Those who struggled to keep a flap open in the Baptist tent reacted with discouragement when the last façade of mutual admiration between the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship crumbled Nov. 12.
Others, including those who yelled, “Victory” in the hallway after the vote, believe the action clarifies the BSC relationship with Southern Baptists as the lone mission sending avenue.
Messengers adopted a single giving plan Nov. 12, but only after killing an option that would have let churches give to CBF through their check to the Baptist State Convention, a convenience North Carolina Baptists have enjoyed since giving plan Plan C was adopted in 1994.
Ed Yount, chairman of the Giving Plans Study Committee that recommended BSC return to a single plan with the option of continuing the convenience for dually aligned churches, said, “The messengers have spoken.”
“The Giving Plan Study Committee made a proposal to the convention as we felt led of the Lord,” Yount, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover and newly elected BSC first vice president. “It was approved without opposition by the Board of Directors. The great thing about being Baptists is our autonomy and the messengers have spoken. My prayer is we can move forward in Christ.”
Jeff Roberts, a study committee member and pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Raleigh which contributes both to CBF and BSC, said, “It seems there is no room for differences,” in the BSC anymore.
Roberts said he was “real disappointed” at the outcome. More than that, he was “hurt by the rhetoric from the floor that seems to say there are those who don’t want to associate, let alone cooperate, with anyone who relates to the CBF.”
It is obvious, Roberts said, that the BSC has “moved toward the Southern Baptist Convention more and more every year. That is their right. But there are consequences to their choices.”
Roberts, whose 2,700 members choose for themselves which giving plan to contribute through, said he wants to be part of the “loyal minority in the BSC and stay connected.”
“I don’t know if that will be possible in the future,” he said. Trinity gave $91,000 through the Cooperative Program last year.
Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church, Charlotte, who was elected second vice president of the Convention, believed messengers thought they were taking a step toward clarity in relationships.
While he is confident that BSC leadership wants to keep the Convention moving toward clear affinity to the SBC, they’ve been thoughtful to keep the tent open, he said.
“We’ve been walking that direction and with this we took a leap,” Harris said. “Whether that was wise or not wise we’ll see down the road.”
“Messengers felt the time had come to be true to the direction of the Convention,” said Harris, who delivered the 2007 convention sermon in which he declared a “new day is dawning” and it is time to rebuild the Convention.
Harris, who supported the study committee’s work, noted that this annual meeting was “one of the most unified conventions in spirit leading up to today.” He said he understands that the study committee included the CBF option because it did not want any church to leave the Convention, just like no pastor wants to lose a member.
“Even those who voted to amend understood that heartbeat,” Harris said.
But he feels the single giving plan, with no CBF option, enables the BSC “to be true to our relationships.”
“The foundation is there and now we’re going to be able to rebuild the Convention,” he said.
Kenny Byrd, pastor of First Baptist Church, Sylva, who told messengers “I’m not a dragon” after he felt CBF-friendly persons were being vilified, said after the meeting, “This is going to cause us to have to make major decisions in our church with the potential to cause strife.”
“First Baptist Sylva is dually aligned and we have been growing in our commitment to CBF,” Byrd said. “I saw with the plan (as proposed) we had hope to stay involved with the BSC. Unfortunately I saw this hope removed.”
Charles Johnson of Raleigh's Temple Baptist Church told the Raleigh News and Observer that his congregation would continue donating money to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and to the BSC. But it will do so with two separate checks.
"I don't think it's a deal-breaker," said Johnson. "It would still allow churches to do what they want to do."
On the other hand, Don Gordon, pastor of Yates Baptist Church in Durham, said the move indicated that “churches associated with CBF are being told unequivocally they don't need to come. CBF churches had already been treated as second-class citizens. Now they're treated as non-citizens."
“I do not know what our congregation will do now,” wrote Ron Cava, pastor of First Baptist Church, Clinton, on the Biblical Recorder blog site. “I suspect we will be Baptists whether others see us as that or not. We will make our own decisions based on our own values and following our discernment of what the Spirit is saying. Our mission dollars will follow closely. I suspect those who understand that their 10 percent is not wanted by the BSCNC may decide that their 90 percent is not deserved by the BSCNC.”
National CBF released an official statement, which said it is grateful for the past partnership with the BSC. “We affirm the right of the Convention to make this decision to no longer allow funding to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship through Convention channels, but we regret the loss of this partnership,” the statement said. “More importantly, this Fellowship is about serving Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission. We look forward to continuing and growing our ministries and partnerships among the churches in North Carolina as together we are the presence of Christ in the world."
Larry C. Hovis, executive coordinator of CBF of North Carolina, which never has been included in any BSC giving plan, nor would it have shared in the single giving plan, said his organization’s giving plan, which funds many traditional BSC institutions, “allows congregations the freedom to be faithful to their unique mission vision. Congregations may use the plan exactly as it is presented in its basic version or they may make any adjustments they desire to the plan so that it more accurately and faithfully reflects their priorities.”