The Baptist State Convention (BSC) Executive Committee authorized hiring of four new staff members; approved modifications to staff retirement options; and initiated a study that could change the status of several councils to committees of the Board at its Aug. 14 meeting at Caraway Conference Center.
In a quiet summer prelude to an expanded September board meeting, the Executive Committee also heard the process by which a new president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute will be sought and moved to assure that all churches would receive special missions offering promotion materials even if they do not want to cooperate with Woman’s Missionary Union, either state or national.
A search committee named by Fruitland Board Chair George Cagle, who is on the BSC Executive Committee, will work closely with BSC Executive Director-treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. and Brian Davis, chairman of the Council on Christian Higher Education and BSC executive leader for administration and Convention relations, to identify a candidate to succeed Kenneth Ridings, who will retire at the end of the year.
The candidate’s ultimate approval will come from the BSC Board of Directors since Fruitland is a department of the Board.
Four men will be joining BSC staff, filling vacant positions. They are:
Kenny Adcock, as state Royal Ambassador leader and recreation associate at Camp Caraway;
Eric Vidana as webmaster at BSC offices in Cary;
Jeff Pate as campus minister at Western Carolina University;
A team leader for church ministries in the congregational services area will remain unnamed here until Wednesday, by which time he will have informed the out-of-state church where he is on staff of his change.
Details on the staff retirement options also are being voluntarily delayed here until they are discussed with staff during in-office days next week.
Move for councils
Shannon Scott, chair of the Articles and Bylaws Committee which is recommending extensive consolidation of those documents, moved to form a committee to study a proposal to “terminate the status of the Council on Christian Higher Education, Council on Christian Social Services and Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs” as councils of the Convention. Instead, he would propose that each council “become a committee of the Board of Directors to simplify the organizational structure and streamline the work of the Convention.”
Scott’s motion would leave “membership, powers or responsibilities” of the bodies unchanged.
John Butler, executive leader for business services, said staff is operating within revenue and the $2.5 million budget deficit does not negatively affect BSC operations as much as it would appear. While revenue through July 31 was 11.3 percent below budget, it was just one percent below 2007 receipts.
Butler said because most revenue actually is forwarded to other entities, BSC operations are negatively affected by about $890,000 of the $2.5 million deficit. “That is significant,” he said. “But we’ve told executive leaders from the beginning of the year to spend at 90 percent or more below budget.”
Careful managing of health care costs, including passing more costs onto employees, also has contained expenses, he said.
“We’re in a good place right now in terms of managing income and expenses,” Butler said.
Hollifield said, “I do not and will not deny the challenges we have because of the controversial things we have dealt with last year and this year,” but he is convinced the primary factor behind slow revenue is a weak economy.
While the 2009 budget calls for staff salary increases and merit raises totaling four percent, Butler said revenue dictates that raises be scaled back to a cost of living increase only. Butler, a former banker, predicts a consumer price index rise in the neighborhood of 3.6 percent for 2008, although the July rise was an annualized 5.6 percent.
Resurrecting an issue from the July meeting, Brian Davis challenged the contention of Ruby Fulbright, WMU-NC executive director, that she had correspondence from national WMU director Wanda Lee that clarified a Fulbright position on distribution of special offering materials. Davis said he contacted Lee, who told him she could find no record of such correspondence.
At issue is where materials to support the North American and International mission boards special offerings will be available to churches who do not want to cooperate with WMU-NC.
Private correspondence from Lee to Phyllis Foy, chair of the women’s ministry study committee that is recommending formation of Embrace ministries, was read publicly at the July meeting that made it clear materials would be available to any church, even outside the traditional distribution pattern of state Woman’s Mission Union organizations.
Fulbright has consistently held during two years of controversy between her organization and the BSC that national WMU would recognize only one WMU in each state. Nothing in Lee’s letter indicates otherwise.
But Lee’s letter in July apparently was interpreted by Executive Committee members to mean that WMU national would work just as easily with Embrace as with WMU-NC. Fulbright said she had a letter of clarification from Lee which said WMU national would sell dated curriculum to anyone and make offering materials available to churches that chose not to receive them through WMU-NC, but there will be only one WMU organization per state.
Evidently between the July meeting and Aug. 14 Davis challenged Fulbright’s possession of such a letter by asking her for a copy of it. When it was not received, he asked Lee for a copy and Lee said she could not find one, a fact that Davis interpreted to mean such a letter had never been sent.
Fulbright remained silent during that accusation and produced the email correspondence dated June 23 only after the meeting concluded. Fulbright withheld the document during the meeting, she said afterward, because she wanted to talk with Lee for further clarification.
The June 23 email of clarification from Lee was obviously not in direct response to the Lee letter to Foy, although several Executive Committee members thought that is what they were hearing. Instead, it was one of many items of correspondence between Lee and Fulbright as the WMU organizations navigate the turbulent waters of a new relationship between WMU-NC and the BSC.
Davis said after the meeting that his only concern is to clarify for churches that call the Convention office and do not want to cooperate with WMU-NC where they can receive offering materials. He had no way to estimate how many churches have expressed that sentiment.
WMU-NC will distribute special offering materials to churches as always to support the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. WMU national works through the state organizations, but retains just a small amount of materials that may be available for direct distribution to some churches.
The September board meeting—normally a two-day event—is being expanded to a third day to accommodate significant business, including reports of task forces on giving plans, women’s ministry and ministry to aging; significant revisions to the articles and bylaws and NCMO allocations.
The meeting will be Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Caraway Conference Center.