North Carolina Baptists’ Board of Directors endorsed the work of several significant task forces that messengers will consider in annual session in Greensboro when they met Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
Task forces recommending a single giving plan, Baptist Aging Ministries, Embrace women’s ministry and changes to the Articles and Bylaws were all affirmed.
The Board also adopted a recommendation by the Council on Christian Social Services that Convention messengers be asked to initiate the process to sever relationship with the Baptist Retirement Homes (BRH). “Sever” is the official terminology, but it means a study would be initiated to determine the future relationship between BRH and the Convention.
The Board also approved Caraway Conference Center taking a small step toward eventually building a 32-bed hotel adjacent to the current center and a 295-seat lecture hall behind it. Caraway Director Jimmy Huffman showed architect’s renderings and he was given permission to engage discussions with a fundraising firm to measure the potential of raising $3.2 million in private money for the project.
Board members expressed frustration at their own makeup when it was noted that the list of nominees to be elected to the Board in November included 26 preachers, three women and one layman. Raymond Earp, a layman from Calvary Baptist Church in Beaufort, said he was “frustrated by the preponderance of preachers.”
Board members who have served on the nominating commi ttee agreed but said they just don’t receive enough nominations for laymen and women. Jerry Durmire said, “It’s hard to get working people to agree to serve.”
“I hope people will hear what you’re saying,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer. “I agree with what you’re saying and I want to get a better balance on the board.”
Task force work
Of the four task forces, the report of the Giving Plans Study Committee has been the most anticipated.
“The decisions we make tonight will impact future generations for Christ,” said task force chair Ed Yount, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover when introducing his report, which he called “historic.” “It’s not about us, it’s about Jesus and His Kingdom’s work,” he said.
North Carolina Baptists — their multiple giving plans unique among state Baptist conventions — told the task force they wanted something less confusing, Yount said. His committee provided “a simple plan, with options.”
The plan approved by the Board allows up to three negative designations, allows churches to check a box to contribute 10 percent of their gift to the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and provides check boxes for additional support to Adopt-an-Annuitant and theological education at Campbell and Gardner-Webb University divinity schools.
Committee member James Horton, pastor of Rocky Hock Baptist Church, told his wife before the first meeting that “it would take the hand of God to work out something.” He told the board that “Meeting after meeting, I watched the hand of God at work.”
Michael Blackwell, president of Baptist Children’s Homes, made a final presentation for North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministries (NCBAM). He cited the aging of American society and said all the elements are in place for Baptists in North Carolina to meet needs.
NCBAM will not be a residential service, but will help churches and associations initiate creative ways to meet non-residential needs of aging adults.
Bobby Boyd, a BCH trustee and retiring director of social services for Catawba County, will lead initial development of NCBAM, Blackwell announced. “This is a real coup to get this fine Baptist to kick this off,” Blackwell said.
Phyllis Foy, who headed the task force to fashion a women’s ministry that could be a direct ministry of the Baptist State Convention, made final recommendation for Embrace, which had been introduced in May, as the title for North Carolina Baptist Women’s missions and ministries.
The original task for her group, she said, was to form a comprehensive women’s ministry, including evangelism, discipleship, missions education, prayer support and promotion for missions offerings for ministries of the BSC.
Embrace’s three-pronged emphasis will be evangelism, discipleship and missions, she said. “If we don’t teach our women to be about evangelism, we’re going to lose the fight,” she said.
Foy said prayer is at the “heart and center” of all three prongs, because “If we do not pray fervently for these women, children and their spouses, then we’ve failed.”
Cindy Stevens, BSC Board secretary and task force member, addressed representatives of WMU in the room. “I want to say to my WMU friends, we’re not in competition,” she said. “There’s so many women to reach.”
Her prayer, she said, was that both ministries will be blessed. “God is saying, ‘Here’s the women of North Carolina’ and we’re going to go for them hard,” Stevens said.
After the Embrace presentation Board member Beverly Butler asked, “Is this truly saying we are all going to bury the strife and agree to move forward … in the name of Christ and His Kingdom?”
Board President Allan Blume said, “The answer to that question is in the heart of each individual in this room and across the Convention.”
Articles and bylaws
Shannon Scott, chair of the Articles and Bylaws Committee, presented his report with the help of BSC attorney John Small and Brian Davis, executive leader for administration and convention relations.
Although their work has been voluminous, it has been primarily sorting, condensing and arranging wording from the original constitution which was melded with little adjustment into articles and bylaws after incorporation. This is the first significant work through the document and will be followed by similar work next year, addressing the second half of the documents.
As required in the articles and bylaws, the changes will be published in the Biblical Recorder in the next two issues, with current reading and proposed reading clearly delineated. Look for them in the issues dated Oct. 25 and Nov. 8.
Board member Beverly Butler and Tana Hartsell, second vice president of Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina, pressed for clarification of WMU’s opportunity to be informed and to report at Board meetings under the revised articles. In the revisions, WMU moves from auxiliary to “co-laborer” and the WMU president is moved from a voting member of the Executive Committee, to a non-voting, ex officio member of the Board of Directors only.
They did not receive the commitment in the articles and bylaws revisions they sought, but only committees, councils and auxiliaries are asked to report at each meeting. Other ministries report as needed. Given the positive hearing Butler and Hartsell received, there was no evidence they would not be welcomed to report in the future.
Under the revisions, Baptist Retirement Homes will no long be a part of the Council on Christian Social Services, and the status of all councils will be changed to “committee.” As per agreement initiated in 2007, the Articles and Bylaws affirm the status of the five college and universities, which will name their own trustees, receive no unrestricted Cooperative Program funds and maintain membership on what is currently called the Council on Christian Higher Education.
The BSC will provide scholarship funds. For 2008, 732 Baptist students attending Baptist colleges received $1,500 scholarships, up from 539 similar scholarships of varying amounts awarded by the schools the previous year, according to Davis.
The schools will be referred to as “affiliated educational institutions.” They will have a unique relationship that is not specifically “ministries of the Convention.”
Because Convention membership is a part of the definitions in the articles and bylaws, and because a clause prohibits from membership any church which affirms or endorses homosexual behavior, board member Wayne Key, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Cherryville, said the impression is too often given that Baptists “hate” homosexuals. He introduced and asked for board support of a resolution to be presented in November that affirmed love for all persons, including those engaged in “unbiblical lifestyles,” and that asked churches to engage such persons in redemptive actions.
After much discussion the resolution was overwhelmingly declined, primarily because board members felt the Baptist position is well known and no matter how well intended, the resolution would have the consequence of scratching old wounds and being misinterpreted.
Key said he does not intend to introduce the resolution in November.
Baptist Retirement Homes
The BSC relationship with Baptist Retirement Homes has not progressed since an extensive study committee report to the Convention in November 2007. BRH is naming its own trustees; BSC has stopped providing Cooperative Program funds it used for benevolent care and BSC is initiating a Convention sponsored ministry to aging adults, called NCBAM.
Scott Eanes, chairman of the Council on Christian Social Services, had a couple of “very good meetings” with Bill Stillerman, president of Baptist Retirement Homes, he said. But subsequent correspondence yielded only a repeat of previously stated positions and Eanes felt that “in good conscience” he needed to initiate an action toward resolution.
Director Jimmy Huffman presented analysis about groups being turned away due to limited space at the current facility, which was built in 1975 with an addition in 1985.
The Board’s properties committee endorsed the concept of the proposed 32 room hotel addition and a new lecture hall for $3.2 million, but did not commit to build it. Instead, the Board authorized Huffman to investigate costs associated with a fundraising campaign and to report his findings in January.
The 295-seat lecture hall would be mostly underground, tucked into a hillside and not visible from the road leading to the camping area.
The hotel rooms can be configured as 32 private bedrooms or 16 two-bedroom suites.
Huffman said occupancy analysis shows Caraway at 91 percent capacity on the weekends when most people want to reserve retreat and meeting spaces. He estimated nearly a $500,000 annual increase in revenue with the additional space.