Why I Am No Longer A Southern Baptist (1982)

Several weeks ago, I burned a bridge in my head and in my heart. I made a decision that only sounds simple. I have decided that I will never join another Southern Baptist church.

Being a Southern Baptist has always been a major part -- perhaps the major part -- of my sense of identity. I am a Southern Baptist preacher's kid. I am a graduate of the world's largest Southern Baptist university. I was ordained a deacon in a Southern Baptist church while in my mid-20s.

Not long ago, I returned to Baylor University in Waco, Texas. While walking around the campus, I felt like I might as well have been at Brigham Young University.

In the years since I left Waco, I have changed and Baylor has changed. I expected that. But, during my short visit, another set of feelings washed over me. By Southern Baptist standards, Baylor is an open -- and to use an SBC buzz word -- "moderate" campus.

What I was feeling was stronger than the musings of a disenchanted graduate wishing for a return to the good old days. I realized that if I was rejecting Baylor, and Baylor rejecting me, then I was much further out of the mainstream of Southern Baptist life than I had ever dreamed. I asked myself, "If Baylor is left of center in the SBC, where does that leave me?"

I began to try to fit my thoughts and feelings into some kind of mental and emotional structure.

What was I really feeling? What is -- what will always be -- most important to me as a Christian? At some point could my struggles against the majority in the Southern Baptist Convention hinder me, or warp me, as a Christian?