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Tenn. Baptists mourn passing of Rogers; college issues aired

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–No one can blame the 1,473 messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention if their minds wandered at times, especially on the first day of their Nov. 15-16 annual meeting.

In spite of a meeting with plenty of action, including the election of a president by 18 votes and a decision to delay action on a proposed fraternal relationship with Belmont University, external matters weighed heavily on the minds of messengers after they learned during the opening session that longtime Tennessee Baptist pastor and three-time Southern Baptist Convention President Adrian Rogers had died during the night. Rogers was scheduled to be honored by messengers during the convention with a video presentation and resolution.

The opening session at First Baptist Church in Clarksville was dedicated to Rogers’ memory, and a time of prayer and reflection on his life was held, led by two longtime colleagues and past Tennessee Baptist Convention presidents — Ray Newcomb, pastor of First Baptist Church in Millington, and Ken Story, pastor of First Baptist Church in Counce and retired pastor of Germantown Baptist Church.

Later that day, a series of storms that had spawned tornadoes in West and Middle Tennessee arrived in Clarksville around 4 p.m. Messengers were viewing a video presentation from Belmont University when TBC President Roger Freeman stopped the video and instructed messengers to go to the basement, where they remained for more than an hour.

After messengers reconvened to finish the afternoon business, a decision was made to cancel the evening service when weather reports predicted another round of severe weather.

Before adjourning for the day, messengers elected Phil Jett, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, as convention president by 18 votes over Roger “Sing” Oldham, pastor of First Baptist Church in Martin. Jett received 468 (50.98 percent) votes to 450 for Oldham.

During the two-day annual meeting, messengers delayed action on a proposed relationship with Belmont University when discovery of a contract signed in 1951 with a possible reverter clause was announced. They also adopted a substitute budget which reallocated funds originally intended for Belmont, after rejecting an amendment that would have taken $500,000 from Carson-Newman College.

Other officers elected were Ron Stewart, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Knoxville, as first vice president over Joey Rosas, pastor of Crievewood Baptist Church in Nashville (427 votes to 342 votes), and Larry Reagan, pastor of Adam’s Chapel Baptist Church, Dresden, as second vice president by five votes over Steve Durham, pastor of Radnor Baptist Church in Nashville.

The substitute budget, for $36,708,341, an increase of 3.2 percent over the 2004-05 budget, was necessitated when Belmont University informed TBC officials in October that they were proceeding with their plan to elect their own trustees, including up to 40 percent non-Baptists. In their proposed resolution of relationship, Belmont acknowledged that effective Nov. 1 “there will be no further commitment by the convention to make a contribution from Cooperative Program receipts to the operations of the university.”

The TBC executive board’s budget and program committee revised the budget to reallocate the $2,330,304 that would have gone to Belmont.

Under the substitute budget, the SBC Cooperative Program received an additional $825,940, meaning the SBC CP now receives 40 percent of gifts from the churches, while 60 percent is kept for missions and ministries in Tennessee. Union University and Carson-Newman College each received an additional $500,000 from the Belmont funds. The remaining monies will go to Tennessee missions and ministries ($300,000), Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy ($47,044), Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes ($26,028), Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes ($126,292), and Tennessee Baptist Foundation ($5,000).

Two amendments to the budget, including one that would have taken the extra $500,000 from Carson-Newman College and sent it to the SBC International Mission Board, failed.

In response to questions regarding matters of institutional identity, mission and doctrinal commitments raised at the 2004 annual meeting in Sevierville, Union and Carson-Newman provided written reports to messengers.

The TBC education committee, which had been asked to study the matter, referred it to the trustees of the educational institutions because bylaws state that a convention committee cannot interfere with the work of trustees.

Messenger Brady Tarr of Manley Baptist Church in Morristown, who questioned doctrinal positions at Carson-Newman last year, was given a “point of personal privilege.”

Tarr, who graduated from C-N last year, said he had firsthand knowledge about “damaging” things that are taught at the school. He said that while at the school he was confronted by the teaching of evolution and the teaching that the Bible “is full of errors and contradictions.”

Tarr said he was not before the convention out of “hate,” but because he was concerned about the “spiritual welfare” of Carson-Newman College.

Tarr questioned the report from the trustees and asked that “each teacher in the religion and biology departments be asked the following questions by the board of trustees with the TBC education committee present and for the direct answers from each professor in each department to be recorded with their names beside their answers so that they can be presented to the TBC body as a whole.”

The questions include whether the professors believe the original autographs of the Bible to be the “truthful, inerrant Word of God without any mixture of historical, scientific, or doctrinal error,” whether they believe the “biblical account of creation, the fall of man, and the worldwide flood found in the first 11 chapters of Genesis to be a truthful, literal, historical, inerrant, and accurate record of events that took place on earth,” and if they would sign a statement saying they support the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message in its entirety.

Freeman said the matter would be sent to the trustees and told Tarr he would be given a studied response.

In the report provided to messengers from Carson-Newman, the college’s trustees stated, “We find the faculty of the religion and biology departments to be faithful and committed Christian servants who approach the practice of teaching as a high calling of God.”

The report also noted that
— “the religion faculty of Carson-Newman College affirms the full inspiration, trustworthiness, and authority of Scripture.”

— the faculty affirms that Scripture “has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter,” a statement found in the 1925, 1963, and 2000 versions of the Baptist Faith and Message.

— the biology faculty “readily affirms that the God of the Bible is also the Creator.”

Several messengers cited pros and cons of C-N’s report. Reed Dixon, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Sweetwater and a C-N trustee, said he resented the implications that the trustees’ report was not true. “That report is true,” he asserted. He also noted that he felt statements on the floor should have been ruled out of order because they attacked the character of godly men and women who served on the committee that drafted the report.

A challenge to overrule Freeman’s ruling that the reports simply be received by the convention and not be affirmed or rejected by messengers failed.

Messengers adopted three resolutions, including the traditional resolution of gratitude for the convention and one expressing sympathy to the Adrian Rogers family along with a pledge to pray for the family and the congregation of Bellevue Baptist Church.

A third resolution, on educating children, presented by Reggie Weems of Heritage Baptist Church in Johnson City, resolved that TBC messengers “in the spirit and letter of the resolution on educating children that was passed overwhelmingly by the messengers of the 2005 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, do hereby urge parents and churches to research and monitor the educational influences on children.”

The resolution also called for parents to investigate the textbooks used by their children and for Christian parents “to fully embrace their responsibility to make prayerful and informed decisions regarding where and how they educate their children, whether they choose public, private, or home-schooling….”

The 2006 annual meeting of the Tennessee convention will be Nov. 14-15 at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova.

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