The executive committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) board of directors unanimously approved a motion directing state convention officials to conduct a comprehensive review of existing policies and procedures related to sexual abuse awareness, prevention and response.
The motion, made by state convention president Micheal Pardue, pastor of First Baptist Church Icard in Connelly Springs, came during the executive committee’s regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Nov. 8, held in conjunction with the BSC’s annual meeting at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center.
The motion directs BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Todd Unzicker to conduct a review of the state convention’s “policies, procedures and materials related to sexual abuse awareness, prevention and reporting.” The review will include all state convention ministry areas, as well as Fruitland Baptist Bible College, Caraway Conference Center and Camp, Fort Caswell Coastal Retreat and Conference Center, and Truett Camp and Conference Conference Center. Fruitland, Caraway, Fort Caswell and Truett are all owned and operated by the state convention.
Under details of the motion, Unzicker will conduct the review in consultation with subject matter experts, abuse survivors and a cross section of N.C. Baptists which will include convention and board officers, pastors, church leaders and lay people.
The motion also calls for the findings of the review, along with details about any actions taken or proposed recommendations, to be presented to the state convention’s board of directors during its regularly scheduled meeting in September 2022. Findings of the review will also be presented in a report to messengers at the 2022 annual meeting.
Pardue said that while he is not aware of any instance in which the state convention has mishandled any cases of sexual abuse, the internal review is a proactive step to show that the BSC takes sexual abuse issues seriously.
“This is not an issue that we can slack on,” Pardue said. “This will show that we are being proactive and ensure that we are doing everything we can to address this issue. We want to be very open to our convention and make sure that we are doing the best we can to protect people in our churches and hold people accountable.”
In directing Unzicker to conduct the review, Pardue called him an advocate on issues related to sexual abuse and a leader on the issue at a national level.
Unzicker thanked Pardue and the committee for approving the motion and called its passage “historic.” Unzicker pledged to be open and transparent throughout the process as he works with statewide leaders and outside experts during the review.
“Thank you for leading with clarity, conviction and compassion on this issue,” Unzicker said. “If our churches do not see us as a convention being proactive in this, mistrust will happen. This is not in relation to any other convention or what’s going on there. This is about North Carolina Baptists.
“We want your churches and other churches to know that we take this issue seriously, and that we also want to be a resource to churches and associations.”
Hospital study committee appointed
Board president Matt Capps also announced the appointment of a study committee to explore the relationship between the state convention and N.C. Baptist Hospital based on action taken during the last board meeting in September. Capps announced that existing members of the Institutional Relationship Study Committee will comprise the study committee in compliance with state convention bylaws.
The Institutional Relationship Study Committee was formed in July 2020 to examine the relationship and funding models between the state convention and its institutions and agencies, which include the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, the Biblical Recorder, N.C. Baptist Hospital and the N.C. Baptist Foundation.
During discussions with the Institutional Relationship Committee, N.C. Baptist Hospital officials requested that the convention and the hospital explore a potential change to the current relationship, specifically related to the designated Cooperative Program funds and the election of hospital trustees.
Convention bylaws stipulate that any changes in the relationship between the state convention and any related entity must undergo a detailed study by the board that lasts at least six months. The committee exploring the relationship with the hospital will report to the BSC’s board of directors during the regularly scheduled meeting in May 2022.
Kecia Morgan, interim director of accounting at the state convention, shared a financial update with executive committee members.
Through the end of October, Cooperative Program receipts from N.C. Baptist churches totaled nearly $28.3 million, which is slightly more than 3.5%, or about $789,000, ahead of budget and nearly 4.2%, or nearly $932,000, ahead of the same time period as last year.
In addition, giving to all special offerings were up by double digit percentage points in year-over-year giving. Giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions totaled nearly $11.5 million, nearly 10.7% ahead of the same time period in 2020. Giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions, which was severely impacted last year due to limits on church gatherings because of COVID-19, totaled nearly $6.6 million, nearly 42.6% ahead of 2020. Giving to the North Carolina Missions Offering totaled more than $1.5 million, which is 13.1% ahead of 2020 to date.
Unzicker also recognized Capps and other executive committee members whose terms of service on the committee are coming to end.
Capps, Pat Kilby and Charlie Martin have completed their terms of service and are rotating off the board of directors.
In addition, Keith Stephenson, will not be serving on the executive committee next year, but will continue as a member of the board.
Executive committee members Noah Crowe, Terry Stockman and Rick Speas served this past year as members at-large, which are elected to terms in the January board meeting each year.
The executive committee is scheduled to meet again on Jan. 25, 2022, at Caraway Conference Center in conjunction with a regularly scheduled meeting of the BSC’s full board of directors.