NASHVILLE (BP) -- Thousands of messengers had arrived in Houston to vote for Adrian Rogers in the presidential election at the 1979 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. Some with limited resources had traveled hundreds of miles and were sleeping in tents in hopes of restoring their denomination to theological orthodoxy.
There was just one problem: It was the night before the election and Rogers wasn't sure that God wanted him to be nominated. When he encountered fellow conservative leaders Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines in a hotel lobby, the three of them, along with Rogers' wife Joyce, went to pray about the matter in Rogers' room.
After hours of seeking God's will, Joyce Rogers, feeling God's leading, signaled to her husband, and he said, "I will do it."
The following afternoon, Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., was elected over five other candidates on the first ballot with 51 percent of the vote. The Conservative Resurgence had begun.
Thirty-five years later, observers say Rogers, who died in 2005, was the pivotal leader in the SBC's struggle to make belief in the Bible's inerrancy a bedrock commitment of all convention entities -- a commitment that undergirds Southern Baptists' evangelistic outreach at home and abroad.
Inerrancy is the doctrine that the Bible is completely free from error regarding theology, history, science and every other matter to which it speaks. The group who advocated inerrancy and elected Rogers labeled themselves "conservatives," a reference to theology more than political ideology. Opponents of the conservatives -- many of whom held orthodox beliefs but thought theological diversity should be tolerated in the SBC -- were called "moderates."
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said he is excited to see a young generation of pastors who believe the Word of God and hold to a high degree of understanding of its authenticity. "I believe that this new reality is directly attributable to great men who stood strong for the Gospel and especially Dr. Adrian Rogers," he said. "His election 35 years ago signaled a grassroots movement that has changed our entire denominational mindset. Thank God for Dr. Adrian Rogers."
'Manning the pumps'
Despite the last-minute decision to run, Rogers was motivated to serve the convention by events stretching back to his days as a student at Stetson University in Florida when he learned that some professors funded by the Cooperative Program questioned doctrines that most Southern Baptists regarded as foundational to the Christian faith.
In one class taught by an ordained Baptist minister, Rogers "heard the great historic truths of the faith demeaned over and over," Joyce Rogers wrote in "Love Worth Finding," a biography of her husband. After class one day, Rogers gathered the courage to confront his professor and asked, "Sir, are you really saved?"
In response the professor defined salvation as "that experience when a man escapes the consequences of a maladjustment to his fellow man" and said, "I don't know if there is a heaven or hell."
Soon Rogers learned that the problem in Baptist life was not isolated to his university. Read More