Members of the Baptist State Convention Executive Committee learned of new mission partnership opportunities and approved hiring Russ Conley as senior consultant for leadership development as they wrapped up an eventful year with their final meeting in Cary Dec. 8.
They also learned of a pending partnership with Baptists in New York City and declined to provide the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) an email database of churches.
After 25 years in banking Conley, 54, established D.R. Conley & Associates in 2003 to provide executive development coaching. He has been a contract worker for the Baptist State Convention for six years.
Conley’s is not a new position, but one distilled from two others. He will assume some deacon ministry roles of Eddie Hammett, who was laid off, and leadership development roles of David Moore, who has moved to pastoral ministries after Wayne Oakes’ retirement.
“It is not often we have the opportunity to work closely with an individual for an extended period of time prior to recommending him for employment, but I have enjoyed that opportunity with Russ,” said Lynn Sasser, executive leader for congregational services under whom Conley will work.
Conley, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, will continue to live in Advance.
The Cooperative Program giving report through 11 months showed receipts from churches continuing to run five percent behind 2008 gifts. Despite the $1.5 million decrease in receipts the BSC continues to operate in the black by more than $800,000, according to comptroller Robert Simons.
Steve Hardy, who chaired the committee that presented the 2010 budget, said North Carolina Baptists are in “interesting times” as they watch development of giving patterns following a return to a single giving plan. In the past couple years, churches that would identify themselves as “moderate” have been “withdrawing support at a precipitous rate,” he said.
Prompted by a question on the investment performance of funds held in reserve, John Butler, executive leader for business services, said that investments have recouped virtually all of the 10 percent or $3 million lost in value during 2008.
“We’ve been very, very pleased,” Butler said. “As the market has come back we’ve fully participated and made up what was lost in 2008.”
Discussion about the data request from the ERLC followed a procedure adopted earlier this year to deal with numerous requests for such information. While the ERLC is building a national data base through which to inform churches about issues, Executive Committee members were reluctant to hand over the email database without permission from churches.
Alternatively, the BSC’s Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee will use the email address the BSC has for each church to notify the church of the ERLC’s interest in keeping them informed and will provide a link through which the church can indicate its interest to the ERLC.
Executive Committee member Greg Barefoot is a trustee of the ERLC and he said the Southern Baptist Convention does not have “what we’re looking for” as the ERLC tries to build its email list of all SBC churches.
Barefoot also encouraged North Carolina Baptists to become involved in the sex education curriculum offered in their local schools. The health education law passed by the N.C. legislature is still “primarily abstinence based,” Barefoot said, but comprehensive sex education can still be taught.
He also encouraged Baptists to support a ban on abortion providers teaching any of the sex education units in schools.
Joel Stephens, chair of the Committee on Christian Higher Education, brought up the “brief exchange concerning theological consistency between the Convention and affiliated educational institutions” during the annual meeting. A messenger asked why the Convention continued to support the Baptist colleges which “don’t believe like we do.”
Jerry Wallace, president of Campbell University, rose to say, “The beliefs of this Convention and of Campbell University and the other schools are compatible and have been that way for 123 years.”
Stephens told the Executive Committee that his committee “takes input from both sides very seriously. We want to work to be sure schools with which we affiliate can be supported in good conscience by the Convention.”
He urged Executive Committee members to communicate with his committee so it can provide answers and “avoid any divisive discussion that might happen on the floor of the convention.”
Todd Brady and Dale Duncan told of a pending partnership with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association and its 260 churches.
Southern Baptists have been in New York City since 1963, according to Duncan, who is president of N.C. Baptist Men. He said North Carolina Baptists “fell in love with New York City” during their intensive cleanup volunteer efforts following the disaster of 9/11.
Twenty language groups are represented among SBC churches there. Facilities will be available at which volunteers will be able to stay. Duncan said all talents will be able to be put to use, from construction to servant evangelism, urban evangelism, homeless ministry, Bible clubs and sports ministries.
Mike Sowers with N.C. Baptist Men will be the contact person: (919) 459-5626. He will be meeting Dec. 15-16 with a contingent from New York to finalize details.
Executive Committee members gave positive reviews of the 2009 annual meeting site and Butler said he is negotiating with the Sheraton Hotel and Koury Convention Center to have some rooms available for $99. That rate should encourage more people to stay in the headquarters hotel, saving the Convention money on meeting room rental.