- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2005

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Rev. Adrian Rogers, pastor of the city’s Bellevue Baptist Church for 32 years and three times president of the Southern Baptist Convention, died yesterday in Memphis. He was 74.

Mr. Rogers led the conservative resurgence among Southern Baptists.

“He is home with Jesus with a full ‘Hallelujah!’” the Rev. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, told the Baptist Press. “While we rejoice for him, he leaves a vacancy in my heart more massive than the sweep of the Grand Canyon.”

“If there were a Mount Rushmore for Southern Baptists, Dr. Rogers would certainly be on it. Adrian Rogers was perhaps the last-half-century’s premier example of an expository preacher who used his gifts to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Mr. Rogers was hospitalized earlier this month with pneumonia and cancer, according to his ministry’s Web site.

He was elected president in 1979 as part of the conservative move to take back the now-16.3 million-member convention, the nation’s second-largest Christian denomination, from theological liberal tendencies. As president, Mr. Rogers appointed other conservatives to committees that set policy and priorities for the faith.

His election was a watershed moment for the group. Like other evangelical denominations, the Southern Baptists moved to the right in the United States’ cultural and religious conflicts in reaction to growing secularism, particularly on matters such as abortion, homosexuality and the ordination of women.

Mr. Rogers told the Florida Baptist Witness newspaper last month that “the part that God allowed me to have in the turning of the SBC may have the longest-lasting effect and be the most significant actions of my life.”

“The conservative resurgence is part of church history. We think of the ancient councils of the church in decisions and so forth, but this thing is not small. It is big.”

Earlier this year, the convention ended an eight-year boycott of the Walt Disney Co. for violating “moral righteousness and traditional family values.” In 2004, the SBC withdrew from the Baptist World Alliance, saying it has become too liberal and that it advocates “aberrant and dangerous theologies.”

“There’s no one in this country I respect more than Adrian Rogers,” Focus on the Family’s James Dobson said. “You draw me to Christ. When I’m with you, I feel closer to the Lord.”

Mr. Rogers was elected president of the SBC in 1979, 1986 and 1987. He retired as pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, whose 28,000 members make it one of the denomination’s largest congregations, eight months ago.

Mr. Rogers had conducted religious crusades in Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, Russia, Romania and Central and South America. In 2003, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the National Religious Broadcasters. At the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting this year, Mr. Rogers was honored with a resolution by the convention’s executive committee noting that he had been called the “Prince of Preachers” and the “pre-eminent pulpiteer” of Southern Baptists.

He is survived by his wife, Joyce, four children and nine grandchildren.

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