Conservative resurgence, at 25, called ‘take-back’

Heroes describedas not the knowns TRONG>but legion of unknowns.

INDIANAPOLIS?Rejecting a description of the conservative resurgence as a “takeover” of the Southern Baptist Convention, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land told a 25-year “Conservative Resurgence Reunion” that the reformation was “a take-back to where our spiritual forefathers founded it?on the cross of Jesus Christ and the absolute infallible word of God.”

Jerry Falwell of Liberty Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., opened the June 14 gathering at the Indianapolis Convention Center in prayer, thanking God for “the 25-year miracle that we never thought could happen.”

Land recounted statements by early Southern Baptist leaders like J.M. Frost, founder of the Baptist Sunday School Board, who clearly accepted Scripture as the “all sufficient and infallible rule of faith and practice.”

In contrast, “liberalism and higher critical thinking was a cancer that implanted itself” in the convention in the last half of the 20th century, Land noted, calling that approach to the study of Scripture “a dangerous interloper that would have been a lethal one had it been allowed to continue.”

Land credited the late William Powell, a former Home Mission Board employee, retired Houston Judge Paul Pressler and current Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson with understanding “our forefathers had given us some way to deal with” a denomination that was straying to the left.

“Our ecclesiology saved us. We believed in the autonomy of the local church and that all of our boards and agencies ultimately are accountable to the messengers from the local churches,” Land said.

“We need to tell the story of what happened, why it was necessary and learn from those stories of history the lessons that will keep it from happening again,” he continued, challenging SBC entity leaders to “make certain we keep these agencies leashed to the cross and founded on the infallible, inerrant word of God.”

Criswell College President Jerry Johnson of Dallas said it is impossible to talk about the conservative resurgence without thinking about the legacy of W.A. Criswell, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and two-term SBC president who founded the college with a Christian worldview and witness.

“He being dead yet speaketh,” Johnson said, noting that the Criswell Legacy Project ( provides an opportunity for Southern Baptists to hear and read sermons delivered by the popular preacher. The audience sampled video clips of sermons Criswell delivered in 1985 and 1988, including his reference to “the curse of liberalism” in mainline denominations.

“We have taken the great, sanctified Baptist doctrine of the priesthood of the believer and made it to cover every damnable heresy that I could imagine,” Criswell declared in a message replayed for the reunion audience of nearly 700. “No minister who has embraced a higher critical approach to the gospel has ever built a great church, held a minor revival or won a city to the Lord,” Criswell stated. “They live off the labor and sacrifice of those who paid the price of devoted service before them.”

Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said he looks forward to the next 25 years as the most fruitful and blessed in the history of the SBC. He recognized “leaders at each entity who affirm and ascribe that they believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God.”

Richards said conservative leaders realized a turnaround was possible only by electing a conservative SBC president. “The president would appoint conservatives to the Committee on Committees which would in turn nominate for convention approval a Committee on Nominations, which would nominate trustees for SBC agencies,” he explained.

“Through this convoluted process, Southern Baptists could impact their agencies,” Richards said of the “course correction” that was accomplished. Conservatives on the Committee on Committees and Committee on Nominations understood the needs of Southern Baptists, he said, and “by virtue of their fidelity and dedication” nominated others who shared the same dedication.

“We must never lose sight of the method that was used,” Richards said. “And although now we would consider ourselves all conservatives, we must remember that as we go along through the course of years that we could never wink at someone who may be wavering, and that we can never sacrifice truth on the altar of compromise, though we must continue to stay vigilant through the years.”

Richards publicly recognized the current leaders of the 11 SBC entities, describing them as “men who affirm and ascribe that they believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God.”

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