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Saturday, 21 October, 2000, 03:08 GMT 04:08 UK
Jimmy Carter splits with Baptists
Jimmy carter
Jimmy Carter was honoured at the White House last year
Former US President Jimmy Carter, who was a Sunday school teacher at the age of 18, has cut his ties with the Baptist church over its attitude to women.

In a letter to the Southern Baptist Convention he said his move reflected how unhappy Baptists were with the ""increasingly rigid creed" of the church.

In particular, a move earlier this year to ban women from becoming pastors has upset more liberal members of the church.

"My grandfather, my father and I have always been Southern Baptists, and for 21 years since the first political division took place in the Southern Baptist Convention, I have maintained that relationship.


I personally feel that women should play an absolutely equal role in service of Christ

Former President, Jimmy Carter

"I feel I can no longer in good conscience do that," Mr Carter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.

Southern Baptists are the United States' largest Protestant denomination, claiming 15.9m members.

'Submit graciously'

Some Baptists left the church two years ago when the Southern Baptists declared that wives should "submit graciously" to their husbands.

"I'm familiar with the verses they have quoted about wives being subjugated to their husbands," the former president said.

Jimmy Carter at the Democratic Convention
He still takes an active role in politics
" I personally feel that women should play an absolutely equal role in service of Christ in the church."

The former Georgia governor, whose his evangelical Christianity attracted attention in his 1976 presidential campaign, said he will continue to teach and to serve as a deacon at his Baptist church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.

Mr Carter's letter was sent to 75,000 Baptists nationwide by a group of moderate Texas Baptists.

The group's executive director, David Currie, said that Carter's move reflected an unease among many Baptists with what he called "fundamentalism" among SBC leaders.

"They're trying to make everyone interpret the Scriptures their way," he said.

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10 Jun 98 | Americas
A Baptist woman's place ...
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