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Evangelist breaks with Southern Baptist Convention

March
13
1956

On this day in 1956, evangelist and humanitarian Lester Roloff broke with the Southern Baptist Convention by delivering a sermon at Baylor University against denominationalism. Roloff, a Texas native, determined to preach at age eighteen. To pay for his room and board at Baylor University, he took his Jersey cow, Marie, with him and sold milk. After pastoring several different churches, he accepted the pastorate of Park Avenue (later Second) Baptist Church in Corpus Christi in the mid-1940s, which was henceforth his home base. There he organized the Baptist Ministerial Alliance, of which he was first president, and in 1944 launched his "Family Altar" radio program. Almost from the time he began preaching, Roloff was in demand as a revival speaker, and in 1951 he resigned his pastorate and became a full-time evangelist. Whether from the pulpit or over the airwaves, Roloff preached a scripturally based, no-nonsense Gospel message that reflected his conservative background and fundamentalist approach. His tenacious refusal to compromise his personal convictions resulted in a gradual break with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention, finalized by his 1956 sermon. Under his leadership his ministry founded a number of humanitarian programs. Controversial to the end, Roloff engaged in a series of court battles with the Texas Department of Human Services in the 1970s over the licensing of his youth-rescue projects. He died in 1982.

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