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Baptist editors rebuff Texas mainstream leader

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A letter mailed to Tennessee and North Carolina Baptists from a consultant of the Mainstream Baptist Network has been rebuffed by editors of two state Baptist newspapers.

The letter, written by David Currie, contained criticisms about the Southern Baptist Convention and offered assistance in protecting the states from conservatives. Currie is executive director of Texas Baptists Committed and serves as a consultant to the national Mainstream Baptist Network, an organization at odds with the conservative resurgence of the SBC.

Lonnie Wilkey, editor of Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector, and Tony W. Cartledge, editor of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder, suggested that Currie stay out of their states’ affairs.

Wilkey wrote in his Feb. 13 editorial, “Mr. Currie — thanks, but no thanks.” Wilkey cited a recent letter mailed by Currie to about 1,800 Tennessee Baptists.

“In what could be described as an inflammatory letter, Currie offered his ‘help’ to Tennessee Baptists. Thanks Mr. Currie, but no thanks,” Wilkey responded. “Tennessee Baptists do have some problems and concerns that need to be addressed. But we need to do it within the Tennessee Baptist family — working together through prayer and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.”

Wilkey acknowledged factions within the Tennessee Baptist Convention, involving groups known as Mainstream Tennessee Baptists, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and Concerned Tennessee Baptists.

“My prayer is that one day all these factions would cease to exist and we would be just plain ole Tennessee Baptists period,” he wrote. “We can accomplish more for the Kingdom of God together than we can by fighting and bickering among ourselves.”

He concluded, “So again Mr. Currie, thanks, but no thanks to your offer for ‘help.’ We can take care of ourselves. To paraphrase a statement Texans love, ‘Don’t mess with Tennessee Baptists!'”

In his March 1 opinion piece, Cartledge observed that convention politics in North Carolina had been stoked by Currie’s letter mailed to 4,760 Baptists in the state.

“Many recipients — including a number of moderates — did not receive the letter kindly, nor did they feel a need for outside help,” Cartledge wrote.

“Currie’s letter insists that shared leadership is possible only if Mainstream Baptists are in charge,” he continued. “Over the past decade, however, N.C. Baptists have demonstrated both the desire and the ability to work in relative harmony without any single group exercising a monopoly in convention leadership. Accomplishing such a feat is a rare thing these days, but that is no reason to give up on cooperation and let issues of disagreement escalate into open conflict.”

Cartledge contended that SBC entities “continue to constrict the tent of fellowship and participation,” but praised North Carolina Baptists for supporting “genuine cooperation” that involves leadership from varied perspectives.

“I find glimmers of hope in the Baptist State Convention’s persistent determination to be an inclusive family pursuing God’s work, and in the Southern Baptist Convention’s new emphasis on following Jesus in kingdom living.”

Currie, in a telephone interview with Baptist Press, said he would not comment about the response from Cartledge and Wilkey.

“They are free Baptists and have a right to share their perspectives,” Currie said regarding the editorials. “I don’t agree with those perspectives.” “They live in those states,” he said. “They have certain pressures. So I just don’t want to comment on that. My letters were meant to be an encouragement. They were interpreted to be stronger than they were. I do think that each state convention faces a choice.”

Currie said he did not regret sending the letters, adding that it was part of his job.

“I am the consultant for the Mainstream Baptist Network,” Currie said. “Therefore, I am going to be involved in other states and encouraging them. You have to live in the real world.”

“We want to encourage the people in the states that this is serious business,” he said.

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