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N.C. paper plans to elect its 4 directors in ’07

CARY, N.C. (BP)–The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder intends to fill the four openings on the newsjournal’s board of directors this year with their own selections.

The move utilizes a provision added to the convention’s bylaws in 1992 which, as described in a Feb. 1 news story in the Recorder, permits “each affiliated college, institution or agency to nominate up to 50 percent of its trustees or directors. In return, the entity gives up a similar percentage of its funding from the BSC during the time those directors serve.”

A loss of $400,000 in state convention funding could result from the move over a four-year period, the Recorder acknowledged.

Tony Cartledge, the Recorder’s editor-president, said in the article that the move was prompted by circumstances last year in which the convention’s Committee on Nominations presented to the convention messengers only two of eight individuals who had been recommended by the Recorder for four positions on its 16-member board.

“As for why these good people were excluded, all we have to go on is the chairman’s statement to Conservative Carolina Baptists that the committee wanted to put more conservatives on the Biblical Recorder board,” Cartledge said in the article.

“In most other state conventions where agenda-bearing conservatives have gained control of the state paper’s board, they have either muzzled the editor through censorship, or replaced him with someone who could be counted on to promote the party line,” Cartledge said. “A free Baptist press was lost in those conventions.”

The Recorder article noted that typically each year, presidents of each BSC entity “present the committee with a list of potential trustees that they believe will best serve the interests of their organization. The list generally includes twice the number of trustees or directors to be elected, in priority order.”

The Recorder was the only convention entity, the article stated, for which directors were nominated apart from its recommendations, although several entities’ higher-priority recommendations were passed over for individuals further down on their list.

“We exercise this option with deep regret,” Joe Babb, chairman of the Biblical Recorder’s board of directors, said in the article, “not only for the loss of funding, but for the increasing polarization in BSC life that has led us to believe that, for the time being, this decision is necessary in order to safeguard and preserve the charter principles of a free press for the future. We have no agenda for changing our relationship to the BSC.”

Jeff Long, chairman of the Committee on Nominations and pastor of Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia, issued a statement to Baptist Press, responding, “The decision of the Biblical Recorder to enact the provision of selecting 50 percent of their directors is not surprising. The decision evidences the fact that there are two distinct perspectives in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. The reason there needs to be a strong conservative representation and voice on the Biblical Recorder’s board is to make sure that a free, objective and balanced reporting of Baptist life in North Carolina is printed…. It is obvious to most that the weekly reporting of the Biblical Recorder has a clear bent toward the CBF and an open bias against the SBC. Further, the idea that a conservative cannot be supportive of a free press is condescending and ludicrous.”

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is an organization formed in the early 1990s in opposition to the election of conservative SBC presidents by messengers to SBC annual meetings since 1979.

Long said board members who were recommended by the Committee on Nominations for the Biblical Recorder uphold the mission of the paper. “However, I think that the deeper issue appears to be that the newly elected board members may not uphold the mission of the current board of directors and leadership of the Biblical Recorder.”

Long was responding in part to Cartledge’s statement in the Biblical Recorder article that future nominations might include “persons who are antagonistic to that organization’s core mission.” Cartledge also had said, “I have no reason to believe the directors we were assigned for 2006 will not be supportive, but the committee has set the precedent of rejecting an entity’s carefully selected recommendations without cause….”

Stan Welch, the convention’s president and pastor of Blackwelder Park Baptist Church in Kannapolis, said in a statement to Baptist Press, “Undoubtedly the Recorder is taking the option granted to it by the convention. There will obviously be a monetary impact that goes along with that, which they must have also studied. I would hope they would find some good trustees that would not in any way embarrass the convention in light of the convention’s strong stance against homosexuality. We want the Biblical Recorder to be all it is supposed to be to N.C. Baptists.”

Milton Hollifield, who was nominated by the BSC board of directors Jan. 24 as the convention’s new executive director-treasurer, said, “It would be premature for me to comment” on the Recorder’s announcement. Hollifield deferred to acting Executive-Director Treasurer Mike Cummings, who told the Recorder that its actions are in line with BSC documents and, as the Recorder paraphrased it without elaboration, “are preferable to the Recorder facing more difficult issues that could arise with other institutions or agencies.”

“I hope it doesn’t give the impression that the Recorder doesn’t need the money,” Cummings also said, “because I know it does and it deserves Cooperative Program support.”

A special convention session has been called for April 11 to vote on the recommendation of Hollifield, who currently is the BSC’s executive leader for the mission growth evangelism team.
Compiled by Art Toalston.

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