Southern Baptist Convention Leader Rogers Dies

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The Rev. Adrian Rogers, a three-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention and leader of a conservative takeover of the denomination, the nation's second largest, died early Tuesday in Memphis. He was 74.

His death was announced by Baptist Press News and by Rogers' Love Worth Finding ministry.

Officials of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee planned to issue a statement later Tuesday, a spokesman said.

Rogers was hospitalized earlier this month with pneumonia and cancer, his ministry's Web site said.

Rogers was elected president in 1979 as part of the conservative takeover of the 16.3 million-member convention, second in size to the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.

His election turned out to be a watershed moment for the denomination, and the group shifted dramatically to the right politically and theologically.

The conservative movement had focused on taking over the denomination's key positions. As president, Rogers was able to appoint other conservatives to committees that set policy and priorities for the faith.

In the years that followed, conservative leaders pushed hard against abortion rights, homosexuality and women pastors.

Earlier this year, the convention it 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."

Rogers also was elected president of the SBC in 1986 and 1987.

He was pastor of the 28,000-member Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis for 32 years, retiring this past March.

"There's no one in this country I respect more than Adrian Rogers," Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson said on Rogers' last day as pastor. "You draw me to Christ. When I'm with you, I feel closer to the Lord."

Among those who attended Rogers' final sermon were Sen. Lamar Alexander (news, bio, voting record), R-Tenn., and Rep. Harold Ford (news, bio, voting record) Jr., D-Tenn.

During his career, Rogers conducted religious crusades in Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, Russia, Romania, and in Central and South America.

In 2003 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the National Religious Broadcasters.