As 2012 came to a somber close – one that included a deadly hurricane, a divisive presidential election and a horrific elementary school shooting – many might conclude it was a difficult year. But for North Carolina Baptists, – and others throughout the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) – it also was a year of church planting, strong missions giving, outreach and signs of hope for the future. The Biblical Recorder has compiled a list of some of the more notable headlines of 2012. We hope it will provide a good look at one memorable year.
1 The election of Fred Luter
Though it was merely a formality when the official vote was taken, the election of Fred Luter as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in June was no less historic. He became the SBC’s first African American president. “[It is] one of the most significant events in SBC history since the convention’s founding in 1845,” said Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. “It makes a statement as to who we have become and what we hope to be in the future,” added Akin, who nominated the pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans as first vice president of the convention in 2011 during the annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. “I long for the day when the church on earth looks like the church in heaven. The election of Fred, one of the finest and most godly men I know, will move us further down that road.”
Former SBC President Bryant Wright, right, with the newly elected president Fred Luter at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans.
On May 8, many N.C. Baptists celebrated the passage of a marriage amendment to the state’s constitution that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. In doing so, N.C. became the 30th state to define marriage in its constitution as being between a man and a woman. But the issue is far from settled. In November three states – Maine, Maryland and Washington state – voted to legalize “gay marriage,” bringing the total number of states where same-sex marriage is recognized to nine. The United States Supreme Court also announced that it plans to take up two cases involving the issue. Before being re-elected to a second term, President Barack Obama became the first president to publically support same-sex marriage. While many N.C. Baptists are pleased with their state’s stand on marriage, it could be overturned in the coming months if marriage is redefined nationwide.
3 Church planting
N.C. Baptists are leading a variety of church planting partnerships throughout North America and abroad. Through its Office of Great Commission Partnerships, the Baptist State Convention of N.C. (BSC) has focused its attention on leading Baptists across the state in partnerships in New York, Boston, Toronto and Moldova. In late October, a group of N.C. pastors traveled to Moldova on a vision trip to look for ways their congregation can partner with Baptist leaders in the country to plant more churches. In July, about 90 N.C. Baptists attended the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send North America Conference at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. More than 2,200 church leaders and pastors attended the event. Attendance nearly tripled initial expectations by bringing both young and older generations together to learn how they can plant more churches. This year, NAMB will follow up with conferences focused on church growth and revitalization. A conference will be held April 25 at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Raleigh. For more information online go to http://www.namb.net/revitalization/North_Carolina.
NAMB recognized N.C. Baptists in June at the SBC’s annual meeting in New Orleans for being the top state in giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. In 2011, N.C. Baptists raised $5.6 million for the offering. That amount was just over Alabama’s offering of $5 million. N.C. Baptists were also on top with $12.6 million in gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions (LMCO) that year. The Dec. 22 issue of the Biblical Recorder reported that the SBC’s International Mission Board released a list showing that 17 N.C. Baptist churches were among the top 200 giving churches to the 2011 LMCO. Between the months of March 2011 and February 2012, those churches gave a total of $2.4 million to the offering. And for the eighth year, in an effort to increase its support for SBC ministries, the Baptist State Convention of N.C.’s Cooperative Program budget for 2013 includes a one-half percent increase of the allocation that will go to the SBC. The increase will bring the SBC allocation to 36 percent.
The issue of Calvinism or soteriology (the study of the doctrine of salvation) made headlines this summer when a group of Southern Baptist leaders signed a statement affirming what they call the “traditional Southern Baptist” view of salvation, which draws a distinction from “New Calvinism.” The document entitled “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptists Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” includes a list of signatures, some of whom are seminary presidents, state executive directors and former SBC presidents. Immediately following the release of the document, Southern Baptists took to the blogosphere to voice their thoughts on the issue. Some N.C. Baptists also wrote related letters and guest columns that were published in the Biblical Recorder. During the SBC’s annual meeting in New Orleans, leaders encouraged messengers to avoid divisive rhetoric and remain united for the cause of the Great Commission. Executive Committee President Frank Page also formed a committee to look for ways that both sides can come together on the issue. The committee has met twice and plans to meet again. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is among those serving on the committee.
The fast-food chain Chick-fil-A found itself in the middle of a media storm after their company’s president Dan Cathy shared his traditional views on family and marriage in an interview with the Biblical Recorder. The Biblical Recorder published a story on the interview in its July 7 issue. The story was later re-posted on Baptist Press’ website, which recently declared the story to be the site’s most read article of 2012. In the days to follow numerous mainstream news agencies focused on Cathy’s statement of support for traditional family values. Some ran headlines suggesting Chick-fil-A and its president were “anti-gay.” As support and criticism grew for the fast-food chain, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee announced Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, which was held on Aug. 1. In the wake of some city leaders threatening to keep Chick-fil-A from opening new restaurants in their area, the company drew thousands of supporters that day across the country in support of its stand for traditional family values. This fall Chick-fil-A made headlines again when news reports suggested the company had backed off its stand by agreeing not to contribute to what critics called “anti-gay” organizations, such as Focus on the Family. Cathy later released a statement noting Chick-fil-A’s support for organizations that promote biblical family values remains the same.
7 Prayer, spiritual awakening
As a divisive election approached, Baptists through-out the state and around the country spearheaded a variety of prayer and fasting events that called for spiritual awakening in the country. On Sept. 2, just before the Democratic National Convention (DNC) held its meeting in Charlotte, about 9,000 people who represented more than 100 churches gathered for a city-wide worship event called Charlotte 714. Those who attended prayed, worshipped and were encouraged by a variety of speakers on the issue of spiritual awakening. Life Action Ministries promoted the event and continues to lead a prayer movement, called OneCry. That week the Metrolina Baptist Association and area churches, along with N.C. Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief ministry, led a variety of outreach efforts geared toward those visiting the city for the DNC. In October, leading up to its annual meeting in November, the Baptist State Convention of N.C. challenged Baptists in the state to participate in 30 days of prayer and fasting that focused on spiritual awakening. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Awaken.”
8 Disaster relief
N.C.’s Baptist Men’s disaster relief ministry had another busy year of relief efforts around the country as they helped people in need. A relatively busy year ended with relief efforts well underway in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated homes in the Northeast in October. Hundreds of N.C. Baptists descended on the area to minister to those who were impacted. The storm claimed more than 100 lives and caused widespread destruction from flooding, high tides and winds that reached around 80 mph. Thousands of homes were without electricity for weeks. During their Christmas break about 50 students worked with N.C. Baptist Men to help with relief efforts.
In July, the Biblical Recorder published a series of stories highlighting some of the ways N.C. Baptists are putting more focus on discipleship. The issue included a story on Chuck Campbell and how he is leading the Transylvania Baptist Association in Pisgah Forest to help church leaders define and teach discipleship. Other stories included how discipleship and mentoring changed Jim Gillespie’s life after he became a Christian. Today, Gillespie is pastor of men’s ministry at Richland Creek Community Church in Wake Forest. The Biblical Recorder followed up with related stories in later issues that focused on discipleship and outreach groups geared toward neighbors. The Baptist State Convention continues to lead an effort called 3D, which challenges churches to make discipleship a part of their congregation’s culture.
10 Great Commission Baptists
The SBC adopted Great Commission Baptists as an “unofficial descriptor” in June during its annual meeting in New Orleans. In 2011, Bryant Wright, president of the SBC and pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., selected a committee to study the possibility of changing the Southern Baptist Convention’s name. Some of the reasons behind forming the committee focused around the idea that the name had become outdated and too regional, too divisive and not reflective of today’s convention. After much discussion, the committee proposed an unofficial descriptor in February that could be used by congregations that felt more comfortable with using Great Commission Baptists. Though the final vote was closer than many had predicted, messengers approved the descriptor and appeared to move past an old debate – at least for now.