N.C. conv. removes CBF from giving plan

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)--North Carolina Baptists, gathered for their 178th annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., Nov. 10-12, eliminated the option for churches to contribute to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship through the state convention.

Messengers also commissioned 38 international missionaries, approved an extensive rewrite of the state convention's constitution and bylaws, witnessed the launch of three ministries and adopted allocations for the 2009 North Carolina Missions Offering.

Hundreds of the 2,136 messengers and 237 visitors responded to altar calls issued by International Mission Board Vice President Tom Elliff during the rare commissioning service held outside a church and by BSC President Rick Speas after his sermon.

Business sessions moved according to script and were often ahead of schedule. Until the final morning, not a single ballot vote was required, nor had a single messenger spoken from a floor microphone.

That rapid trip through the agenda slowed for the budget report and when Ed Yount presented the long anticipated Giving Plans Study Committee report, which messengers adopted after making a significant amendment.

The committee's recommendation reduced North Carolina Baptists' four giving plan options to a single plan, with options.

North Carolina Baptists since 1991 have offered multiple giving plans, each with a distinct distribution of funds that reflects a different priority. Plan C of the state convention’s current giving options sends 10 percent to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a group of self-described moderate churches that broke away from the Southern Baptist Convention in 1991 after SBC messengers, in 12 consecutive years, elected conservatives to replace liberal and moderate leaders.

Plan C directed money to CBF that in other plans would have gone to the SBC. "Plan C Only" congregations numbered 160 this past year, down slightly from previous years. A few congregations also customized their own giving plans by combining elements of the four options offered by the state convention.

The giving plans had been studied often and attempts to amend or eliminate them had been frequent.

In the giving plan presented by the Giving Plans Study Committee, the primary alternative to giving to the SBC was an option which allowed a church to forward 10 percent of its gift to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Other options proposed by the committee let a church designate 2 percent to an adopt-an-annuitant program or 2 percent for divinity schools at Gardner-Webb or Campbell universities, and it allowed for up to three negative designations while still counting the gift as Cooperative Program.

DEBATE ON THE MOTION

Matt Williamson, pastor of Oak Forest Baptist Church in Fletcher, moved the CBF option be deleted from the plan because, he said, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship does not subscribe to scriptural inerrancy. After much discussion, messengers approved Williamson’s motion on a ballot vote by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.

Some messengers disagreed.

"It seems there is no room for differences," in the state convention anymore, said Jeff Roberts, a study committee member and pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Raleigh, a congregation with regular worship attendance of 1,026 that contributes both to CBF and the Southern Baptist Convention. Trinity’s members choose for themselves which giving plan to contribute through and Roberts said he wants the church to be part of the "loyal minority in the [Baptist state convention] and stay connected."

"I don't know if that will be possible in the future," he said.

Eric Page, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Columbus, favored killing the CBF option because to leave it in indicated tolerance of views he does not hold. Page said the cartoon character Popeye only took abuse so long before he "popped out" a can of spinach and put an end to it.

"It's time for us to pop out a can of spinach and put an end to tolerance [of CBF views]," he said.

BUDGET, OFFICERS, WMU

Budget Chairman Steve Hardy said the state convention is in a strong financial position and will end the year in the black, even though receipts through October are $3.6 million (11.3 percent) behind budget and more than $700,000 behind 2007 income.

Messengers did not consider a budget for 2009 because they adopted a two-year budget in 2007. The total budget for 2008 was $38,981,417 and gifts are running more than $3 million behind budget. The convention’s 2008 Cooperative Program budget is $3.62 million, 11.26% behind current budget figures, but convention leaders say they expect to finish they year in the black. The 2009 budget calls for a slight increase over 2008 but the total is being revised downward by $4 million. The division of Cooperative Program funds will remain at 66 percent for North Carolina missions and 34 percent for Southern Baptist missions and ministries in North American and around the world.

Rick Speas, pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, was elected to a second one-year term as convention president. Ed Yount, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover, was elected first vice president. Tim Lowry, pastor of Balfour Baptist Church in Asheboro, was elected recording secretary.

For the second straight year, messengers voted down a proposal to include Woman's Missionary Union of North Carolina in the North Carolina Missions Offering. WMU-NC was eliminated from the state missions offering last year after it reasserted its autonomy, resigned as Baptist state convention staff and moved to offices outside the state convention building.

NEW MINISTRIES

Three new ministries were introduced to messengers: North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry, Embrace women's ministry and a church loans program from the North Carolina Baptist Foundation.

NCBAM will be the Baptist State Convention's new ministry to the aging since a breakdown in relationship with the state’s Baptist Retirement Homes organization. Cooperative Program funds of $880,000 escrowed from Baptist Retirement Homes were released to Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina, which will develop and drive the new aging ministry.

North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry will not be a residential service, but will be a resource to lead churches and associations to creative ministry involvement with senior adults.

Embrace women's ministry will focus on evangelism, discipleship and missions, according to Phyllis Foy, a North American Board missionary who led the task force that formed it. The new ministry will engage women with the Gospel, help form Bible studies and equip women to minister locally and globally.

Embrace's development is a result of Woman's Missionary Union of North Carolina’s move toward autonomy. Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer for the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, said that when WMU left the state convention would create a women's ministry initiative.

Clay Warf, executive director of the North Carolina Baptist Foundation, announced that his organization will for the first time offer church loans. The N.C. Baptist Foundation is the nation's oldest Baptist foundation, but not the first to be involved in church loans.

The 2009 meeting will be Nov. 9-11 at the Koury Center in Greensboro.


Adapted from reporting by Norman Jameson, editor of the Biblical Recorder (www.biblicalrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

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