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Insight into state conventions is focus of Southeastern course

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–For the first time, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary held a course on Baptist state conventions, with the goal of training and preparing students to participate in the life and work of state conventions as representatives of their local churches.

The course, developed by Southeastern professors Emir Caner and Stephen Prescott, featured a Nov. 3 class session with lectures by Jim Royston, the executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina; John Upton Jr., executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia; Doyle Chauncey, executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia; and SBC Executive Committee member Roger Moran of Missouri.

Caner emphasized the importance of the course to the preparation of students as future ministers and active members in a state convention.

“Most students are acquainted with the national convention. They’re acquainted with their local associations, but the greatest neglect is the state convention level,” Caner said. “Secondly, the state convention level is where most of the change will occur within the next decade along with the associations.”

Caner added that gaining a familiarity with the operations of Baptist state conventions in the early stages of a student’s ministry is very important to the impact that person can make over a lifetime of involvement.

“The students need to be acquainted when they’re in their 20s and 30s and just being called to ministry,” he said, “or else they really lose some of the crucial years of their life and some vital years of change that we are now seeing within the SBC…. The young men, along with young women, need to go to these conventions for that very fact. This is their state convention. They are the messengers. They are the ones that make the choice. They are the ones who understand, or should understand, Baptist polity, and in so doing, make the votes which will give North Carolina Baptists something to be proud of for years to come.”

Royston agreed that the course is an effective way to help students know more about their denomination and state convention and become active members.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Royston said. “I wish they would have had this when I was a student. I just think it’s awesome, and it can’t help but make you a better Baptist understanding the history and the polity of conventions.”

Upton agreed.

“I think it’s great that they understand how it operates and what the different [conventions] are focusing upon,” he said. “It’s great to get that now. I didn’t get that in seminary, and I wish I had.”

Class assignments include attendance of an annual meeting of a state convention, such as the North Carolina Baptist Convention, which will meet Nov. 10-12 in Winston-Salem, as well as two three-page papers describing students’ observations at the state convention and their reaction to the class.

Caner and Prescott plan to continue the course in the future.

“It is imperative that we do this yearly,” Caner said. “Students will go to their state conventions and prayerfully make a difference within those bodies. This is a new thing, but it will be an annual one as well.”

In order to vote in a state convention, a person must be elected by their local church to serve as a messenger. Each Southern Baptist church in North Carolina is allowed to send at least two messengers, with some sending up to 10 depending on the amount of money they contribute and the size of their membership. Prescott noted that while serving as a messenger is not a requirement of the course, most students will likely serve in that capacity.

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  • Kyle Smith