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N.C. Baptists elect conservative; tap 2 moderates as vice presidents

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BP)–Messengers to the North Carolina Baptist State Convention elected a split slate of officers and adopted a resolution affirming cooperation with Southern Baptist Convention as well as state convention autonomy during their Nov. 13-14 annual meeting in Winston-Salem.

The current president, Mike Cummings of Lumberton, director of missions for Burnt Swamp Baptist Association who as a conservative also drew praise from moderates, was re-elected without opposition.

Then messengers elected moderates as the convention’s first and second vice presidents, marking the first time in six years that moderates have held more than one of the top three BSC offices.

Buddy Corbin, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Asheville, defeated Johnny Henderson, pastor of Cross Road Baptist Church, Asheboro, for the BSC first vice presidency, 2,068-1,611, or 56.21 percent to 43.79 percent.

Larry Harper, pastor of Forest Hills Baptist Church, Raleigh, won the second vice presidency, 1,967 to 1,752, over Max Holland, pastor of Bear Creek Baptist Church, Bakersville.

The three BSC officers form a committee to nominate members of the convention’s Committee on Committees, which must be approved by the BSC General Board.

A resolution to reaffirm the state convention’s ties to the Southern Baptist Convention turned into a referendum on state convention autonomy Nov. 14.

The resolutions committee had brought to the floor a revision of a resolution proposed by Bob Garbett, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, Richlands. The resolution noted that Article II of the BSC’s constitution includes cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention as one of its several purposes, and called for the BSC to “reaffirm our commitment to the Southern Baptist Convention through Cooperative Program giving and on mission efforts and partnerships.”

Paul Pridgen, pastor of Edenton (N.C.) Baptist Church, offered two amendments to the resolution. Pridgen proposed the insertion of an additional clause to be inserted after the words “Whereas, Article II of the Constitution of the Baptist State Convention establishes a cooperative relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention.” The words to be inserted were “Whereas, Article III of the Constitution of the Baptist State Convention establishes the autonomy of the Baptist State Convention.”

Pridgen further moved the addition of a final clause at the end of the resolution: “Be it finally resolved that the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina does hereby reaffirm our autonomy as a Baptist body and giving plans for missions.”

Parliamentary procedure required the amendment in the “Resolved” section to be considered first. After brief discussion, the amendment passed on a show of ballots by at least 60 percent to 40 percent.

The amendment related to the insertion of Article III generated more debate. In speaking to the motion, Pridgen said the BSC is not a franchise or subsidiary of the SBC, but voluntarily chooses to cooperate with the SBC and other Baptist bodies for the promotion of missions. That autonomy must be preserved, he said.

Don Satterwhite, a member of the resolutions committee, said the purpose of the resolution was to reaffirm the Cooperative Program. The amendment was unnecessary, redundant and divisive, he said.

Bob Garbett, who first proposed the resolution, said its purpose was to affirm a relationship that had been under assault. Church autonomy had not been under assault, he said, noting that the SBC had not attempted to interfere with the autonomy of any North Carolina Baptist church.

Paul Berry, pastor of Soundside Missionary Baptist and Columbia Baptist churches in Columbia, said the amendment was divisive and challenged Pridgen to cite examples of how the SBC had infringed on local church autonomy.

Don Gordon, pastor of First Baptist Church, Mount Olive, supported the amendment. He said it was necessary to avoid the potential exclusion of faithful North Carolina Baptists from participation in convention life.

Warner Doles, of the resolutions committee, spoke against the amendment, saying the committee had tried to find common ground and to be nondivisive.

The amendment passed by an estimated 60 percent to 40 percent vote.

Discussion turned to consideration of the resolution as amended. Bruce Martin, pastor of Village Baptist Church, Fayetteville, said he was speaking for the resolution, but spoke against the amended version. He cited a 1928 agreement between the SBC and the state conventions that said the SBC would not interfere with the states’ budgets, and the states would not interfere with the SBC’s budget. Martin said the threat to autonomy was not coming down from the SBC, but up from states such as Texas. The Baptist General Convention of Texas recently voted to designate its contributions to the SBC, cutting funding from the SBC seminaries, the Executive Committee and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The resolution passed on a show of ballots, by a smaller margin than the earlier amendments.

Messengers defeated a challenge by Garbett to the nomination of a moderate to the BSC General Board, Mark Gaskins, pastor of First Baptist Church, Fairmont. Garbett proposed replacing Gaskins with Robert L. Hunter Jr., a conservative and pastor of Beulahville (N.C.) Baptist Church.

Garbett’s challenge failed with an estimated 10 percent of messengers present voting for it.

The move was the first challenge of the Nominations Committee report from the floor in years.

A motion to end the BSC’s 166-year relationship with Wake Forest University narrowly failed the two-thirds necessary to change the convention’s constitution.

The vote of 2,390 to 1,564, or 60.45 percent to 39.55 percent, followed about 45 minutes of spirited debate.

The BSC General Board had proposed changing the fraternal relationship to a “historical” relationship. The board’s proposal would have removed WFU from the BSC’s Council on Christian Higher Education, but kept funding for scholarships.

But messengers amended the proposal to remove WFU completely from the constitution and end scholarship funding by 2004. The amendment, which needed only a simple majority, might have lowered support for the original motion, which needed a two-thirds majority since it would have changed the BSC constitution.

The failure of the amended motion leaves the BSC’s fraternal relationship intact.

The BSC’s Constitution Committee tried to find a “parliamentary path” to bring the issue back before messengers later in the day, but decided against it, BSC President Mike Cummings said.

Messengers adopted a $35.75 million budget for the coming year, up $1.75 million from the current budget. The budget provides churches with four giving options, including a Plan A that allocates 68 percent for North Carolina Baptist causes and 32 percent for SBC causes.

Next year’s meeting will be Nov. 12-14 in Winston-Salem.
Adapted from reporting by the staff of the Biblical Recorder, newsjournal of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, posted at www.biblicalrecorder.org.

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