The closing gavel has fallen on the one-hundred and seventy-seventh session of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. It was a great time to see people and spend some time with those that I have not seen in the past year. I was able to see others that I have not seen in over four or five years. This year it was a bitter sweet time as I traversed the hallway between the convention session and the exhibit area. It was a bitter time as I heard less than edifying comments being made from messengers on both sides of the issues. As I walked and heard the various comments, I was reminded of what my Mother has told me since I was old enough to understand; “if you cannot say something good about someone, then do not say anything at all.” It was a sweet time in that I was able to visit with many that have made an impact in my life.
In this post, it is my desire to give the facts but not say anything negative about the personalities. I will give my opinion about the major issues that came before us and then present my opinion for how the issues affect the future of the BSCNC.
The Issues That Came Before Us
The convention dealt with four divisive issues. Tuesday morning the convention heard an appeal from Myers Park Baptist Church in a request to seat her messengers. In this appeal MPBC placed their Lesbian Deacon before the messengers and she appealed to John 3:16 as she argued for inclusion. The messengers listened to the appeal from this deacon and her Pastor. When it came time to respond from the convention floor the messengers stepped to the microphone and graciously responded. Brother David Martin from First Baptist Cary lovingly and passionately pleaded the case for repentance and becoming a new creature. Never condemning this precious lady, but openly admonishing her to repent from her lifestyle. There was one messenger from First Baptist Greensboro that appealed to the convention to allow MPBC to be seated. When the vote was taken the appeal was defeated by an overwhelming majority.
The Baptist college and universities study committee report came after this MPBC vote. While it was divisive, this report passed. One other thing that was different but pertained to the college and universities, concerned Wingate University. Wingate University chose to recommend their own trustees to the convention this year. They chose to fill 9 trustee slots and presented a list of 11 names. Nine would be presented to the convention along with two alternates. One of the alternates presented was a Resa Harris from Myers Park Baptist Church. The person making the recommendation from Wingate stated that this was a non-issue because this person was presented as an alternate in the case something happens to another trustee. Much discussion followed this asking for clarification. It never was clearly identified that this person would not serve.
Wednesday morning brought with it two more issues that were divisive. These issues brought with it a passion that is close to home for everyone. The first issue that gained our attention on Wednesday morning was the Baptist Retirement Homes Study Committee Report. After the Study Committee officially released the report to the convention it was requested that a representative from the BRH speak to the convention about the report. No one came to any of the microphones. Opportunities were presented to the BRH to speak and once again before any messenger was allowed to speak for or against the report. Thus, the BRH had ample opportunity to speak to this report. In this report, it was recommended that we release the 2007 escrowed funds. This recommendation was amended from the floor that in essence called for the BRH to return to the table and if they did not come back to work with us, then the funds would not be released. This amendment passed by a large majority and we moved on to the Budget Committee Report.
The Budget Committee Report was presented and the main focus was the North Carolina Missions Offering. In this offering in the past the Womens Missionary Union of North Carolina received the largest portion of the offering at 33%. This amounts to nearly $900k of a $2.5 million offering. This year the offering was set at $2 million and the WMU-NC was excluded. The BSCNC Board of Directors approved, in their October 29, 2007 called meeting to remove WMU-NC from the NCMO and and allow WMU-NC to promote an annual offering solely for themselves. Many in the leadership and others connected with WMU-NC were not happy about this move and mounted a propaganda campaign on Tuesday. As I entered the convention hall on Tuesday afternoon I was presented with a pamplet from a person saying he was representing Friends of the WMU. In this pamplet there were many half-truths presented and really stirred up the ire of some conservatives. As reported on this blog, there was a motion made to return the WMU-NC to the NCMO. Dr. Roy Smith, former Executive Director/Treasurer stepped up to the microphone and amended the budget report to increase the NCMO by $500k and for this amount to go to the WMU-NC. After a passionate debate on this amendment from both sides the amendment failed.
Highlights of the Convention
The messages at this year’s convention were phenomenal. It seemed that God had His special anointing on our speakers this year like never before. Monday evening began with a sermon from Dr. Jim Henry, former Pastor of First Baptist Orlando and President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Henry is currently Interim Pastor at Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville, NC. I believe, but I have not verified, that Dr. Henry has retired to the North Carolina Mountains. I do know that this is his second Interim Pastorate in North Carolina. I do not believe that NC Churches are flying him back and forth in order for him to do interim work. However, Dr. Henry gave a challenging message on unity. Tuesday morning Brother Milton Hollifield gave his ExD/T address and did he knock it out of the park. His call to the convention for choosing your loyalties was a message that should have been heard many years ago. He unashamedly stood before the messengers and presented a challenge for us as we move into the future. Then Dr. Stan Welch gave his final Presidents address. He challenged us to be fishing and not only to fish but to learn how to fish. I am going to miss Dr. Welch’s leadership. But, the message of messages was Dr. Mark Harris. Dr. Harris is currently serving as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Charlotte. Brother Mark took his text from Nehemiah and challenged NC Baptist to rebuild the walls. Brother Mark observed that we needed to rebuild the walls that have been broken down in NC Baptist life. Brother Mark called us to the rebuilding of the walls of consecration and then did something that has never been done in the 177 year history of our convention. He gave an altar call. Many responded committing to the future of the BSCNC and it was the talk of the convention on Wednesday. What a great time of worship.
The officer elections was a time of zero controversy. On Tuesday morning we had the Presidental election and Dr. Rick Speas, who served as our 1VP and is Senior Pastor of Oldtowne Baptist Church in Winston Salem, was elected without opposition. I went to school with Brother Rick at SEBTS and have seen God use him throughout his time here in NC. I believe he will make a great President and look forward to his leadership. Then Dr. Leland Kerr, currently the Director of Missions for the Wilmington Association and serving as 2VP was nominated and elected to the office of 1VP. After that Dr. Phil Ortega, Senior Pastor of Scotts Hills Baptist Church in Wilmington was elected to serve as our 2VP. The Recording Secretary nominated and elected was Rev. Tim Lowry, Senior Pastor of Balfour Baptist Church in Asheboro. The only challenge race that had to be balloted in the officers election was that of Assistant Recording Secretary.
Seeing Brothers and Sisters that you have not seen was a grand highlight. I met Brother Benji Ramsuer for the first time. I knew his Dad and Mom as his Dad used to be Pastor of a neighboring church. However, I never met Brother Benji. Brother Benji and I had an enjoyable time of raggin on each other and I surprised him by my statement about a slight move in my theology. He responded that there may yet be hope for me. From there I was able to introduce him to Brother Les Puryear. Brother Les and his lovely wife Debbie were worn out this year as they kept vigil at the Small Church Impact booth in the exhibit area. I also introduced Brother Les to a person that I know personally and have worked with in the past. This person would be a huge asset to small church pastors and I do pray that Brother Les and he could work out a way for his services to be offered at the Small Church Impact Conference.
What do I see as the future of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina? I see a bright future. Our Baptist Children’s Homes are doing outstanding jobs. Our Missions outreach is one of phenomenal growth. When I arrived home today my mail contained an envelope from Baptist Men. There are thirteen, count them, 13 various Missions opportunities for churches to participate. If you desire to do missions the BSCNC has made it available. Also, we are planning a state-wide event called Operation Inasmuch. This event will be a local missions outreach endeavor for the local church. If all of the churches in NC will participate in this event, can you imagine the impact for the cause of Christ? Our church planting is increasing like never before. I believe the BSCNC will see her best days.
The doom and gloom that some will present is to be expected. However, I believe that the BSCNC will prosper with the good Hand of God leading her as we reach a lost and dying world.