Vestal urges Missouri layman
to stop publishing loose allegations
___By Bob Allen
___Associated Baptist Press
___ATLANTA (ABP)--The head of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has written an open letter asking a Missouri layman to stop distributing materials that link the Atlanta-based group with pro-gay and other liberal views.
___The June letter by CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal, also asks Roger Moran, a businessman in Winfield, Mo., who was recently elected to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to "apologize publicly" for his actions and "seek reconciliation" with "Christian brothers and sisters."
___Moran says he started the Missouri Baptist Laymen's Association in 1991 to combat liberalism in the Missouri Baptist Convention. The group published a 16-page newsletter in April with a lead article titled "The CBF circle of friends: Religious voices advocate homosexuality."
___Similar materials produced by Moran have been widely distributed in Texas.
___The latest article details so-called links between CBF partner organizations and groups that support gay rights, abortion on demand and pornography. It also quotes CBF-friendly individuals, churches and organizations with pro-gay views and questions why the Fellowship has not taken a strong stance against homosexuality.
___After a series of private correspondence, Vestal issued a public letter denouncing Moran's "unwarranted attacks." The Fellowship also produced a video and a pamphlet featuring Vestal's response.
___Vestal said the Fellowship, like several other well-known Christian groups, does not make official pronouncements on homosexuality or other issues that are outside its stated mission.
___"The repeated insinuation and insult contained in your materials is that the real mission of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is to promote the gay-lesbian lifestyle, abortion on demand and even child pornography," Vestal wrote in his open letter to Moran. "You constantly suggest that CBF has ulterior motives and hidden agendas of all kinds, rather than the one we boldly declare in our mission statement."
___"These tactics are misguided, harmful and wrong," Vestal continued. "I appeal to you now, as I have done previously in private, to stop. I urge you to put an end to these attacks, to apologize publicly for the harm you have done and to seek reconciliation with these Christian brothers and sisters."
___Moran said he would retract the material if it were shown to be inaccurate. "If I have wronged somebody, if I have said something that's wrong factually, I have an obligation to make it right, but I would like a list of factual errors," he said in a telephone interview.
___But Moran said he believes his information is factual and in context. "You want an apology for what, beliefs that I hold very dearly?" he asked.
___Moran said he has never said the Fellowship has a pro-gay agenda, but he believes there are "fundamental differences" between moderate leaders of the CBF and conservatives who support the SBC. "My intention is to try to win those folks who are in the middle," he said.
___Moran's critics dismiss his methods as guilt by association. He said he believes, however, that CBF leaders have a pattern of "systematically" aligning themselves with the religious left and in opposition to conservative groups.
___"It's not guilt by association but guilt by whom you choose to align with and whom you choose to condemn," he said.
___Moran acknowledged his materials have been circulated in Texas and other states but said he didn't distribute them. "We have made our materials available to anybody that wants to use them," he said.
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