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N.C. Baptists tap conservatives to lead for 9th consecutive year

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BP)–For the ninth straight year, North Carolina Baptists elected a conservative as president at their annual meeting, Nov. 10-12 at Winston-Salem’s Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The messengers also passed a 2004 budget 6.3 percent below the 2003 budget, a move preceded by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina cutting 24 positions in August, including 15 with employees in place.

David Horton, a pastor at Gate City Baptist Church in Greensboro and the convention’s second vice president during the past year, easily defeated David Hughes, pastor of First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, by nearly 20 percent. Horton received 2,280 votes (59.48 percent) to 1,553 ballots (40.52) for Hughes.

The win was the largest for a non-incumbent presidential candidate since 1987. It was the largest for any presidential candidate who had opposition since 1996.

Both candidates expressed surprise at the victory margin.

“I was surprised because the elections are always so close,” Horton said. “It’s hard to tell when you’re up on the platform. I knew there was good attendance, but you never know how the vote will go until it’s announced.”

Hughes said, “It’s hard to judge the tea leaves. We have no straw polls after the vote. A lot of effort was made to have people come and participate in the convention. After all is said and done, we’re [moderates] going to have to take a look and see how we can reach out to those who were not here.”

The winning margins for the first and second vice president positions were nearly the same. Phyllis Foy of Mooresville, wife of outgoing BSCNC first vice president Bob Foy, easily defeated Raymond Earp, a layman from Beaufort, 1,391 (56.9 percent) to 1,089 (43.9 percent). The second vice presidential position went to Brian Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church in East Flat Rock. Davis received 59.2 percent of the vote (1,494) compared to Ken Massey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Greensboro, who received 40.78 percent of the vote (1,028).

Foy, who is quick to point out she does not go by a “conservative” label but considers herself a “Southern Baptist,” said this was a not a victory by a “slate” of candidates, although the victors were endorsed by Conservative Carolina Baptists. The moderate Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina endorsed the losing candidates.

“I just want unity in our convention,” Foy said. “We hear moderates may pull out, but I don’t believe that. There are some committed Christian men and women who have missions on their heart. I don’t see them leaving our convention.”

Prior to the convention, it was expected that the budget discussion would center on the controversial Plan C, which would send national mission funds to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship instead of the Southern Baptist Convention. North Carolina has four giving options provided for state Baptist churches.

Plan C allots 68 percent of gifts to the Baptist State Convention; 10 percent to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a breakaway organization from the SBC; 10.9 percent to theological education in state Baptist colleges and universities; and 11.1 percent to special overseas, home and other missions initiatives. Nothing would go to SBC entities.

Plans A and D give 32 percent to the SBC while Plan B gives only 10 percent.

At last year’s meeting, Tim Rogers, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Seagrove, voiced concern that Plan C violated the convention’s constitution because it did not allot funds to the SBC. However, the convention’s general board reported during the Nov. 10 night session that the plan did not violate the constitution according to the Plan C Study Committee, which was formed after last year’s annual meeting.

According to the study committee report, “It is neither logically nor legally necessary that each action of the Baptist State Convention fulfill each purpose of the Convention in order for the action to be in furtherance of the multiple purposes of the Convention.”

The $35.18 million budget for 2004 is the lowest since 2000 ($34 million). Messengers also approved a 2005 budget of $35.68 million. Last year’s convention set in place a process for a biannual budgeting process, with a provision for convention messengers to address additional or unexpected budget needs during the off-year session.

During the budget discussions, Rogers came to the microphone to speak, and many thought he would bring up Plan C. However, he attempted to have an amendment passed that would cut $200,000 of funding from the convention to the state’s Baptist newspaper, the Biblical Recorder. That evoked the longest, and most heated, discussion of the entire convention.

But when it came to a vote, about 70 percent of the messengers rejected the amendment.

In another action, the convention’s executive committee backed up a prior decision by BSCNC Executive Director-Treasurer James Royston to remove McGill Baptist Church from the convention for baptizing two men who were presumed to be homosexuals. The church was ousted from the Cabarrus Baptist Association in April.

Royston cited a 1992 policy of the convention’s general board that prohibits “any church which knowingly takes, or has taken, an official action which manifests public approval, promotion or blessing of homosexuality.” McGill officials appealed to the BSCNC executive committee, which backed up Royston by a 12-6 vote.

On Nov. 11, in a nearly unanimous vote, messengers agreed with the action against McGill. In other business, messengers also:

–amended Article X of the constitution concerning debts accrued by the convention;

–revised Article III.A. of the bylaws, addressing eligibility for members on the general board, boards of trustees and directors of institutions and entities of the BSCNC;

–approved an offering at the convention to help churches hit hard by Hurricane Isabel; and,

–passed a resolution concerning Christian concern for those who have lost jobs in North Carolina.

During the gathering in Winston-Salem, messengers honored outgoing President Jerry Pereira, who died of bone cancer on Nov. 7.

Pereira, pastor of First Baptist Church in Swannanoa, was completing his term as convention president but spent his last days in the hospital after a six-month battle with cancer. The convention’s first vice president, Bob Foy, presided over the session, which included a videotape of Pereira asking messengers to breathe new life into the convention and to spread the Word of God.

    About the Author

  • Jerry Higgins