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Confusion reigns over Arkansas vote; 2000 BF&M fails to garner 2/3 majority

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–Messengers to the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) fell 102 votes short of making the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement the doctrinal guideline for Arkansas Baptists.

As a result, the 1963 BF&M statement will continue to be the doctrinal guideline — at least for another two years because constitutional changes require the approval of two consecutive conventions.

By a slim margin, the convention also adopted a resolution supporting the Cooperative Program and denouncing the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The resolution called on Arkansas Baptists to “resist” the CBF “that distracts Arkansas Baptists from our joint commitment to the Cooperative Program.”

The Baptist Faith and Message vote was on a proposal from the ABSC’s Charter and Bylaws Committee, which recommended changing Article II, Section 2 of the convention’s Articles of Incorporation to reflect the 2000 BF&M revisions rather than the 1963 date.

Confusion over parliamentary procedure left a cloud of doubt over whether messengers clearly understood what they were voting on. Nevertheless, because a change to the ABSC Articles of Incorporation requires a two-thirds majority, the proposal failed despite the fact that 53 percent of messengers voted for the change while 47 percent (362) voted against it. The 416 votes for the committee’s proposal, fell short of the 518 needed for a two-thirds majority.

Sam Roberts, chairman of the Arkansas Baptist Charter and Bylaws Committee, presented the committee’s proposal.

“During the spring meeting of the ABSC Executive Board, a recommendation was made to the Charter and Bylaws Committee to prepare a proposed change to the Articles of Incorporation that would reflect the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement,” said Roberts, pastor of First Baptist Church of Walnut Ridge.

He said the six-member committee discussed the matter thoroughly and reached a consensus to recommend the 2000 BF&M be used. However, the committee also added the phrase, “Affirming the autonomy of the local church and the priesthood of the believer,” before Article II, Section 2.

“We understand and recognize that there are substantive changes between the 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statements,” Roberts told messengers. “The Articles of Incorporation of the ABSC provides protections and safeguards that prevent any statement of faith from becoming an official creed carrying a mandatory authority.

“Our committee is dedicated first of all to promoting the unity and cooperation of Arkansas Baptists,” Roberts added. “We request that you lay aside the politics that has characterized Southern Baptists for far too long and support this amendment to show Baptists in other states and around this world that Arkansas Baptists display a spirit of trust, unity and cooperation and that in affirming the autonomy of the local church and the priesthood of the believer, we will not allow our statement of faith to become an official creed carrying mandatory authority. … We will focus our combined energies on something that is of greater eternal significance, namely the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to every Arkansan and all peoples of the earth.”

Maurice Clark, a messenger from First Baptist Church of Centerton, offered an amendment to delete the words “affirming the autonomy of the local church and the priesthood of the believer.” His amendment failed.

Randy Hyde, pastor of Pulaski Heights Baptist Church, Little Rock, spoke against the committee’s proposal. “Despite the words of the chairman of the committee,” Hyde said. “I fear the statement will become creedal in the life not only of the SBC at large but also Arkansas Baptists. James Merritt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention has already stated publicly he will not allow anyone to serve on a committee or agency board that does not adhere to the 2000 BF&M. The seminary presidents have already stated publicly they will not hire anyone who does not adhere to this. The issue is that the 2000 statement is creedal in itself. We do not need to visit this upon Arkansas Baptists.”

Defending the committee’s proposal, Roberts responded, “We must be careful to separate what SBC leadership may do and what Arkansas Baptists will do and can do with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. It requires no more or no less of the Arkansas Baptist agencies and institutions than what they are already doing. … The spirit in which this proposal is presented would be violated if indeed at any time in the future any attempt is made to use the BFM 2000 as a litmus test to determine who can be hired at state convention agencies and institutions or who might serve in state convention positions.”

Glenn Hickey, retired former associational missionary for the Pulaski Baptist Association, also spoke against the change. “Anything that threatens local church autonomy is not truly Baptist. A preamble does not repair a faulty document. Anything that fails to honor the Lordship of Jesus Christ over churches and over Scripture is not truly Baptist. … If Christ is not the criterion (for interpreting Scripture), who is? Would it be your pastor? Catholics have a pope. Do you want your pastor to start being infallible and interpret Scripture for you?”

After the question was called for, parliamentarian Tommy Hinson noted that a call for the question requires a two-thirds majority vote. The vote on the question was done by the raising of ballots. That’s when parliamentary confusion occurred. The chair ruled that the call for the question had passed, but that point was not made clear to messengers.

Then messengers voted by ballot on the committee’s proposal, even though some may have thought it was a balloting on the call for the question. Nevertheless, the proposal failed.

The ABSC also re-elected Ben Rowell, pastor of First Baptist Church, Rogers, president. Mike Seabaugh, pastor of First Baptist Church, Camden, was elected first vice president and Rudy Davis, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Helena, was elected second vice president.

The convention approved an $18.6 million Cooperative Program budget with 41.77 percent designated for SBC causes.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: VOTE.

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  • Charlie Warren