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Directors of missions face pressure to choose side in SBC controversy

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Pressure is building for associational directors of missions to choose sides in the rift between churches loyal to the theologically conservative Southern Baptist Convention and organizations supportive of the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The issue surfaced briefly at the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions’ 39th annual meeting June 11-12 at the Radisson Universal Hotel in Orlando, Fla.

“I was deluged with requests for a panel discussion addressing the controversy,” outgoing president Ed Copeland of the Metro-Columbus Baptist Association in Ohio said. “I had many DOMs — particularly the young ones — say they are being torn apart by pastors and laypeople in their associations who want them to take sides. They [DOMs] simply want to do ministry and not get involved in politics.”

With approximately 1,100 Southern Baptist associations, directors of missions serve diverse churches, some of which are dually aligned with the SBC and CBF.

After the request for a panel discussion, Copeland announced one would be held to address the issue during Monday morning’s session. It was set to replace a scheduled address by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church, Mission Viejo, Calif., who was forced to cancel because of health problems.

However, when the morning business session ran overtime, Copeland announced the discussion would be postponed until the 2001 meeting in New Orleans.

“My heart is broken over our convention,” Copeland said. “I want us to covenant to make our associations, state conventions and SBC bring honor and glory to Christ and stop this fussing and tearing each other apart. We’re all in this together, and we’re not going to shove this under the rug.”

An informal survey by Baptist Press of some of the 400 attendees indicated an overwhelming desire to focus on ministry and a reluctance to discuss politics.

“The key is for associational directors of missions to stress the urgent need to spread the gospel while developing a relationship with the pastors,” said Charles Lewis of the Mississippi County Baptist Association in northeast Arkansas. “That will reduce the possibility of conflict. My assignment is to help them grow their churches.”

Nodell Dennis of the Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association in Missouri said pastors will not discuss the controversy with him. “They are keeping it in their individual churches. It’s a concern, but we’re concentrating on evangelizing the Kansas City area and further developing our outreach mission.”

Incoming President Don Beall of the Puget Sound Baptist Association in Washington said he expects to deal with the issue over the next year but is determined to keep the DOMs focused on ministry.

“My heart’s desire is whatever it takes to build the kingdom of God,” he said. “For me it’s winning the lost and discipling the saved.”

Featured speakers for the for the meeting included Calvin Miller, professor of preaching, Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, Birmingham, Ala.; Wanda Lee, executive director of Woman’s Mission Union; John Maxwell, author and president of Injoy Ministries; and Henry Blackaby, author of the “Experiencing God” discipleship materials.

Miller encouraged the attendees not to underestimate the persuasive power of their personal testimonies.

Lee called DOMs the WMU’s “best friends” and exhorted them to stay focused on the mission field.

Maxwell told attendees that success adds value to oneself, but significance adds value to other people. He defined success as knowing one’s purpose in life, growing to maximum potential and “sowing seeds” to benefit others.

Blackaby encouraged DOMs to pray for the churches in their associations and teach their pastors the Scriptures.

“You must have the churches take the gospel to all the nations, not just to people in your association’s area. Each church should be a world mission strategy center and you are the ones to teach them,” Blackaby said.

In their business session, attendees unanimously voted to become a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

“This will save us money because we will not be charged sales tax,and all charitable contributions will become tax deductible,” said Charles Nunn, administrator/treasurer from Richmond, Va.

In other business, the organization:

— voted unanimously to appoint Nunn as the association’s liaison to all SBC agencies.

— unanimously approved a $23,750 budget based on projected income of $29,700 for the fiscal year beginning Jan. 1, 2001.

— elected officers recommended by the nominating committee. Beall is the organization’s new president, with Gary L. Hearon of Dallas (Texas) Baptist Association, moving up to first vice president and Don W. Reed of the Kansas City (Kansas) Baptist Association moving up to second vice president. Ernest K Sadler of Jackson Baptist Association, Pascagoula, Miss., was re-elected secretary, and T.O. Spicer Jr., of Spring River Baptist Association in Joplin, Mo., was re-elected editor of Viewpoint, the organization’s quarterly newsletter.

Spicer and his wife, Martha, were recognized for a $10,000 annuity gift earmarked for the organization’s continuing education endowment fund.

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  • Don Hinkle