At one time, the Rev. Jimmy Allen was a major figure in Southern Baptist circles.
In 2004, when I did a package on the 25th anniversary of that denomination’s conservative takeover — or “take back,” depending on one’s perspective — I interviewed Allen.
In fact, my main story on that anniversary opened with Allen:
HOUSTON — Back in 1979, the Rev. Jimmy Allen thought the highlight of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting would be a giant rally at the Astrodome featuring the Rev. Billy Graham.
Instead, Allen and other moderate leaders in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination were caught by surprise as conservatives who had attacked the denomination’s seminaries as “hotbeds of liberalism” flocked to the meeting.
There, they succeeded in electing a denominational president, the Rev. Adrian Rogers of Tennessee, who shared their view of biblical inerrancy – meaning that the Bible is without error in any way, including historical details.
Some thought the vote was just a momentary change in direction, but Rogers’ election turned out be a watershed moment for the denomination.
Last week, Allen died at age 91 — and the world of Baptist media took notice.
The mainstream press? Not so much. More on that in a moment.
This was the lede from Bob Allen of Baptist News Global:
Jimmy R. Allen, the last moderate president of the Southern Baptist Convention and executive director emeritus of the New Baptist Covenant, died early Jan. 8 at Southeast Georgia Health System in Brunswick, Georgia.
His pastor, Tony Lankford of First Baptist Church of St. Simons Island, said the 91-year-old had been in failing health. …
Named in 1999 one of the most influential Baptists of the 20th century, Allen served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1978 and 1979, the two years before conservatives took over control of the nation’s largest Protestant body in a move they called the “conservative resurgence.”
In 1990 he presided over the Consultation of Concerned Baptists in Atlanta, forerunner to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. In 2008 he agreed to become program chair and coordinator for the New Baptist Covenant, a pan-Baptist gathering promoting racial unity spearheaded by former President Jimmy Carter.
In 1995 Allen wrote the book Burden of a Secret, a personal account of his family’s battle with AIDS.
David Roach of the SBC’s official Baptist Press wrote this: