LifeWay announces closing of SBCNet on CompuServe

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--SBCNet, a private forum for Southern Baptists on the CompuServe computer network, will close Jan. 1, 1999, LifeWay Christian Resources officials have announced.

A pioneer in providing on-line services to Southern Baptists, SBCNet was launched by LifeWay in 1991. Several SBC agencies and institutions have provided news, information and ministry and missions helps via the network. In its heyday, more than 7,500 people subscribed to the forum for a monthly fee.

In the last two years, however, membership has dropped to 2,600. LifeWay webmaster David Haywood attributed the decline "to the popularity of the Internet and the fact that many of the resources on SBCNet are now available on the Web for free.

"The on-line industry has changed rapidly in the past few years," Haywood said. "What was once the domain of proprietary commercial services has now become wide open due to the public's acceptance of the Internet. Just a few years ago, it was cost-prohibitive to develop an on-line service. Now, publishing information on-line is just a matter of establishing a Web site."

Also, recent actions by America Online, which purchased CompuServe earlier this year, influenced LifeWay's decision to terminate the service, Haywood said. He pointed to AOL's sponsorship of "The Howard Stern Show," a graphic and adult-oriented talk show; and its decision to filter the American Family Association's Web site (www.afa.net) using "CyberPatrol."

"These changes are such that it is no longer in the best interest of LifeWay Christian Resources and the Southern Baptist Convention to continue a relationship with CompuServe/AOL," Haywood said.

Much of the "agency-produced" material on SBCNet is already available on the Internet, Haywood said. SBC boards and agencies with Web sites include: LifeWay, www.lifeway.com; Annuity Board, www.annuityboard.org; Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, www.erlc.com; International Mission Board, www.imb.org; North American Mission Board, www.namb.net; and Woman's Missionary Union, www.wmu.com.

All six Southern Baptist seminaries also have their own Web sites, as do 20 state conventions and dozens of Baptist colleges and schools.

In addition, the SBC Executive Committee launched its own Web site (www.sbc.net) earlier this year. Included are articles from Baptist Press and SBCLife, information about the denomination and the Cooperative Program and links to numerous SBC-related sites. Herb Hollinger, vice president for convention news, said BP photos will be added to the site before the Jan. 1 closing of SBCNet on CompuServe.

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