While WMU-NC maintains its relationship with North Carolina Baptists is unchanged since it re-established its independence, assumed responsibility for its own financial support and moved offices from the Baptist State Convention staff building in Cary in 2008, BSC actions since then have consistently demonstrated a conviction that WMU-NC “left” the Convention.
The BSC established Embrace women’s ministry following WMU’s departure to separate offices after Executive Director-treasurer Milton Hollifield declared during the tumultuous months of debate that the BSC would have a women’s ministry emanating from the Cary office.
Board President Allan Blume, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone, presented the policy, which he said was the result of Board leadership working with an initial document offered by WMU. In May Blume, who has been president of the Board three terms, struggled with a request by WMU to report to the Board because there was no policy determining their eligibility, when many other organizations with only tangential ties crave similar opportunity.
The new policy is entitled “Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Statement of Intent to Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina in Co-laboring to fulfill the Great Commission,” and was unanimously adopted after much discussion.
It offers guidelines in the relationship in the areas of mutual affirmation, church planting, event promotion, access to data, reporting at various meetings and presence in the annual Book of Reports produced by the Convention.
Arrival at such understanding is important as WMU continues to work among thousands of North Carolina Baptist churches. If it is interpreted that WMU-NC is no longer a part of the Convention, then its request for access to data — for instance — is logically denied. The BSC Executive Committee denied a WMU-NC request for the mailing addresses of new ministers so WMU-NC could invite their wives to the new ministers wives retreat.
Because some North Carolina Baptist churches prefer not to correspond with WMU-NC, the Convention needed a policy on addresses and email sharing for the sake of distributing special offering promotional materials. Blume explained the default policy for existing churches — unless otherwise indicated by the church — will be service through WMU-NC. The default policy for new churches will be service through national WMU, unless the church requests otherwise.
The BSC will ask each church its preference.
The new policy recognizes that “the relationship between WMU-NC and the BSCNC is different than at any other time in the history of the two organizations.” It said, “… the BSCNC affirms the ministry of WMU-NC as it seeks to involve women in missions,” and it “recognizes WMU-NC as a provider of mission education materials.”
“The BSCNC anticipates appropriate affirmation from WMU-NC among its constituents as well,” the policy states.
It says the BSCNC will “share contact information with WMU-NC from those church planters” which choose to receive it.
Because WMU-NC also provides its services to churches not related to the BSCNC, the policy “reserves the right to determine what events will be promoted during their functions or what activities will be done in concert with other organizations.”
Regarding data access, the policy states that unless a church denies permission, the BSCNC will forward mailing information to WMU-NC.
The policy “affirms the necessity of communication as the basis of any relationship,” so it approves an annual WMU-NC report to the Board of Directors and a report the annual meeting every three years.
It also approves a written WMU-NC report in the Convention’s annual book of reports.
Discussion of the policy reflected the lingering resentment over WMU-NC’s unilateral decision to affect a change in relationship from “auxiliary” to “co-laborer” in 2006.
A question was raised asking why WMU-NC should be allowed to report at all, since “other co-laborers do not report.”
Board member Steve Hardy pointed out that in official documents, WMU is the only “co-laborer.”
Blume said, “Their presence in our documents and their significant presence in our churches is far greater than other such organizations.”
Board member Cameron McGill did not want to hear reports from WMU because, “We can’t control what they report in here or more importantly on the Convention floor.”
He said, “Every time they’ve reported, it’s been kind of a black eye on our meeting.”
Board member Bill Gay said he trusts both the leadership of the BSC and WMU-NC. He said Ruby Fulbright, executive director of WMU, “is a good woman, a woman of honor.”
Hardy eventually wrapped up discussion by reminding board members that, “All we’re doing here is recognizing WMU still plays an important role in many churches in North Carolina Baptist life. We are extending them a courtesy and it is a courtesy that is appropriate.”
Hollifield said that although WMU “is no longer a ministry of the Convention, many churches still choose to work with WMU. What your Executive Committee has worked out is a way to let the voices be heard of those churches. You must keep in mind how precious and valuable WMU is to some of our NC Baptist churches.”
“Let’s operate with grace and move ahead with this,” Blume said.
Contacted after the meeting, Fulbright, who was in the room during the discussion, said she was, “encouraged at the signs of continuing cooperation” and that the BSC and WMU “have begun to identify places where we can co-labor together.”