Jerry Falwell, 7 church members participate as SBC messengers
SALT LAKE CITY (BP)--Jerry Falwell and seven other members of his congregation, Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., were among the messengers to the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention in Salt Lake City -- bringing the nationally recognized independent Baptist pastor one step closer to unqualified identification as a Southern Baptist.
Falwell and three other members of the church registered as messengers early June 8, while the four other messengers from Thomas Road registered the previous afternoon, according to SBC messenger registration records.
Falwell first became affiliated with Southern Baptists in 1996, when his church gave $1,000 to Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, a recognized state convention affiliated with the SBC. Fifty percent of that contribution went to the SBC and made the church a cooperating Southern Baptist congregation, although Falwell said at the time in at least one reported newspaper interview that he had no interest in participating in SBC annual meetings.
"When inerrantists in Virginia formed the SBCV recently, the Thomas Road Baptist church was quick to show its approval and to offer encouragement by beginning modest monthly financial support," he said in a statement to Baptist Press at the time.
"While we have no intention of discontinuing our support to our missionaries who are affiliated with many different fellowships and faith mission boards, we fully intend to take our permanent stand with the national and Virginia Bible-believing conservatives who have rescued the Southern Baptist Convention from theological liberalism.
"Thomas Road Baptist Church will continue to be what Southern Baptist churches have always been, independent and autonomous. We are now happy to work in voluntary cooperation with Southern Baptist churches."
Thomas Road was among 108 churches approved last year for unique affiliation with Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia as opposed to dual affiliation with the Baptist General Association of Virginia and SBCV. convention in 1996.
Theological differences with the moderate-dominated BGAV and a desire to support the Southern Baptist Convention led Virginia conservatives to form the SBCV in 1993. Messengers to the BGAV had voted to include a national, moderate organization, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, in one of its giving plans. When the BGAV approved in November 1994 a bylaw change which markedly reduced messenger representation from conservative churches, the SBCV began studying the option of forming its own convention. SBCV voted to become a separate convention in 1996.