Charles Fuller, the Virginia pastor chosen to lead the failed Peace Committee established to reconcile clashing factions in the Southern Baptist Convention in the mid-1980s, died July 28 at age 86.
Fuller, pastor of First Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia, for 40 years before retiring in 1999, had chaired the now-defunct SBC Radio and Television Commission before his appointment in 1985 as chair of a 22-member panel to determine the sources of controversy dividing the nation’s largest Protestant denomination and recommend ways to resolve it.
Two years later a divided committee found that most Southern Baptists believed in a literal Adam and Eve, the miracles described in scripture really happened and that historical narratives written in the Bible are accurate and reliable accounts.
While recognizing that some Southern Baptists believed differently, the group recommended that in the future SBC institutions “build their professional staffs and faculties from those who clearly reflect such dominant convictions and beliefs held by Southern Baptists at large.”
The Peace Committee report pledged to continued cooperation with Southern Baptists holding the minority view, but four years later about 1,800 churches left to form the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a quasi-denomination affirming values including academic freedom, diversity of thought and autonomy of the local church.
Fuller was well-known in Roanoke for delivering sermons on television and radio stations. In 2004 he confessed to an adulterous affair that occurred during his pastorate, which reportedly took place more than a decade earlier with a member of the congregation.