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Calif. messengers again vote down proposed board to oversee newspaper

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (BP)–A move to establish a separate board to oversee operation of the California Southern Baptist newspaper has failed for the second time in as many years.

Messengers attending the California Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Riverside voted overwhelmingly Nov. 15 not to create a “state paper board.” That means oversight of California Southern Baptists’ official newspaper remains with the CSBC executive board, as it has since 1942.

Despite its repeat defeat, however, the issue is not settled. Charlie Leffingwell, who authored the motion that was voted down in two successive convention meetings, later offered an amended version of his proposal. As a result, the convention will once again weigh the matter at the 2001 CSBC meeting in Bakersfield.

Leffingwell is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in San Lorenzo. He launched his persistent bid to establish a separate board for the California Southern Baptist during the 1998 CSBC annual meeting in Oxnard. That initial attempt was defeated in a show-of-hands vote by messengers at the 1999 CSBC gathering in Sacramento.

Leffingwell then pushed to have the issue considered again this year in Riverside by reintroducing his proposed constitutional amendment.

“I believe the paper is the main communication link between our churches, the state staff and executive board, and our denomination,” Leffingwell declared Nov. 15 as the convention once again pondered his proposal. “I believe we need to preserve the existence and integrity of the paper.”

Turning over responsibility for the denomination’s flagship publication to a board of nine persons, one from each region of the state, would ensure greater editorial freedom for the paper, Leffingwell asserted. Further, he said, a separate board “would help to increase subscriptions” and involve “more people to find a better way to enhance the ministry of the paper.”

In an effort to gain support for a new board at this year’s meeting, Leffingwell sought to modify his original motion. He offered an amendment that, among other changes, would have removed a provision requiring election of the paper’s editor by the convention in annual session.

“It was not my intent, never has been, to have an annual call,” Leffingwell explained.

E.W. McCall, pastor of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in La Puente, argued against Leffingwell’s motion. McCall termed the proposal “problematic” and said it would “bring another level of bureaucracy” to the convention.

After the 10 minutes originally allotted for considering the motion ran out, time for discussion was extended five minutes. Don Brackbill, CSBC first vice president and presiding officer during the session, then called for a vote on Leffingwell’s amendment to his motion. Messengers defeated the amendment by a show of hands, Brackbill ruled.

With the original motion up for discussion, Walter Price, pastor of Fellowship in the Pass in Beaumont, echoed McCall’s opposition. “I agree with my brother that we don’t need additional bureaucracy,” Price stated. He said the executive board provides adequate oversight for the California Southern Baptist and added, “We do not need the added cost of meetings for a new board.”

Mark Chamberlin, pastor of Hillview Baptist Church in Union City, then asked that Mark Wyatt, editor of the paper since 1991, be allowed to comment on the proposal. After first verifying that the editor was a duly elected messenger, convention parliamentarians ruled Wyatt was eligible to address the meeting.

Wyatt expressed appreciation to Leffingwell for raising awareness and interest in “the ministry of information that we provide through the California Southern Baptist.” But the failed amendment left the proposal with “serious, perhaps even fatal flaws,” Wyatt continued.

“I can’t speak for anyone else [but] I’m not sure I’d be willing to stand for an annual call of that type on the convention floor,” the editor explained. Nevertheless, Wyatt urged, “Let the discussion continue, let the vote be made, and then let’s go back to our churches and get them to subscribe to the paper to help us to tell the story of what God is doing in California.”

As time expired again, Brackbill, pastor of Eleventh Street Baptist Church in Upland, called for messengers to vote by raising their ballots. Brackbill ruled the motion failed by an overwhelming majority.

Afterwards, Leffingwell expressed hope that messengers will consider his revised motion more favorably next year.
Based on reporting by Cynthia Wright.

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