News Articles

N.C. convention elects conservative president

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BP)–For the third consecutive year, North Carolina Baptists have elected a conservative pastor to serve as president of the state convention.
Mac Brunson, pastor of the 3,400-member Green Street Baptist Church, High Point, was elected by a margin of 328 votes over moderate Jack Causey, pastor of First Baptist Church, Statesville, during the Nov. 10-12 meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem.
Brunson, who garnered 53.3 percent of the vote (2,624) to Causey’s 46.7 percent (2,296), declared it’s time for North Carolina Baptists to focus more on reaching people for Christ and less on denominational politics.
“I want to begin to do some new, fresh, creative, cutting-edge type of ministries (aimed at) reaching people for Christ (and) building the kingdom of God,” he said. “I think we need to get our eyes off our self. I think we’ve had our eyes on our self for too long.”
Brunson succeeds Greg Mathis, pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church, Hendersonville. Mathis, a conservative, served two one-year terms as convention president.
Messengers attending the 167th annual convention elected a conservative and a moderate to serve as first and second vice president, respectively.
Mike Cummings, director of missions for the Burnt Swamp Baptist Association was elected first vice president by a margin of 183 votes over Charlotte Cook, a layperson from Lexington. David Crocker, pastor of Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, Fayetteville, edged out Allan Blume, pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, Boone, by a margin of 33 votes.
Cummings, a Native American from Robeson County, filled the seat left vacant by Phillip Davis, the convention’s first African American to hold office. Davis, elected in 1996 as first vice president, is leaving the state to serve as director of new church implementation for the Georgia-based North American Mission Board.
Messengers elected a new executive director-treasurer to succeed Roy Smith, who is retiring at the end of the year after 14 years as the chief executive officer of the convention. Smith, who is completing 35 years of denominational service in North Carolina, was honored during a retirement celebration service Nov. 10. Smith was given a new 1997 Lincoln Town Car paid for by donors in the convention.
James Royston, pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist Church, Kingsport, Tenn., was elected by acclamation to serve as the next executive director-treasurer.
Royston, 49, said he was impressed with the way North Carolina Baptists, both conservatives and moderates, have started working together.
“I also think that North Carolina is trying to do something that I don’t know of another state in Baptist convention life doing,” he said. “Some are exclusively becoming one or the other (conservative or moderate). Some are becoming two (conventions), and I see a genuine effort (in this state) to work together.”
Royston said equipping the local church for missions and evangelism will be his top priorities. “Local congregations will be perhaps the most significant focus for me,” he said. “We will intentionally try to focus resources toward assisting churches and local associations in doing ministries they might not can do alone to reach unchurched people and strengthen existing ministries.”
In other business, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required churches to contribute at least 1 percent of their undesignated budget gifts to the state convention Cooperative Program, beginning in 1999, to be eligible to send more than two messengers, came up 153 votes short of receiving the two-thirds vote needed for approval.
Under the current plan, “every cooperating church” is entitled to send at least two messengers, with additional messengers up to a total of 10, depending on the church’s contributions to the state convention Cooperative Program or the size of the church’s membership.
Advocates of the amendment said the change would allow smaller churches to have better representation by allowing them to increase the number of their messengers based on churches’ financial support of the state convention.
The amendment’s detractors charged that the change would penalize churches who channeled their giving primarily through the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program, by reducing the number of messengers they send to the state convention based on church membership.
In a related funding issue, Mark Corts, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, made a motion that the convention’s executive committee study the feasibility of adding another giving option to the state’s three Cooperative Program funding options. “Plan D” would allow churches to give 50 percent of undesignated Cooperative Program gifts to the state convention and 50 percent to Southern Baptist Convention causes. The motion was approved.
Under the current convention budget, “Plan A” allows a 68/32 percent division of all undesignated Cooperative Program gifts between state convention and Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries. Churches may exclude up to three items in the budget and still have their gifts considered Cooperative Program funds. In Plans B and C, 68 percent of funds remain in North Carolina (as in Plan A) with 10 percent of the remaining 32 percent sent to the SBC (Plan B) and 10 percent sent to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (Plan C). The plan differs only at this point and both include allocations for special missions and theological education at universities affiliated with the state convention.
Messengers approved the 1998 convention budget of $31 million, a $1.1 million increase over the 1997 budget. About one-third of the budget funds ministries outside the state, with the remaining two-thirds going to state missions, colleges, universities, children’s homes, retirement homes, hospitals and other supportive agencies.
In a related budget issue, Tony Hardin, pastor of Kellum Baptist Church, Jacksonville, made a motion to put the $375,000 allocated for the Biblical Recorder in escrow until the directors of the state Baptist newspaper present a specific plan on how to address the decline in paid subscriptions to the weekly newspaper. The motion was ruled out of order according to parliamentarian rules. A motion to suspend the rules in order to hear the original motion failed to receive the two-thirds vote needed for approval.
According to published figures, the Biblical Recorder has declined in circulation from 95,400 in 1986 to 60,000 in 1996.
A report from the Biblical Recorder Study Committee presented at the 1997 convention attributed the decline in subscriptions to changes in reading habits, especially among younger church members, and the erosion of denominational loyalty and interest.
The study, requested last year by convention messengers, found that the Biblical Recorder is experiencing decline in subscriptions at a rate comparable with other state Baptist papers of similar demographics.
The report said the decline in subscriptions began before current editor R.G. Puckett assumed the editorship. The study committee concluded that according to state and national trends, the decline of the newspaper’s circulation is not directly related with the paper’s position on the conflict between conservatives and moderates within the Southern Baptist Convention.
Messengers approved a motion calling for the convention’s executive committee to request that the directors of the Biblical Recorder develop a specific plan for addressing the weekly newspaper’s decline in paid subscriptions. The report is scheduled to be presented at the 1998 convention.
In other business, convention messengers adopted new relational guidelines with two of its institutions, Meredith College in Raleigh and Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.
Under the new arrangement with Meredith, the state convention will no longer elect the school’s trustees. The college will elect its own trustees and will no longer be included in the state convention’s annual budget allocation for state Baptist colleges and universities. The state convention will continue to send money to the Meredith as designated by individual churches.
This new relationship is patterned similar to an agreement reached in 1986 between the state convention and Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem.
In a related issue regarding Wake Forest University, messengers voted to have the convention’s general board direct its Council on Christian Higher Education to study the fraternal relationship with the school “in light of the university’s continued sale of alcoholic beverages on campus.” The council is to issue a report on its findings and recommendations at the 1998 convention.
A new arrangement with Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem calls for the state convention and the hospital to each elect half of the hospital’s board of trustees. The state convention had been responsible for electing all of the hospital’s trustees. Under the new agreement, half of the trustees must be members of North Carolina Baptist churches. All state convention Cooperative Program money designated for Baptist Hospital is earmarked for its school of pastoral care.
Hospital trustees who oversee the school of pastoral care must be elected by the state convention.
During the North Carolina Baptist Pastor’s Conference held at Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, Hampton Drum, pastor of South River Church, Statesville, was elected president. Cliff Black, pastor of Mountain Grove Baptist Church, Granite Falls, was named vice president and David Horton, pastor of Gate City Baptist Church, Greensboro, was elected president-elect.
The convention is scheduled to meet in Winston-Salem through the year 2,000, with next year’s annual meeting slated for Nov. 9-11.

    About the Author

  • Lee Weeks