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N.C. general board affirms shared leadership proposal

ASHEBORO, N.C. (BP)–In an emotional session May 18, the Baptist Convention of North Carolina’s general board voted overwhelmingly to approve in concept an unprecedented proposal designed to foster increased cooperation between moderate and conservative Baptists in the state.
The plan calls for a new method of electing both convention officers and general board officers. The proposal would significantly increase the likelihood that representatives from the two largest groups in North Carolina Baptist life — currently “moderates” and “conservatives” — would share in leadership.
The plan calls for officers of the convention and the board to be elected from the convention floor in alternating years. When convention officers are to be elected, one vote would be held for president. The top two vote-getters would become president and president-elect. They would serve for two years. In the second year, the president-elect would become president and the president would become past president. A single vote for vice president would result in the two leading candidates becoming first and second vice-president, also for a two-year term. Any number of candidates could run for office.
All four officers would serve as a nominating committee to recommend the 15-member Committee on Committees, which must be approved by the general board. The Committee on Committees appoints other convention committees, including the Committee on Nominations, which nominates directors and trustees of convention agencies and institutions, as well as members of the general board.
In alternate years, a president, president-elect and two vice-presidents of the general board would be elected by the convention messengers in the same manner and would serve for two years. Previous board membership would not be required for election to those offices. All eight elected officers would serve on the general board’s executive committee, which conducts much of the convention’s business and hires convention employees.
Currently, BSC officers are chosen at the annual meeting in separate elections for each position, while the general board elects its own officers. In both cases, officers are elected for one-year terms, though second terms are customary.
Greg Mathis, pastor, Mud Creek Baptist Church, Hendersonville, and David Crocker, pastor, Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, Fayetteville, presented the recommendation on behalf of the Commission on Cooperation, a task force composed of both conservative and moderate representatives. The commission was mandated by convention action in November 1997, with Crocker and Mathis as co-chairs.
The proposal will now be forwarded to the BSC Constitution Committee, which will refine the constitutional language necessary for its presentation to the BSC’s annual meeting, Nov. 15-16 in Winston-Salem. The proposal includes constitutional changes, which require a two-thirds majority for approval, and bylaw changes, which need a simple majority.
A draft copy of the proposed constitutional change was distributed for review. It requires that the two top vote-getters together must have more than 75 percent of the vote in order to be elected. If no two candidates gain the required percentage in the election, a run-off would be held between the top three.
The proposed change also includes a sunset clause calling for its automatic expiration after six years unless continued by convention action. Proponents have recommended a six-year trial period to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan.
In coming months, Crocker, Mathis and others will promote the plan through statewide listening sessions designed to hear concerns and explain the proposal in more detail.
In discussion prior to the vote, Crocker presented the motion and described the process by which the plan for reconciliation through shared leadership was developed. Mathis then explained how the plan would work and spoke of his personal conviction that it was the right thing for North Carolina Baptists to do at this point in their history.
Crocker also expressed support for the plan, then posed some of the most frequently asked questions about the proposal and responded to each issue.
General board president Larry Harper, pastor, Forest Hills Baptist Church, Raleigh, moderated a spirited question-and-answer session in which both Mathis and Crocker fielded questions and comments from the floor.
Following the debate, board members voted decisively to affirm the plan and recommend it to the convention in November. Three of the board’s 120 members voted in opposition.
While Crocker and Mathis left to hold a news conference for media representatives, Harper read a prepared statement of support for the plan, challenging those present to go the second mile in serving others, surrendering political control to affirm the priorities of mission and ministry.
As the meeting drew to a close on Wednesday, May 19, convention president Mac Brunson officially resigned his position and passed the ceremonial gavel, a token of office, to first vice president Mike Cummings. Brunson, currently pastor of Green Street Baptist Church in High Point is leaving North Carolina for Texas to become pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas.
Cummings, a Lumbee Indian, serves as director of missions for the Burnt Swamp Baptist Association, composed of 65 Native American churches belonging to five different tribes. Surrounded by family and supporters, Cummings declared his readiness to assume the presidency. He encouraged Tarheel Baptists to celebrate his ethnic heritage, noting that the complexion of North Carolina Baptists was becoming more representative as minorities assume leadership positions.
Cummings also stated his firm support of the shared leadership proposal. Speaking to the largely moderate general board, Cummings noted he is a staunch conservative from an association of churches, but that he appreciated and respected more moderate Baptists. “I hope you take no offense in me,” he said, “as I take no offense in you.”
As Cummings and Brunson embraced, they received a lengthy standing ovation from the crowded auditorium filled with general board members, staff and guests.

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  • Tony W. Cartledge