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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 00:35 GMT
Biggest US church suffers Texan snub
Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter has already split from the Southern Baptists
The largest Christian denomination in the US has been dealt a major blow amid accusations that it has become too right-wing.

The Southern Baptist Convention - which numbers President Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore among its members - is losing $5m in funding from its Texas wing, a move seen as paving the way to a possible split.

Jesus took his stand against religious authoritarianism

Texas Baptists' executive director
The Texas Baptists voted to snub their parent group after concern at the Southern Baptists' increasingly-conservative stance on issues including women's rights and homosexuality.

The move came less than two weeks after former President Jimmy Carter broke his own ties with the denomination, criticising its "increasingly rigid" stance.

The Southern Baptists, who have 15.8 million members, have earned particular criticism over a move earlier this year to reverse its practice of allowing women to be pastors.

Instructions to wives

The church, which attempts to follow the teachings of the Bible to the letter, said it was a role for which men were uniquely qualified.

Other controversial decisions have included an edict to wives that they should "graciously submit" to their husbands, and a call for a boycott of Disney after it held "Gay Days" at its theme parks.

Leading ministers at the Texas meeting, held in Corpus Christi, said the time had come for action.

"Jesus took his stand against religious authoritarianism, moral judgmentalism and dogmatic fundamentalism," said the Texas convention's executive director the Rev Charles Wade.

Texas Baptists are at a crossroads - this meeting is the decisive turning point for the next century

Texas Baptists' news director Kenneth Camp

The vote to block the funding was taken by 6,000 Texas Baptist delegates, on behalf of 2.7m members.

One spokesman had described the decision as a "crossroads" for the Texas Baptists, and said the meeting represented a decisive turning point.

Texas Baptists make up nearly a fifth of the Southern Baptists' members. Other moderate congregations have already broken away from the Southern Baptists over similar concerns.

Carter's decision

Despite the $5m cut in funding, the Southern Baptists will still receive substantial funds from Texas - some $19m - but it will be directed towards use by missionaries.

Former President Carter said he had left because he could no longer maintain his relationship with the denomination "in good conscience".

" I personally feel that women should play an absolutely equal role in service of Christ in the church," he said.

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21 Oct 00 | Americas
Jimmy Carter splits with Baptists
10 Jun 98 | Americas
A Baptist woman's place ...
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