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TBC messengers approve changes to bylaws; adopt resolutions

GERMANTOWN, Tenn. (BP)–Tennessee Baptists overwhelmingly adopted a series of bylaw changes that will provide all Tennessee Baptist Convention institutions more flexibility in selecting trustees while keeping the approval of those trustees in the hands of TBC messengers.

That action and others took place during their annual meeting Nov. 14-15 at Germantown (Tenn.) Baptist Church, which drew 1,801 registered messengers.

Tennessee Baptists also celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Cooperative Program, approved during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention held in Memphis in 1925.

In other business Tennessee Baptists elected Knoxville pastor Hollie Miller as president, approved resolutions dealing with the Cooperative Program and the Baptist Faith and Message, and adopted a record budget of $36,230,595 for 2000-2001, an increase of 7.2 percent over the previous year’s budget.

The BFM resolution acknowledged the BFM as an information source and affirmed the Bible as the “final authority for faith and practice.”

A potential distraction pertaining to the discussion of the bylaws changes proposed by the Constitution and Bylaws Committee was thwarted by the unexpected action of Carson-Newman College prior to the annual meeting.

Carson-Newman trustees voted in 1998 to change the college’s charter to enable the trustees to elect their own successors. On Nov. 9, however, four days before the TBC annual meeting, Carson-Newman officials filed a charter change with the Tennessee attorney general, returning the selection of college trustees back to the TBC.

Carson-Newman leaders struggled with the timing of the charter change, President James Netherton told messengers during the opening session.

“My intention was to do it on Wednesday after the bylaws changes. I felt Carson-Newman should not get out in front of the convention, but instead wait and act in response.”

Netherton became convinced, however, after talking with others that Carson-Newman needed to step out in faith.

“In a new partnership, someone has to act first and lead the way,” Netherton observed. “We made the change.”

Netherton’s announcement received an ovation from the messengers. Executive Board President John Holland of Knoxville then recommended on behalf of the board that the convention release the money that had been held this year in escrow for Carson-Newman.

Messenger Jim Stroud of Third Creek Baptist Church, Knoxville, spoke against releasing the funds.

“Before we vote on the motion we need to determine if the violations of the TBC bylaws, the TBC business and financial plan, and the violation of the TBC program statement for Carson-Newman College have been resolved,” Stroud said.

“My position is these violations have not yet been resolved,” Stroud added, and then cited examples of the “violations.”

Reed Dixon, a messenger from First Baptist Church, Sweetwater, spoke in favor of releasing the funds.

He noted many meetings have taken place over the past three years “so we can achieve a workable resolution and maintain a family relationship” with Carson-Newman.

“Carson-Newman has taken a step of faith that they will accept the trustees elected by this convention. What more can they do?”

The motion to release the funds passed overwhelmingly.

The Constitution and Bylaws Committee presented its proposed changes to the bylaws during the opening session of the two-day meeting.

“Over the past three years the Tennessee Baptist Convention has been called upon to address a variety of concerns that have been expressed from several sources,” said Robert Tyson, chairman of the committee and member of First Baptist Church, Springfield.

“The proposed changes we bring to you this year seek to define the nature of the relationship, clarify the roles of the boards of trustees, protect the integrity of the board selection process, and address the issue of ascending liability,” he said.

Tyson said the committee had discussed at great length the viewpoints expressed by messengers on the floor of the convention during the past two years.

“It was clear to us that the messengers did not want the colleges and universities to be treated differently or be given special privileges that were not available to Harrison-Chilhowee, the children’s homes, the adult homes, the hospitals, and the Tennessee Baptist Foundation,” Tyson said.

“The messengers made it clear that they wanted the TBC to elect the trustees of the institutions, not just approve them. It was also clear to the committee that the messengers wanted the privilege of challenging nominations brought from the Committee on Committees and the Committee on Boards.

“The messengers clearly wanted the boards of trustees of the various institutions to be accountable to the TBC to the extent that a board member can be removed for improper conduct.

“As we worked on the bylaws we tried to address these issues in a way that provides an orderly, thoughtful, and prayerful way to approach these matters,” Tyson said.

No discussion was allowed during the opening session but messengers could offer amendments.

Messenger Roger “Sing” Oldham of First Baptist Church, Martin, offered an amendment to clarify that the Committee on Committees and Committee on Boards reports would be presented during the first day of the convention in future years. Traditionally those reports have come on the last day of the convention.

A point of parliamentary inquiry was raised by Jim Stroud who felt another day should be given to make amendments because the document provided to messengers was different than the one originally printed in the Baptist and Reflector and the Book of Reports.

Tidwell reported later in the day that the only changes made were to clarify that the changes did not apply to the Executive Board and did not alter the original report.

Discussion of the proposed amendments took place on Wednesday morning. The bylaws changes were divided into two separate motions (B, dealing with recommendations 2 and 3 with an explanation of recommendation 6, and C, dealing with recommendations 4 and 5). See the Oct. 11 issue of the Baptist and Reflector for wording of the amendments.

Messenger Tom James of Alpha Baptist Church, Morristown opposed the first motion, noting, “it seems to concentrate the power.” He observed, “To me it won’t be an election, it will be an affirmation.”

Douglas Dutton, a member of First Baptist Church, Concord, Knoxville, agreed it would “concentrate the power in the few.” He also said the changes would enable the institutions to select their own corporate management and that it would be “almost impossible” for messengers to substitute nominees.

Bob Agee, a member of the committee and messenger from West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson, assured messengers the proposed changes did not give “veto” power to institution presidents and that the final decision rested with the Committee on Boards and ultimately the messengers.

Efforts to have the recommendations ruled out of order failed. “If the chair has the option of letting messengers take action, that’s the side I will rule on,” said TBC President Jerry Tidwell of West Jackson Church.

A ballot vote was taken on motion B. A two-thirds majority was needed for adoption. The amendments passed by a margin of 822-365, or 69.25 percent.

Much of the same discussion prevailed on motion C.

Concern was expressed again over the perceived concentration of power.

“As a messenger I feel we are being excluded and all the power is being given to a few,” said Chris Francis of New Vision Baptist Church, Knoxville.

Kim Allen of Little West Fork Baptist Church, Clarksville, said he has listened to that contention for three years. He noted the convention has elected a committee that “has served us well and faithfully.

“It is time to let the body decide and not the people at the microphones,” he said.

Also discussed was the protection provided by the motion from ascending liability or legal judgments against TBC entities stemming from lawsuits that could draw from Cooperative Program funds.

Another ballot vote was taken on motion C. It passed by a margin of 831-345, or 70.66 percent.

In other action:

— Hollie Miller, pastor, Sevier Heights Baptist Church, Knoxville, was elected president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention over John Holland, pastor, Salem Baptist Church, Knoxville, and president, TBC Executive Board. Miller was elected by 57.58 percent of the vote or 798-588.

Miller was nominated by Adrian Rogers, pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, and Holland was nominated by Herbert Higdon of First Baptist Church, Middleton.

— Oldham was elected first vice president over Joey Rosas, pastor, Union Avenue Baptist Church, Memphis, by 52.65 percent of the vote or 556-500. Oldham was nominated by Ray Newcomb, pastor, First Baptist Church, Millington, and Rosas was nominated by Michael Smith, pastor, Second Baptist Church, Memphis.

— Elected as second vice president was Hal Fletcher, pastor, Ridgeway Baptist Church, Memphis, over Don Edwards, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sweetwater. Fletcher received 55.67 percent of the vote or 506-403.

Fletcher was nominated by Dennis Deese, pastor, First Baptist Church, Hunter, Elizabethton, and newly elected president of the Tennessee Baptist Pastors’ Conference, and Edwards was nominated by Archie King of Southeast Baptist Church, Murfreesboro.

— Elected without opposition: Joyce Rickman, Belmont Heights Baptist Church, Nashville, as recording secretary.

Five resolutions concerning the Baptist Faith and Message statement were considered by the Resolutions Committee, chaired by Danny Davis, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Alcoa.

Davis acknowledged that just as the convention is diverse, so was the committee. “None on the committee got all of what we wanted,” he said, referring to the proposed resolution. “We tried to get the feel of the convention as it met here this week. He reminded messengers that the convention in its history had never acted on any Baptist Faith and Message statement.

The committee chairman also acknowledged that while the Baptist Faith and Message has been beneficial for many years, “we wanted to focus attention on God’s Word as the final authority” and to note “the right of the local church to adopt any statement.”

Richard Holden, pastor of First Baptist Church, Alcoa, made a motion to substitute the word “affirm” for the word “acknowledge” in the first resolve and to add “2000 revised edition” after the Baptist Faith and Message in the same paragraph.

Fred Steelman, pastor of Red Bank Baptist Church, Chattanooga, spoke against the amendment.

He noted the resolution as worded “says all it needs to say” and “allows all the room we need as diverse people.”

Steve Jacobson of Frayser Baptist Church, Memphis, spoke for the amendment.

He noted the BFM statements of 1925 and 1963 were not viewed as creeds and that Baptists can accept or reject statements.

“The statement must be affirmed,” he stressed.

Roy Graves of First Baptist Church, Kingston, also favored the amendment. “We need to take a stand as Tennessee Baptists saying we believe the Word of God is true and that the BFM is a truthful statement we can believe and adhere to.”

Joey Rosas, pastor of Union Avenue Baptist Church, Memphis, opposed the amendment.

“We don’t need to debate the BFM on the floor of the convention. We have never done that.” Rosas affirmed the Bible as the “inerrant, infallible Word of God” and urged messengers to vote against the amendment.

After further discussion, the question was called. A ballot vote was taken and the amendment failed by 55.88 percent or 542-428.

A second amendment was offered that would have added the words “and other autonomous Baptist entities or individuals” at the end of the fourth “Whereas.” The amendment failed.

Messenger Bill Johnson of First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, made a motion to postpone the vote on the original resolution indefinitely in order to keep from having a “win/lose” situation.

Postponing “gives us a way to see that we can walk together as Tennessee Baptists in midst of great diversity without setting up winners and losers.”

Miller, newly elected TBC president, opposed postponing the resolution.

“If we don’t make a statement, we’re just trying to straddle the fence. We do have an opinion and that opinion is with the Word of God,” he said.

After further discussion the motion to postpone the resolution failed.

Messengers then voted on the resolution as originally presented and it passed overwhelmingly in a show of ballots vote.

Messengers approved two resolutions without opposition – the traditional resolution of gratitude to the host church and others and one on the 75th anniversary of the Cooperative Program.

That resolution noted the CP has been hailed “as the greatest mission giving program in the history of the world” and that Tennessee Baptists have given more than $623 million over the past 75 years “to support over 6,000 North American missionaries and 13,000 international missionaries, to educate 140,000 seminary students, and a host of college students, to start thousands of new churches, to fund countless benevolent and relief ministries, and to underwrite a whole array of other Christian endeavors.”

The resolution resolved that “we commend the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention for their commitment to world evangelization and for 75 years of faithful giving” as well as encouraging “every Tennessee Baptist congregation to conduct a local Cooperative Program emphasis during 2001 and to consider prayerfully increasing by one percent the amount of their church budget giving through the Cooperative Program.”

Messengers also considered the following:

— A motion to create a 12-person committee to develop a confession of faith for Tennessee Baptists was overwhelmingly defeated.

— Tennessee Baptists approved a new state-to-state partnership with the Baptist Convention of Iowa from 2001-2004 as well as participation in the “Loving Las Vegas” strategic focus initiative of the North American Mission Board next summer.

— Messages were delivered by Jerry Tidwell, James Porch, and Sam Shaw.

— Messengers heard reports from institutions as well as TBC Executive Board groups.

— The TBC officially ended its state-to-state partnership with the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Michael Collins, executive director of the Michigan convention, and TBC Executive Director James Porch presented each other gifts commemorating the 20-year partnership. The relationship is the longest state-to-state partnership in the SBC.

— Messengers approved on second reading a change to the TBC Constitution, and approved changes in the program statement of the Baptist and Reflector.

— Messengers elected Robert McCray, pastor, First Baptist Church, Dandridge, and alternate Don Edwards, pastor, First Baptist Church, Sweetwater, to present the convention sermon at the 2001 TBC annual meeting Nov. 13-14 at First Baptist Church, Concord, Knoxville.

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