N.C. Baptists affirm marriage
GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP) -- The month following a federal judge's ruling that North Carolina's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional, messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina's annual meeting adopted a resolution expressing their support for traditional marriage.
Focusing on John 14:12 and a "Greater Things" theme, more than 1,800 messengers and guests gathered at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro Nov. 10-11 to embrace the truth that God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, wishes to accomplish great works through His people.
Baptist State Convention's Board of Directors (BOD) proposed a reduced Cooperative Program budget for 2015 of $29 million -- $1 million less than 2014.
The budget increases the percentage of CP receipts designated for Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries to 37 percent, up from 36.5 percent in 2014. Sixty-three percent of CP receipts are designated for North Carolina missions and ministries. The budget does not designate any shared expenses with the SBC.
Larry Burns, a messenger from Mulberry Baptist Church in Charlotte, requested an amendment to the budget. Burns said budgets are about priorities, and Christians have a biblical mandate to care for orphans as well as to be an informed people. He moved that messengers reduce funds for scholarships and increase financial support to both the Baptist Children's Homes and the Biblical Recorder.
The amendment failed on a vote. With no other amendments presented, the budget was approved.
Articles and bylaws
Six amendments to the convention's bylaws were presented to messengers. They concerned:
-- changing the procedures and requirements for submitting resolutions for consideration at annual meetings;
-- setting procedures for the BOD when weather or other factors cause meetings to be cancelled;
-- clarifying qualifications of and limits on who can serve on the BOD;
-- updating wording related to the Christian Life & Public Affairs Committee;
-- updating the name of Fruitland Baptist Bible College (from Institute) in Baptist State Convention (BSC) documents; and
-- clarifying inconsistencies in the description of trustees for North Carolina Baptist Hospital.
Messengers approved all six amendments.
Committee on Nominations report
The Committee on Nominations is responsible for receiving, reviewing and presenting recommendations provided by North Carolina Baptists for service on the BOD and committees of the convention as well as the boards of the institutions and agencies of the convention. The committee's report was approved with no additional nominations from the floor.
Two resolutions were brought before messengers: a Resolution of Continued Support and a Resolution in Support of Religious Liberty. Submitted by David Gasperson, pastor of Warsaw Baptist Church in Warsaw, the Resolution of Continued Support asked North Carolina Baptists to encourage BSC leadership as they equip and support churches and associations to engage areas of lostness outside of the identified eight population areas.
The religious liberty resolution expressed support for pastors in Houston who opposed the city's Equal Rights Ordinance and had their sermons subpoenaed by city officials. The resolution also advocated the freedom of all pastors to obey God rather than man.
Messengers passed both resolutions.
During a miscellaneous business session, messengers approved a resolution on marriage proposed from the floor by Garland Honeycutt, a messenger from Big Rock Creek Baptist Church in Bakersville. Honeycutt asked for a suspension of the rules to allow messengers to consider the resolution, and messengers allowed Honeycutt, director of missions for the Avery Baptist Association, to read the resolution.
The resolution -- "Resolution affirming God's institution of marriage in North Carolina" -- was proposed after the September filing deadline and was created in response to a U.S. District Court ruling in October that overturned the state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2012 affirming marriage as between one man and one woman.
The resolution called on messengers to pray for the U.S. Supreme Court since it is expected to take up the matter of gay marriage. Messengers promised encouragement and prayer "for those individuals who are persecuted as they refuse to violate their deeply help biblical convictions on the issue of same-sex marriage." The resolution also affirmed "the biblical teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman."
Jeff Broadwell, pastor of Long Branch Baptist Church in Lumberton and chair of the Memorials and Resolutions Committee, said the committee and BSC leaders reviewed the resolution prior to its proposal at the annual meeting.
Three officers were elected: president, Timmy Blair; first vice president, Cameron McGill; and second vice president, Joel Stephens.
Blair, pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier, was nominated by Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte.
"Timmy Blair is a leader, a leader of character and consistency but also courage," Harris said in his nomination speech.
Blair has been married to Wendy for 35 years and has two children and two grandchildren. Piney Grove Chapel, which has led Little River Baptist Association in baptisms in recent years, has experienced growth in membership and expanded mission giving.
"As a North Carolina Baptist, Timmy was a conservative when conservative wasn't cool and I'm grateful for that," Harris said.
Aaron Wallace, lead pastor Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, nominated McGill, pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church.
"He believes that North Carolina Baptists must cooperate together to strengthen and revitalize our existing churches as well as equipping and supporting our new church plants and our global mission partnerships," Wallace said of McGill. "Since becoming pastor ... his church has seen an increase of 400 percent in missions giving."
McGill and his wife Tiffany have four children. He has led First Baptist to participate in local missions as well as to work with church planters in New York and Moldova.
"He's a man of God with integrity and character," Wallace said.
Rick Speas, pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, nominated Stephens, pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in Westfield.
"He is a servant leader with a Kingdom vision and a man of deep integrity," Speas said of Stephens, who is married to Lisa and has four children. "Joel wholeheartedly supports the new strategy and the leadership of this convention."
Jonathan Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., delivered the final message of the BSC annual meeting. Falwell is the son of the late Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church.
Speaking from Philippians, Falwell challenged churches to recommit to advancing the Gospel.
"The only book that's living and powerful is this book that was breathed out from the heart of God -- the infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of God," Falwell said. "Until the church of Jesus Christ begins to take that seriously once again, we're not going to knock down the gates of hell."
Disunity isn't just a problem for church members, it's a problem for pastors as well, Falwell said, encouraging ministers to strive for unity with one another.
"When we preach Jesus crucified, buried and risen again, light will come into a dark world, and the gates of hell will be knocked down," Falwell said. "The church today better get back to doing this now because time is short. Let's be the church that knocks down the gates of hell."
The North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) are involved in at least 18 missions projects ranging from agriculture to aviation to disaster relief.
The group has five large feeding units, the largest three of which are capable of providing up to 80,000 meals a day. They were used several times in the past year both in North Carolina and around the country.
"God's able to do greater things than we can think or even imagine," NCBM executive director Richard Brunson said. "I imagine a lot. I imagine every Christian seeing themselves as missionaries in their neighborhoods and in their workplace.
"I imagine North Carolina Baptist churches sharing Christ's love in word and in deed. I imagine North Carolina volunteers being God's hands and feet in their community and across our state and nation. God can do much more than we can imagine," he said.
Reflecting on the meeting's Greater Things theme, pastors Rob Peters and Noah Crowe encouraged messengers to remember the focus of Christian ministry.
Greater vision, Peters said, must come before believers can accomplish greater things.
"No ministry will ever remain intentional about its mission, no agency will remain faithful to its purpose and no denomination can remain passionate about its ministry if it does not have a high and holy view of God," Peters, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, said.
Speaking from John 14:12 -- the meeting's theme verse -- Crowe said Jesus revealed a pattern of servanthood, a greater picture of Himself as Savior and the greater power available to all believers.
"We have great preaching in Baptist churches," Crowe said. "We've got great singing in Baptist churches, great testifying in Baptist churches, but where's the power? It comes from the Spirit of God. Greater power is not in personalities and styles. It's not in good names and the venues. It's not in our good offerings and our big financial pledges. It's found in the Spirit of God, who glorifies the Savior."
The 2015 annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2-3 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.