News Articles

Arkansas Baptists celebrate 150 years, approve resolution to pray for Clinton

ARKADELPHIA, Ark. (BP)–Arkansas Baptists celebrated their 150th anniversary as a state convention, agreed to pray for President Clinton and adopted a detailed trustee selection process during their 1998 state convention annual meeting. The meeting was held Nov. 3-4 on the campus of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia.
During a Tuesday evening celebration, participants highlighted the convention’s sesquicentennial with a special service that included a 300-voice combined choir, banners, drama and a message by ABSC executive director Emil Turner, who challenged listeners to “reopen” spiritual wells of missions, evangelism and cooperation dug 150 years ago by convention founders.
Inviting Arkansas Baptists to join in “Reflecting, Rejoicing and Renewing,” the two-hour anniversary featured a dramatic and historical recap of the convention’s highlights and storms, personalities and leaders, hopes of the past and dreams for the future.
The resolution about Clinton called on Arkansas Baptists to pray for the president as he “faces the challenge of rebuilding his character” in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. The resolution, titled “Commitment to Prayer,” was one of six adopted by convention messengers.
Resolutions Committee chairman Mike Seabaugh presented the resolution, which was adopted by voice vote with slight opposition. It encouraged Arkansas Baptists to “commit to pray, asking God to bring redemption, healing and righteousness for the President, the Congress and the nation.” It also noted Clinton, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, has “expressed repentance for his actions, sadness for the consequences of his sin on his family, friends and church family, and asked forgiveness.”
The resolution stated while “any sin is serious and offensive to Holy God … the transgression of a leader is unique because of its influence upon others.”
In addition to prayer for Clinton, it called for prayer for members of Congress as they “confront the Constitutional task of determining the legal consequences of the President’s actions.”
Messengers also adopted resolutions affirming the historic Baptist doctrines of local church autonomy and the priesthood of the believer while rejecting a resolution “on cherished Baptist doctrines” submitted from the floor during the convention’s final business session.
Seabaugh, pastor of First Baptist Church, Camden, said the resolutions on prayer, autonomy and priesthood of the believer were formed from resolutions submitted about the Clinton scandal. He noted “with the exception of three resolutions, the balance dealt with Clinton in some facet and the issues deriving out of that.”
The resolution affirming local church autonomy, which passed on a voice vote, resolved to “strongly affirm the principle of local church autonomy and call upon Arkansas Baptists to uphold this important Baptist distinctive.”
The resolution on “Soul Competency and the Priesthood of the Believers” passed on a show of ballots. It stated “the doctrines of the competency of the soul under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the priesthood of believers are distinctive and foundational convictions of Baptists.” Following an amendment to change the word “diversity” to “unity”, it called on Arkansas Baptists to “affirm these doctrines and celebrate our unity under the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Christ.”
A resolution on evangelism called for Arkansas Baptists to “pray for lost people to be saved, examine their efforts to touch their community with the gospel, determine how they may become more effective in presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ, and labor diligently to reach more people for Christ in the coming year than in any previous year in our history.”
Following the committee’s report, Leroy Wagner, pastor of Pearcy Baptist Church, submitted a resolution from the floor on “Cherished Baptist Doctrines.” Wagner’s resolution, which earlier had been considered by the Resolutions Committee, was seen by some as a no-confidence referendum on the prayer, church autonomy and soul competency resolutions.
The proposal, which failed on a raised-ballot vote, noted while “we cherish the autonomy of the local church; we also cherish the God-given mandate for lay persons and leaders alike to ‘speak the truth in love;'” that “local church autonomy, in reality, can only be violated when it is externally controlled to act or think contrary to its self-governance, not merely by a person expressing their opinion”; and while “the authority for church discipline resides totally within the local church; this in no way precludes those outside the church from addressing scriptural matters in a prophetic voice.”
The resolution’s wording appeared to defend the call from many Southern Baptist leaders, including Southern Baptist Convention president Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, that Clinton resign and Immanuel Church exercise church discipline against the president.
Wagner’s resolution drew a stern response from Seabaugh. Noting “church discipline is only a part of the process of … bringing sinners to repentance,” Seabaugh added, “It is not to embarrass or bring to the knees other people. It is to bring about forgiveness and repentance of those seeking the Lord.”
In other business, messengers re-elected Greg Kirksey to a second one-year term as state convention president. He is director of Covenant Connections at Alexander Youth Services Center.
In a sharp break with longstanding Arkansas Baptist tradition, however, Kirksey was challenged in his presidential re-election by outgoing Pastors’ Conference Barry King, pastor of Tumbling Shoals Church, Heber Springs. In a ballot vote, Kirksey was re-elected by a vote of 569 to 149, gaining 79 percent of the votes cast.
In other elections, Bill Bowen, pastor of First Baptist Church, Mena, was elected first vice president and Tim Reddin, director of missions for Central Baptist Association, was elected second vice president. Bowen was elected by a vote of 440-330 over Wallace Edgar, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Texarkana. Reddin was elected by acclamation.
Following two years of ups and downs, messengers adopted a trustee selection process to guide the work of the state convention Nominating Committee.
The process calls for nominations to be secured from Arkansas Baptists at-large followed by the Nominating Committee meeting “with a subcommittee of no more than five persons from the board of each Arkansas Baptist State Convention entity” to “compile a list of potential nominees equal to two times the number of vacancies to be filled.”
It also specifies “after sufficient discussion and thoughtful consideration of the recommendations, concerns and needs of each board, the convention Nominating Committee selects nominees from the lists” compiled by the two groups.
The committee will then present its recommendations to convention messengers, with the understanding that messengers “can substitute nominations from the floor.” Further steps give the committee the responsibility of temporarily filling vacancies on boards until the next convention annual meeting.
Concern over trustee selection guidelines surfaced in 1996 when that year’s Nominating Committee declined to accept any of the trustee recommendations suggested by Ouachita Baptist University officials. Ouachita’s trustee board countered by voting to revert to the school’s original charter which provides for the trustee board to be self-perpetuating. The ABSC executive board’s executive committee, in turn, voted to escrow Ouachita’s Cooperative Program funds until the issue could be resolved.
The executive committee established a reconciliation committee which met with Ouachita officials to hammer out a reconciliation agreement. Messengers to the 1996 convention approved the plan by a vote of 801-456. An effort to incorporate the plan into the convention’s governing documents the following year narrowly failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed to enact charter and bylaw changes.
In response, the convention’s Structure Study Committee, which already was studying the trustee selection process prior to the October 1996 actions, proposed a set of trustee selection guidelines which did not require changes to the ABSC charter and bylaws.
In other convention business, a proposed amendment to the ABSC Articles of Incorporation failed to gain a two-thirds majority needed for implementation. The proposal sought to delete a clause which states The Baptist Faith and Message shall not be interpreted to permit alien immersion or open communion.
Don Nall, pastor of First Baptist Church, Batesville, submitted the proposed amendment. Noting he respects “the right of every Baptist Christian and every Baptist church,” Nall added, “My problem is where it says, ‘shall not be interpreted.’ The very cherished principle that Baptist Christians have had … is the principle of priesthood of the believer and autonomy of the church and here we have our state telling us how to interpret or not to interpret The Baptist Faith and Message.”
Following debate on the issue, messengers voted 433-232 to approve the proposal, failing by 10 votes to receive the two-thirds needed for adoption.
Messengers also approved a 1999 Cooperative Program budget of $17.68 million, a three-year missions partnership with the Bulgarian Baptist Union and a series of “Touch the Community” ministry projects.
The 1999 CP budget of $17,682,975, which remains the same at this year’s budget, includes 41.77 for Southern Baptist Convention causes, 30.2 percent for executive board programs and 28.03 percent for Arkansas Baptist entities and related ministries.
Next year’s convention will be held Nov. 9-10 at First Baptist Church, Springdale.

    About the Author

  • Trennis Henderson & Russell N. Dilday