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N.C. Conservatives discuss budget in meeting at seminary

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–In the first of four regional meetings sponsored by the Conservative Carolina Baptists Oct. 20, the proposed state convention budget and the committee on nominations process were key topics of discussion.

The meeting — which was held to help conservatives prepare for the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina — was held at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. The BSCNC meeting will take place Nov. 14-16 in Winston-Salem.

Consuming most of the hour-long meeting was discussion on the budget. Greg Mathis, a former convention president, defended the proposed BSCNC budget, which seeks to keep the four optional giving plans in place instead of returning to a single-option plan. Mathis served on the convention’s budget committee and currently serves as pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C.

Ted Stone of Durham, N.C., is expected to offer a motion at the annual meeting to revert back to the single-option giving plan. That single-option plan would exclude funding for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (Va.) and other bodies not in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.

“You have to decide whether you want to take a chainsaw approach to whatever you think is wrong with the budget, or like a surgeon, where you take something that’s smaller and more precise to it,” Mathis said. “The problem with a chainsaw approach is that a lot of things you might not want to affect would be affected. Maybe some good things you wouldn’t want to hurt might be hurt. And so, I’ve never chosen to take that route,” Mathis said.

“I would hate to see Fruitland hurt,” Mathis said. Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute in Henderson, N.C., gets 5 percent Mathis said.

But Bill Tomlinson, pastor of Arlington Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, N.C., said that under Stone’s proposal, Fruitland would “get more than it gets now.”

“I personally am opposed to four giving plans,” Tomlinson said. “I don’t think we’ll ever have unity in this convention [with four giving plans.] For years and years now, we’ve been picking away saying, ‘We’re going to make these changes. Be patient, be patient, be patient.’ And the changes never really come.”

Stone, a trustee at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a board of visitors member at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., says he wants to strengthen the relationship between the state convention and the SBC.

“In the name of harmony, we have encouraged division and thwarted our impact of doing missions together,” he previously told Baptist Press. “As much as we love our Christian brothers and sisters who have negative attitudes toward the Southern Baptist Convention, the ‘let’s pretend’ game being played by some with the budget is doing more to harm the Lord’s work than it is to heal the breach.”

Since 1991, North Carolina Baptists have endorsed four optional giving plans from which churches can choose. The plans were created from dissatisfaction among some state leaders about the conservative direction of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Presently the Southern Baptist Convention receives 32 percent in Plan A (the original CP plan) and Plan D. The SBC receives only 10 percent under Plan B and nothing under Plan C, which instead allots 10 percent to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a group that broke away from the SBC because of disagreement with the election of conservative leaders. Plans A, B and C give 68 percent to the state convention budget, while Plan D trims the state allotment in favor of special ministries and Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute.

Stone’s motion proposes a 65/35 percentage split, with the smaller percentage going to the Southern Baptist Convention. His proposal will earmark funds for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute not less than the total amount allotted to the smallest Baptist college in North Carolina. Last year, a similar motion by Stone failed on a show of ballots.

“Ever since we went away from having just one budget and began to have optional budgets, every year somebody wants to change back,” Mathis said. “It’s been difficult to find ways to work together here in North Carolina.”

Mathis said that “conservatives in particular seem to be most bothered … [by] budget C, where no money is given to the Southern Baptist Convention.” He noted that conservatives are particularly opposed to plan C because under it, money given to the CBF is counted by the state convention as Cooperative Program money. He said under the new budget, money given to the CBF would not count as CP money.

The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ method of supporting missions and ministry efforts of state and regional conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention. Conservatives say it is wrong to count CBF money as CP giving because the Cooperative Program was founded to support SBC causes, and the CBF was formed out of disagreement with the SBC.

Paul Berry, pastor of Grainger Baptist Church in Kinston, N.C., said the new budget doesn’t go far enough.

“I don’t see your proposal doing anything, except maybe hastening the day for the churches that want to go with the CBF will finally go that way,” Berry told Mathis.

Mathis said another “significant” aspect of the proposed budget is that over a two-year period, gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention would be increased by one-half percent. The same increase is also slated for the CBF in the proposed budget.

Mathis said in order for the CBF increase to be removed, a messenger at the upcoming annual meeting would have to offer a motion amending the budget. He said such an amendment was offered at the BSCNC board of directors meeting but was defeated.

“I certainly expect somebody to stand up and amend that, as they did at the board of directors” meeting, he said.

Mathis also addressed a matter concerning the Alliance of Baptists. This summer, the state convention’s committee on nominations refused to consider nominees for boards if they were members of Alliance of Baptists-affiliated churches. The Alliance of Baptists — formed out of a disagreement with the conservative direction of the SBC — is an organization that “pretty openly embraces homosexuality,” Mathis said. The Alliance of Baptists also endorses “gay marriage.”

The committee on nominations did not approve those suggested nominees, “and rightfully so,” Mathis said.

“It is a matter of pleasing the messengers of the Baptist State Convention that they’ll find acceptable the people that go on our boards and our agencies and institutions,” he said.

Jeff Long, chairman of the committee on nominations, said the committee on nominations acted well within it assigned guidelines as outlined in the convention’s bylaws. Long is pastor of the Parkway Baptist Church in Gastonia, N.C.

Mathis also introduced Stan Welch, pastor of Blackwelder Park Baptist Church in Kannapolis, N.C., and Ricky Speas, pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston Salem as the conservative candidates for president and first vice president, respectively. Barry Nealy, director of missions for the Three Forks Baptist Association, is the candidate for second vice president.

According to the Conservative Carolina Baptists’ website, the organization was organized in 1987 and is “committed to preserving our Southern Baptist heritage in North Carolina.”

“We recognized the unbalanced leadership of our state convention and began a process to change the status quo. Today we live in a different state,” the website says. “Conservatives are in the majority and moderate churches continue to fade into the sunset.”

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  • Norm Miller