OKC church ends affiliation with Southern Baptist Convention

Tuesday, September 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma City's First Baptist Church has voted to end its 87-year affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Pastor Jeff Zurheide said the congregation, which voted 300-69 Sunday to cut the affiliation, was dissatisfied by actions of the convention, including restricting the office of pastor to men only and requiring wives to ``submit graciously'' to their husbands.

``We regret that the Southern Baptist Convention, under its present leadership is trying to impose dogma on separate and independent Baptist churches,'' he said. ``What's more, it's dogma we don't agree with.''

In 1983, First Baptist Church became one of the state's first Southern Baptist congregations to ordain women as deacons.

The church is the original Baptist congregation in Oklahoma City, founded in 1889, and remains a member of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

Sunday's decision drew anger and criticism from some First Baptist Church members.

``We really have been battling this for a long time,'' said Yvonne York, who joined the church in 1954 and voted with the minority Sunday.

``They went out to the highways and byways and pulled people who hadn't been there in 25 to 35 years to vote to disband from Southern Baptists. We're going to lose an awful lot when we do that.''

The Rev. Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said he was saddened by the decision.

``The strength of Southern Baptists has always been our cooperative support of missions,'' he said. ``It's difficult to understand why some would walk away from the support of over 10,000 missionaries serving in America and the world.''

First Baptist is expected to align itself with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a national group formed in response to what its leaders considered a ``fundamentalist takeover'' of the Southern Baptist denomination.

Zurheide has supported the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, but said his church ``will not be aligned with any denomination or national group for a good while'' as it studies its options.

Earlier this year, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, forced two professors to resign because they refused to sign the Southern Baptist Convention doctrinal statement.

Former President Jimmy Carter also cut his ties to the denomination because of what he called the ``increasingly rigid'' creed of the nation's largest Protestant denomination.