Thanks to Jan Nunley who pointed me to a piece she wrote almost a decade ago as a commentary on the tactics within the SBC as it was moved rightward to a much more conservative stance during the 70’s and 80’s.
What I personally find very interesting is the critique of the way the moderates failed in their response:
Leonard also details why the Southern Baptist moderates lost. First, he says, “the so-called moderate coalition was virtually no coalition at all. Its members lacked consensus and direction, particularly in the first five
Second, most moderates “misread the times and the future. Many promoted the old methods for dealing with denominational controversy: let the controversy run its course. Do not confront or antagonize the opposition publicly. Bring opponents into the denominational bureaucracy and there they would be pacified and ultimately give up their ideological quest.” Leonard warns that in this way, moderates lost valuable time in confronting both the methods and the ideology of fundamentalists.
Third, many moderates tried to avoid the theological and concentrate on the political issues. They never formulated a theological response to the fundamentalists, which kept them on the theological defensive and effectively ceded the “high ground” to fundamentalism, while the moderates appeared to lack convictions.
Fourth, moderates “often promoted the programmatic and corporate identity of the denomination, thereby contributing to the impersonal, bureaucratic image that the fundamentalists exploited” with their populist rhetoric.
Fifth, “a significant number of people sympathetic to the moderate cause refused to get involved. . . Some did not agree with the fundamentalist political agenda but were reluctant to oppose it lest they be branded as liberal. Many believed that the convention would self-correct before the fundamentalists went too far.” By that time, of course, it was far too late. Perhaps Leonard’s most damning characterization of Southern Baptist moderates is that they were “in a sense the Democratic party of the Southern Baptist Convention. They were a coalition of diverse subgroups unable to agree on a common vision for the denomination or evoke the focused ideological intensity that characterized the fundamentalist camp.”