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STATE DIGEST: WMU to vacate N.C. offices; former BSCNC head guilty of sex charges;…

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina has voted to move out of the state convention offices, citing a disagreement over hiring practices and a desire to serve other groups including churches affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

During a conference call Aug. 16, the WMU-NC executive board voted 23-1 to move the organization’s offices out of the Baptist State Convention building in Cary and to assume responsibility for its own human resources policies and payroll, according to a release by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

The decision to relocate stems from liability concerns expressed by state convention administrators who believe the convention’s executive director should have final authority over WMU-NC employees. In past administrations, the executive director played a minimal role, although WMU-NC staff members are employees of the convention.

“I am grieved that the long standing relationship between the BSCNC with WMU of NC has moved to this level of consequential uncertainty,” Milton Hollifield, executive director of the BSCNC, said in a statement Aug. 21. “We have participated in more than 16 months of dialogue, and it was my hope that this process had helped move us forward together. However, BSCNC leadership was not given the opportunity to discuss this surprise vote by WMU.

“Anytime we are we faced with the desire of an entity to separate from BSCNC it is a terribly unsettling circumstance,” Hollifield added. “I am saddened to see that our long standing relationship of trust and accountability has eroded.”

Hollifield thanked WMU-NC for their influence and impact in the state but said their desire to support other Baptist groups and other denominations “is a clear departure from the historic focus of the mission and ministry of WMU of NC.” He also said he hopes “some level of continued cooperation might be salvaged” and wants North Carolina Baptists to “rest assured there will missions education ministries and women’s ministries provided through BSCNC with or without WMU of NC’s cooperation.”

Ruby Fulbright, executive director of WMU-NC, said in a written statement that the relocation decision “should not be interpreted as a departure from the organization’s commitment to supporting and promoting missions through the BSCNC, nor as a lack of appreciation for the mutual partnership the organizations have enjoyed in the past.”

The WMU has received a preliminary offer of alternative office space in the Raleigh area at a reasonable cost, Fulbright said, and has asked the Baptist building for a nine-month transition period to transfer insurance and payroll responsibilities.

Fulbright said WMU-NC would continue to work with North Carolina churches to promote missions through the state convention. The organization also wants to continue receiving funds through the North Carolina Missions Offering, which is used in part to provide salaries for the group’s nine full-time and two part-time employees.

BAPTIST LEADER PLEADS GUILTY TO SEX CHARGES — Coy Privette, a former president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, pleaded guilty to six charges of aiding and abetting prostitution Aug. 22 in Salisbury, N.C.

Privette, former chairman of the trustees at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, received “deferred prosecution,” which means his criminal record will remain clear if he completes 48 hours of community service, serves a year of probation, gets counseling and pays court costs, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Bill Kenerly, the district attorney in the case, said deferred prosecution is available for misdemeanors if the defendant does not have a prior record and if he pleads guilty to the offense. Kenerly told the Observer he was more concerned about “making sure the behavior stopped” than making sure Privette, 74, had a criminal record.

“As I undergo much needed personal and spiritual reflection, I sincerely ask everyone to keep me in their thoughts and prayers on my journey to earn back the trust that I have lost,” Privette said in a statement released to reporters following his hearing.

“I know that I have hurt and disappointed a lot of people, and I am truly sorry. It is my hope that people can find it in their hearts to forgive me,” Privette added.

Investigators had records from two Salisbury hotels where Privette had stayed under his own name six times in May and June, the Observer said. Security tape images showed Privette and his accuser in the same hotels on the same days. The woman also gave investigators taped phone conversations and a picture of Privette that she took with her camera phone.

In addition to being a former executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina and a former Republican state legislator, Privette has been a Cabarrus County commissioner since 1998.

NEW PASTOR CHOSEN FOR FBC SNELLVILLE — Rusty Newman has been called as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Snellville, Ga., the church where James Merritt, now pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, served while president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2000-02.

More than 95 percent of the members at First Baptist Snellville voted to call Newman as pastor on Aug. 19 from and he will begin his duties in early September, according to the Georgia Christian Index. Newman moves to the Atlanta-area church from Curtis Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.

Steve Traylor, chairman of the pastor search committee, said the committee could see “an anointing” on Newman’s life.

“When we heard him preach it was obvious that he preaches expository sermons with the kind of power that only comes from God,” Traylor told the Index. “We listened to hundreds of sermons and looked at many resumes in the seven-month course of our search. God would open doors and shut doors, and Dr. Newman’s name actually came across our path late in the process,” Traylor said. “However, once we heard him preach and interviewed him, every one of the seven persons on our committee said, ‘He’s the man.’ God ordained all the steps and led us to the man He wanted us to have.”

Newman is a graduate of Columbus College in Georgia, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. He has worked as an announcer for Christian radio, served as a bivocational pastor in rural Alabama, and was pastor of First Baptist Church in Morgan, Texas, and Union Baptist Church in Winder, Ga.

Newman and his wife, Laura, have four children.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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