Baptists, Mormons Share Some Views

.c The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The Southern Baptists chose Salt Lake City for their convention partially because of the opportunity to evangelize the Mormons, whom they consider not to be Christians.

But when it comes to telling women they should ``submit graciously'' to their husbands, the Baptists are preaching to the converted.

The Baptists, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, and the Mormons share many of the same views, including the notion behind the Baptist proclamation this week that ``a wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.''

In 1995, the Mormon church said fathers should ``preside over their families in love and righteousness.''

Whatever the similarities, the statement grabbed the nation's attention. The new article added to the Baptist Faith and Message was the first change in the statement of beliefs by the nearly 16 million-member church in 35 years. It was one of the more controversial church guidelines in recent memory; two of the nation's more prominent Baptists - President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore - said they didn't exactly agree with the statement.

The annual meeting ends today.

The Baptists' new article also defines marriage exclusively in heterosexual terms, and that's how Mormons view it, too.

In fact, one of the hottest recent political feuds in Utah has been between Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt and Democratic Attorney General Jan Graham, both Mormons, over which tactics to use in battling same-sex marriage.

The Mormon church considers homosexual acts to be grounds for excommunication, but the church has not joined the year-old Southern Baptist boycott of Disney.

The Southern Baptists are protesting Disney's practice of extending health insurance to same-sex partners of employees and of having ``Gay Days'' at its amusement parks.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptists, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Wednesday that the boycott should go on because it is hurting the Magic Kingdom. He mentioned the recent cancellation of ABC's ``Ellen,'' which featured television's first leading homosexual character. Disney owns ABC.

``This boycott has traction. This boycott has legs. It is bothering Disney,'' he said, without offering specifics.

Disney spokesman John Dreyer said the boycott isn't bothering the company's bottom line. He said Disney's revenue, earnings and amusement park attendance were records last year.

Maxine Hanks, a feminist author and excommunicated Mormon, said the new Baptist article on marriage shows conservative religions are moving closer together on moral and social issues, though they still differ drastically on theological matters.

``This notion of women being submissive to male authority is terribly out of balance and it prevents these churches from evolving into the enlightened Christian ideal they claim,'' she said.

The Southern Baptists and Mormons are going the opposite direction from most other denominations, which have taken a more egalitarian stand on the relationship between husband and wife.

Frank Ruff, a Roman Catholic priest who is the liaison to the Southern Baptists from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the new article will only hurt the Baptists' evangelizing. He said the word ``submit'' has come to mean oppressive domination.

In 1993, the bishops' conference issued a pastoral letter that acknowledges differing marital roles but says ``mutual submission, not dominance by either partner, is the key to genuine joy.''

The Episcopal Church holds that ``the equality of the woman and man is assumed,'' while the United Methodists' Book of Discipline explicitly rejects the Southern Baptist notion.

The Assemblies of God teach that while a wife should submit to her husband, ``It is only after each spouse submits to one another from a heart of love that the head/submission relationship will work.''

Mary Mohler, a homemaker from Louisville, Ky., and a member of the committee that wrote the new article, said the word ``submit'' may be politically incorrect and unpopular.

``But it is a biblically correct word and that's what counts,'' she said. ``I submit to the leadership of my husband in our home, not because it is a command from Al Mohler, but because it is a command from almighty God to me as a Christian woman.''

AP-NY-06-11-98 0428EDT


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