Evangelist Billy Graham said battling Southern Baptists need to quit fighting and get down to the serious business of loving one another.
Graham, 69, refused Tuesday to take sides when he spoke at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where fundamentalist and moderate combatants have bickered for a year over whether the Bible is the unerring word of God or subject to interpretation."I don't get into Southern Baptist problems," he said. "I'm not getting into all the fighting. We can agree on one thing - and that is love."
Graham spoke at the inauguration of his longtime friend Lewis Drummond, 61, as president of Southeastern. Drummond was previously a scholar at the Billy Graham Center at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Drummond, a fundamentalist, was named to the job after its former president, the Rev. Randall Lolly, resigned in a dispute with the school's fundamentalist trustees. Lolley is a moderate.
About 50 students and faculty members, wearing black garments and yellow ribbons, protested Graham's appearance, accusing him of siding with fundamentalists.
Graham steered clear of choosing sides, saying the Southern Baptist Convention could resolve its differences with "prayer and love and faithfulness to the truth.
"The primary thing for us as a church is evangelism," said Graham.
"You have a man (Drummond) who knows how to teach it and set an example as president. He has a tremendous vision to train teachers, pastors, missionaries. Southeastern could become a beacon of light not only to the Southern Baptist Convention, but to all the world."
Seminary trustees voted Monday to accept outside help in resolving the conflict some say threatens the school's accreditation. Over the past year, enrollment has dropped about 20 percent, from 1,046 to 837.
Despite assurances from Drummond that the school will not lose accreditation, the trustees voted to accept mediation from the Association of Theological Schools, which in August called Southeastern "a very troubled, divided institution."