Southwide Baptist Fellowship
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The organizational structure of government and by-laws within the Southwide Baptist Fellowship are not available for public viewing, but the organization includes a moderator and one of its main purposes is to convene regularly for conferences.
Considered a conservative and "Fundamentalist" association of Baptist churches, the Southwide Baptist Fellowship is not as staunchly devoted as other Baptist Fundamentalist Fellowships to the concept of absolute autonomy (local church independence) or the essential requirement of the King James Version (KJV). Certainly, most member churches of the Southwide Baptist Fellowship are Independent Baptist and remain "KJV-only".
When it originated, the Southwide Baptist Fellowship was almost identical in teaching and outlook as the core of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism. It was heavily influenced by Lee Roberson and John R. Rice. Its hallmark code of behaviors (short hair on men, dresses on women, no mixed bathing, no movies, no contemporary music) and its theology of Dispensationalism were standard for Baptist Fundamentalism. Many of its members were openly antagonistic towards the Southern Baptist Convention and were outposken critics of SBC policies which, two decades ago, permitted a certain degree of liberal theology.
Over time, particularly since the 1990s, the Southwide Baptist Fellowship has loosened some of its more strict requirements of dress and behavior. One reason for current change is that Baptist Fundamentalism itself has been rocked by scandals of the most scarlet nature: adultery from some of its top leaders, child molesting in its churches, reports of domestic abuse, other scandals, and a series of alarmist "fads" (hysteria over alleged demonic reversed lyrics in some modern music, an over saturation of fear regarding the Y2K threat) that have diminished the credibility of Baptist Fundamentalism. Furthermore, the "Young Fundamentalist" movement has raised questions and criticisms about shallow theology, glib assurances of salvation without repentance, and too much emphasis on mere externals.
The Southwide Baptist Fellowship has become cautiously open with some Southern Baptist churches, and it has reined in its censure of churches that use contemporary music. Prominent Independent Fundamental Baptist David Cloud has openly criticized Southwide Baptist Fellowship for its new leniency regarding external "standards" (hair length, dress code, movie attendance, music choices, etc.) and lack of ecclesiastical separation, and he has rebuked the Southwide Baptist Fellowship for shallow theology.
Others have rightly assessed that the Southwide Baptist Fellowship is in flux, forced by change to modify itself but lacking a sufficiently theological constitution to map out its path of change. Currently, it remains a loose federation of Baptist churches that stand for conservatism, both religious and political, including political action, and overall it remains Dispensational in theology. It embraces but does not require strict Independence. While some bemoan its lack of "standards," others recognize that it has failed to live up to the moral necessity of policing itself, enforcing Biblical rules of demanding purity in pulpits, and it has allowed scandals to occur without investigation or rebuke.
- Baptist History Celebration.com
- The Changing Direction of Southwide Baptist Fellowship by David Cloud
- The Baptist Bible Trumpet