Clearing the Air–NC Baptist Editor Resigns

Posted: October 26, 2010 in Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Biblical Recorder

With the dust-up from the resignation of Norman Jameson still smoking I wanted to analyze, as best I could, the situation.  Over at the Biblical Recorder’s website the story has drawn many comments, mostly in support of Brother Norman and his leadership at the paper. There were secular, as well as religious, news outlets that reported on this event and that is what I would like to analyze in this follow-up Op.

Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News and Observer

I place these two news outlets together because they say the same thing.  The only difference is an additional section with the Raleigh paper that consists of the numerical size of our convention.    Allow me to recap a couple of areas that I believe present serious flaws in their reporting.

First, we see an opinion expressed with no facts.  What do I mean? Both report that our Editor was forced to resign “after receiving criticism that he was not marching in lockstep with the conservative direction of the denomination”.  Let me say it has noting to do with “marching in lockstep” with anyone.  Let’s face it our Editor is part of a state convention that has been constantly moving more conservative for the past ten years. It isn’t that he was not “marching in lockstep” but that he was not sensitive to the conservative majority.  Whether our Editor agreed with it or not, the convention voted to exclude the CBF from our budget.  That removal did not come from a study committee it came from a floor recommendation and a vote of the messengers.  Certainly one has to agree that our convention stated clearly we did not want to be part of the CBF.  Just one recent event reveals what I mean.  Brother Norman did an article promoting Baptist schools in North Carolina.  Certainly our Editor has every right to express his personal opinion in his Op page.  It is his analysis that concerns the schools remaining apart of the convention. This letter to the editor explains it very well. The schools deciding to begin appointing their own trustees marked a very contentious time in recent history.  One, in our editors position should be sensitive to the fact that many in the over 4000 churches do not care one bit to send our children to the institutions of higher learning that once were NC Baptist Schools.  Thus, no one desires an Editor to give only give one side of a story.  However, neither do we want someone that will ram down our throats the bitter history where we had to hold our nose and raise our ballots.

Second, both secular papers report the same statement that is absolutely false.

He is not the first editor to run up against a continuing conservative shift within the Baptist State Convention.

His predecessor, Tony Cartledge, resigned in 2007 after the paper’s new board members signaled they wanted a change in the editorial direction.

Dr. Cartledge did not “run up against a continuing conservative shift”.  Dr. Cartledge was a part of, and a leader in, the moderate group that did everything they could to control and keep the convention in the hands of Moderates only.  Let’s remember the things that happened in the time period that Dr. Cartledge resigned.  It was during that time that our entities were trying to elect their own Trustees.  Dr. Cartledge and his Board of Trustees (BoT) were planning to do the same thing.  However, after the schools began choosing their trustees the rumblings in the convention circumvented the agencies from doing the same.  Thus, Dr. Cartledge probably decided it was best for him to retire as that would provide a more stable economic environment than resigning.  Dr. Cartledge did not resign, he retired and then went to Campbell University teaching Old Testament in the Divinity School.  Therefore, Dr. Cartledge is receiving funds from the very people he said was taking over the convention.  In reality he has trusted his income for the past 4 years to the very people he did not trust to give leadership to the convention.

Associated Baptist Press

I must admit the ABP presents a fair analysis of this report.  They begin by reporting;

Norman Jameson offered to resign his post at the Biblical Recorder prior to a regularly scheduled board meeting in Charlotte Oct. 21.

It was our Editor that brought this about.  He offered to resign and admitted that he was not asked to resign, nor did anyone threaten to fire him.  The ABP did an excellent job interviewing both sides.  They also interviewed the BoT Chairman, Bill Flowe, who said;

The perception that Mr. Jameson is not a good fit as editor with the current direction of the convention resulted in the painful decision to make a change.

Let’s look at that quote.  It was three years ago that Norman was picked to be the next Editor.  Look with me at that time.  The BoT has 16 members and we witness the rotation of Dr. Mark Harris, Dr. Stephen Rummage, and Dr. Joe Giaritelli were three of the four trustees that were elected in the 2006 convention.  When Dr. Cartledge announced he was going to retire Joe Babb was Chairman of the BoT.  He formed the search committee and they picked Norman Jameson as the one to take the mantle.  Well, problem was, the atmosphere in the convention was decidedly conservative.  Milton Hollifield was recently nominated as Executive Director/Treasurer and the then General Board formed a committee to study the Giving Plans.  Certainly bringing in a person that leans decidedly moderate would not last long with the direction of the convention. I called Brother Norman one day to congratulate him and I told him in that conversation that I believed he was in a no-win situation.  I suggested to him that his best step would be to hire someone as a reporter that was a known conservative.  As, I recall, Dr. Mark Harris stood before the convention in 2007 giving Brother Norman a glowing review and committing to support the BR.

How did it come to this within 4 years?  I believe Brother Sandy’s letter, while not the reason for the resignation, was the catalyst that led to his resignation.  As I said in my last post I do pray that Brother Sandy was not used as a pawn in this situation to promote someone’s personal desire and agenda.  However, let’s place ourselves in the shoes of the BoT.  Their fiduciary responsibility is two-fold.  They are charged with holding in trust the agency we know as the Biblical Recorder.  They are elected by the people of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and as such hold in trust by the Baptist in the pews to maintain the agency doesn’t bite off the hands that feed it.  They ask themselves the question; “How should we proceed knowing there are NC Baptist that are willing to defund the agency because of their perception of an imbalance”?  They question if such a move is possible and remember a committee placed together to study how to properly bring the budget to the liking of the majority of NC Baptist in the pew.  They remember having a CBF addition that would be completely voluntary for a church being presented as an appropriate way to budget for all of NC Baptist.  The item still in the minds of the BoT is that a person on the floor rose and amended the motion, from a committee of known conservatives and moderates, to remove the CBF option and it passed by an overwhelming majority. The BR BoT made a decision that if the motion to defund passes then what would they have?  That money probably would be sent to the SBC and dispersed in some other way that it would be gone.  Once the funds are done away with the BR is effectively gone.  If one looses 45% of a budget the organization is essentially a historical relic. I personally do not believe a vote to defund would have passed if the BoT would have stood along with the other Leaders of the convention in support of not defunding.  However, I am not a Trustee that is facing this prospect head on and I submit to their decision.  While it is not what I like and not what I would do, that is the reason we have a trustee system.  I believe in and support our trustee system as the best way to overlook and hold accountable the agencies and institutions.  Therefore, the decisions of the BoT is one that has been made and Brother Norman has reported the BoT “were kind” in their severance offer.  Thus, the trustee system is not broken and we can move forward trusting the system that our fore fathers put in place for accountability and oversight.

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