a stance on.
"As an official Southern Baptist Convention body, we're not going to do that. If you choose as a church body to do that, that's your business, but the convention does not feel that's the way to go," says Rev. Jacobson.
This isn't the first battle with conservative issues within the religious group. Decades ago, conservatives won a battle over their beliefs.
"Thirty years ago or so the battle was over the inerrancy of scriptures, whether scripture was the authoritative word of God and whether that was going to be our standard for faith and practice or whether we were free to ignore the bible whenever we felt like it suited our purposes," says Rev. Jacobson.
The Southern Baptist Convention follows by the practice in this little handbook adopted in 2000. It's called the Baptist Faith and Message and in it, it's their firm beliefs on the bible and what their denomination as a whole is to follow. It's pretty basic and that's how they like it. Specific issues they feel are for the most part, for the individual churches to decide.
"The bible is our handbook. The Baptist Faith and Message describes how we interpret key issues. We simply put the brakes on if you want to put it that way. We had a stage coach that was running down hill to the right and we said this is far enough. This far and no further," says Rev. Jacobson.