May 5, 2003
Annual meeting predicted to be decisive in N.C.
___CARY, N.C. (ABP)--November's meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina could be decisive in the ongoing controversy between conservatives and moderates in the state.
___Candidates who worked together on a failed shared-leadership proposal in 1999 will face off in the race for president, and messengers likely will hear recommendations from a committee authorized last November to study a giving track favored by moderates.
___David Hughes, pastor of First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, was endorsed by Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina officials March 29, while Conservative Carolina Baptists leaders named David Horton, pastor of Gate City Baptist Church in Greensboro, April 24.
___Hughes and Horton became friends in 1997 while both served on the Committee of 20, a group of 10 conservatives and 10 moderates who met to discuss the state convention's future. They later served together on the Commission on Cooperation, which proposed a shared-leadership plan at the 1999 annual meeting.
___The proposed plan focused on the election of officers. The individual receiving the most votes for president would have been elected president, while the one with the second-most votes would be president-elect. That presumably would have put a conservative in one position and a moderate in the other. The president-elect automatically would have become president the next year, while the current president would stay on as past-president, effectively allowing both officers to serve two years.
___Similarly, the vice presidential candidate receiving the most votes would have been first vice president, with the candidate coming in second being named second vice president, both serving two-year terms.
___The four officers together would have appointed members of a key nominating committee.
___Proponents said the plan would have avoided deepening the division among the state's Baptists. Opponents said conservatives and moderates have different visions for the convention, making true cooperation impossible. In the end, the proposal, although receiving 55 percent of the vote, was defeated when it failed to get the two-thirds majority necessary to change the convention's constitution.
___For the past eight years, conservatives have dominated the state convention elections, with moderates gaining some ground briefly in 2000. But last year's formation of a committee authorized to study Plan C, one of four giving tracks available to the state's churches and the only one that includes funding for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, has North Carolina's Mainstream Baptist group asking if churches affiliated with the CBF can be full partners in the North Carolina convention and if loyalty to the Southern Baptist Convention is a litmus test in the state.
___Speaking to a group of about 70 at the Mainstream meeting at First Baptist Church in Greensboro, Pastor Ken Massey said he wants to know if the state convention will be as rigid and exclusionary as the SBC.
___"It's not a mandate; it's not a threat," he said. "We simply want to know, 'Is there room for churches that are no longer loyal to the SBC?' In November, we aim to have an answer."
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