The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, is in Baltimore this week for its annual meeting. Among the issues that will or are likely to come up:


Two years after electing its first African-American president, the 15.7-million-member group will chose its next leader from a slate of candidates that includes the Korean-American pastor of Maryland's largest Southern Baptist church and the white pastor of an Arkansas megachurch. Though supporters of both downplay the significance that race will play in the vote, a win for the Rev. Dennis Kim of Silver Spring, Maryland, could send a powerful message about the denomination's commitment to diversity, which some members consider key to expanding their appeal and reversing a trend of declining membership.


The SBC's confession of faith states that homosexuality is immoral, but a Southern California SBC church recently decided to stop condemning homosexuality as sinful and instead become a "third way" church, agreeing to disagree on the issue.

The Rev. Albert Mohler, the influential president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, responded last week with a blog post titled "There Is No 'Third Way,'" in which he argued that the New Heart Community Church should be excluded from membership in the convention.


Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, recently accepted a Muslim student into a Ph. D. program in archaeology, causing a stir among some members who say it goes against the seminary's admission policy. Southwestern President Paige Patterson said in a statement that his intention in accepting the young man was a desire to see him "understand the good news of Jesus Christ."