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W.Va. Southern Baptists to convene in Martinsburg

November 02, 2000

W.Va. Southern Baptists to convene in Martinsburg



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - Up to 400 West Virginia Southern Baptists will gather in Martinsburg this weekend for a state convention, even as the national church movement is split by dissension.

One member of the local church that is hosting the convention said he doubts the split will cause a lot of ripples at this convention.

"It will be a topic of discussion, but I don't think anything will happen," said Bryan Dugger, 24, youth and education director for the Westview Baptist Church.

Nationally, some churches have left the Southern Baptist Convention, complaining about its stands that women should submit graciously to their husbands and by what some perceive to be anti-homosexual attitudes.

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There is also a dispute over how the Bible is to be interpreted.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas, the largest branch of the organization, voted this week to cut $5 million from seminaries it helps support.

Last month, former President Jimmy Carter sent a letter renouncing his membership in the organization, denouncing what he called its "increasingly rigid" theological beliefs.

There is talk the disaffected members of the Southern Baptist Convention may form another group.

"It's unfortunate that this is happening," Dugger said. But he added the Southern Baptist Convention is "a bottom-up organization," run by the individual churches. He said he doubts West Virginia members of the convention will bolt.

"Because, like I said, it is bottom-up, those churches have already left," he said of dissenters.

He sees the church trying to operate in a "post-Christian world" in which it becomes increasingly difficult to hold to fundamental beliefs.

"For years, there has been a pervasive wave of liberalism getting into the church," he said. "The liberal will is grinding away at the church. Churches are becoming weary of the onslaught."

He said the loss of money from the Texas branch might affect seminary but said he plans to attend regardless of the price.

Dugger said the issue probably will be a focus of prayer by those attending the two-day gathering at the Holiday Inn. Beyond that, the issue is unlikely to be addressed.

"I can't see it splitting us," he said.

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