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Fundamentalist re-elected to Southern Baptist presidency

Fundamentalists won the Southern Baptist Convention presidency without opposition Tuesday, taking control of the nation's largest Protestant denomination. With little dissent, Morris H. Chapman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas, was re-elected president after urging the convention to "just say no" to those who don't believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

"For those of us who believe the Bible is the . . . inerrant word of God, the issue in our convention is settled. For those among us who do not believe it, the issue will never be settled," Chapman, 50, said in his presidential address.

With the victory, fundamentalists _ who have derived their strength from opposing an entrenched bureaucracy _ assumed the mantle of the establishment within the 15 million-member denomination.

For 12 years they have defeated moderate presidential candidates. Their only unopposed candidacy was that of the Rev. James Draper in 1983.

Fundamentalists at the three-day gathering showed little room for compromise.

Delegates cut off funding for the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, an inter-Baptist lobbying group on church-state issues. Fundamentalists had long criticized the group for stands opposing school prayer and tuition tax credits for private schools.

Church leadership had proposed allocating $50,000 to the Washington-based lobbying group that is funded by a coalition of Baptist denominations. But it offered no defense of the budget after the motion to delete the funding was presented.

In his address, Chapman spoke often against compromising with convention moderates, thousands of whom established their own group _ the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship _ last month in Atlanta.

"May God give Southern Baptists the fearless faith to just say no when anyone tries to compromise our conviction about the word of God," Chapman said.

Walter Shurden, a historian from Mercer University in Macon, said he doubts there is much the fundamentalists can do to bring some moderates back into the fold.

"It's the nature of fundamentalism that it's not going to negotiate," Shurden said.

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