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WRAP-UP: Tenn. messengers affirm BF&M


KINGSPORT, Tenn. (BP)–Messengers to the 133rd annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention adopted an uncontested budget and affirmed the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message for the second year in a row.

Messengers also upheld, with one exception, the report of the Committee on Boards, extended a connection with Iowa Baptists and approved a new partnership in Malta.

The annual meeting at the MeadowView Convention Center in Kingsport drew 1,502 messengers from 544 churches, up slightly from the 1,439 messengers who attended the 2006 annual meeting at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova.

The number was a far cry from the 2,245 messengers who registered for the 1998 annual meeting, the last time the convention met in Kingsport.

During the first session, messengers heard that a settlement had been reached with Belmont University, ending the convention’s lawsuit against the former TBC school.

Clay Austin, pastor of First Baptist Church in Blountville, told messengers that God has honored and blessed both the convention and Belmont University.

“It has been a long process,” Austin said, citing countless hours of negotiations.

“The fervent heart’s desire of this committee was to settle out of court,” Austin said. “God began to do a great work.”

Belmont and the TBC for months have been embroiled in a legal battle for control of the institution. In November 2005, Belmont’s trustees voted to change the university’s charter and become a self-perpetuating board. Previously, the TBC elected the university’s trustees.

The TBC had challenged the legality of Belmont’s charter amendment without TBC approval. In addition, when the TBC began its relationship with Belmont in 1951, the two entities signed a contract that contained language indicating that if Belmont ever passed from Baptist control, its property — given to it by the TBC — would revert to the possession of the TBC executive board, whereas Belmont contended that the contract was no longer valid.

Under the agreement’s terms, Belmont will provide an initial $1 million gift, followed by annual gifts of $250,000 for the next 40 years. The funds will be added to an endowment that will support Tennessee ministries.

Belmont had originally sought control of how the endowment would be used, but the Belmont Study Committee rejected that proposal, and the settlement allows for TBC control of the endowment.

The TBC executive board on Nov. 12 unanimously endorsed the settlement offer.

Messengers received the news with applause. The agreement ends the convention’s 56-year relationship with the school.

Messengers adopted a $38.5 million budget with no discussion or debate. The budget is an increase of $1.5 million or 4.1 percent over the 2006-07 budget. Forty percent of the budget goes toward Southern Baptist Convention causes while 60 percent remains in the state for Tennessee Baptist missions and ministries.

Tom McCoy, pastor of Thompson Station Baptist Church in Thompson Station, was elected president of the convention over Randy Adkisson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Cookeville. McCoy served this past year as the convention’s first vice president. He received 630 votes (59 percent) to 431 (41 percent) for Adkisson.

Tim McGehee, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Tullahoma, was elected first vice president over Randall Pressnell, pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church, Mount Carmel. McGehee received 394 votes (57 percent) to 296 (43 percent) for Pressnell.

Tommy Holtzclaw, retired director of missions in Sullivan Baptist Association, which includes the host city, was elected second vice president over Todd Stinnett, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Morristown. Holtzclaw received 479 votes (63 percent) to 278 votes (37 percent) for Stinnett.

Last year, messengers at the annual meeting at Bellevue Baptist Church affirmed the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement and voted to add it as a question to those posed by the Committee on Committees and Committee on Boards to prospective trustees and committee members.

The question is “Do you affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message?” When it was approved last year, Ron Stewart, this year’s TBC president, said he did not feel it was intended to be a litmus test.

During the opening session, Clay Faircloth, pastor of Shelby Avenue Baptist Church in Nashville, made the following motion: “I move that the convention change the question of whether or not a nominee affirms the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 to whether a nominee will affirm God’s Holy Word, the Bible, as His perfect and complete revelation.”

Noting the BF&M was created by man, Faircloth said, “We need to stand for what is right and just. The Word of God is the only document with the power to save souls.”

Larry Reagan, pastor of Adams Chapel Baptist Church in Dresden, spoke against the motion.

He said the motion implies the makers of last year’s motion had more faith in the BF&M than in the Bible. “This is not true,” he said, adding that the BF&M affirms the importance of the Bible as well as other Baptist doctrines. “We need to strongly affirm the Baptist Faith and Message,” he said.

Messenger Mark Dinkins of Cleveland spoke in favor of the recommendation, saying he supports earlier versions of the BF&M.

“We’re drawing the circle too small,” he warned.

A ballot vote was called and Faircloth’s motion failed by a vote of 651 (62 percent) to 395 (38 percent).

The Baptist Faith and Message question was revisited in the afternoon session on Nov. 13.

Greg Fay, pastor of First Baptist Church in Clinton, made a motion to change the question asked by the Committee on Committees and Committee on Boards to ask if nominees would affirm anyone of the three statements -— 1925, 1963, or 2000.

Fay urged Tennessee Baptists to approve his motion for unity’s sake. “Let’s don’t have it your way, let’s have it His way. Let’s come together under the three statements of faith and proceed on together.”

Bill Sherman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Fairview, supported the motion.

“I would like to see us enlarge the circle to include everyone at the table. The Great Commission demands it,” Sherman said. “We need both groups. We’ve got to lay aside agendas and come together at the foot of the cross.”

Larry Reagan spoke against the motion. “How many times do Tennessee Baptists have to see we believe doctrinal accountability matters?”

Reagan observed that the convention lost a college “because we were not careful enough about the election process. Let’s affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” he said.

Archie Fendley, a messenger from Central Baptist Church, Bearden, in Knoxville, asked what was wrong in having a choice between the three statements of faith. “We need a choice. I believe this is what God would have us to do.”

After other opinions were expressed on both sides of the issue, a ballot vote was taken. Fay’s motion failed by a vote of 407 to 400.

There were seven challenges to the report of the Committee on Boards.

Three of the challenges were ruled out of order due to bylaws requirements.

Prior to discussion on the challenges, Randy Adkisson, chairman of the Committee on Boards, urged messengers to adopt their report as presented with no amendments.

“We believe that each candidate presented is qualified and ready to serve. The question of the Baptist Faith and Message must be addressed. Each nominee challenged expressed some hesitancy with ‘affirming’ the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

“Did the committee consider this? Yes, just as it considered church participation, Cooperative Program support, strength of past service, and personal commitment to the Lord Jesus?”

Adkisson also told messengers the committee listened to the convention “where it was stated time and time again that the question was to be just that, a question for information and not a litmus test for service.”

He noted that just the day before, 49 percent of the messengers voted to widen the question to include two other statements of faith (1925 and 1963 versions).

Three nominees for the Executive Board retained their positions -— Dean Shelton of First Baptist Church in Fairview; Brent Seals of First Baptist Church in Elizabethton; and Lynn Parker of First Baptist Church in Church Hill.

One nominee was unseated -— Bill Stephens of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville. He was replaced by Gale Hartley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jamestown. Hartley was not one of the nominees supported by Concerned Tennessee Baptists which endorsed the other challenges. Hartley was nominated by Donald Cobb, pastor of First Baptist Church in Livingston.

Cobb noted that of the seven new openings on the board from Middle Tennessee, six of the positions were given to members of Nashville Baptist Association churches. “It’s all about fairness,” Cobb stressed.

In other matters Tennessee Baptists renewed a “connection” with the Baptist Convention of Iowa and adopted a new international partnership with Team Malta and the International Mission Board, beginning Jan. 1, 2008, and going through Dec. 31, 2012.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 11-12 at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville.
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Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector, newspaper of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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  • Lonnie Wilkey
    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.Read All by Lonnie Wilkey ›