OAK ISLAND, N.C. — The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s board of directors voted unanimously to move forward with a proposal that would change the convention’s relationship with N.C. Baptist Hospital to one that emphasizes working together in ministry activities that align with both organization’s goals and strategies.
The proposal was approved during the N.C. Baptist board’s regularly scheduled meeting held Monday and Tuesday (May 23-24) at the Fort Caswell Coastal Retreat and Conference Center. The plan will now be presented to messengers attending this year’s N.C. Baptist annual meeting, scheduled for Nov. 7-8 at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C., for final consideration.
Under terms of the proposed change, the convention would cease Cooperative Program allocations to the hospital beginning Jan. 1, 2023, and would no longer elect hospital trustees. The changes would still permit the convention to continue to work with the hospital to provide counseling or other services to N.C. Baptists through the hospital’s FaithHealth Division. The proposal also allows the organizations to work together to explore and develop new avenues of cooperative ministry.
“This is a transition in relationship, not a termination of relationship,” said Brian Davis, director of community and congregational engagement with the hospital’s FaithHealth Division.
Davis said the recently released report by the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Sexual Abuse Task Force that describes mishandling of sexual abuse cases and mistreatment of abuse survivors by some members of the SBC’s Executive Committee over a span of nearly two decades is one example of how the state convention and the hospital could continue to serve churches together.
“The report reveals the critical need for access to trauma-informed counseling for survivors of abuse,” Davis said. “Partnering to assist abuse victims and the congregations that minister to survivors not only fulfills our mission but honors Christ Jesus.”
Davis requested that convention officials evaluate and study a proposal to change the relationship with the hospital. In accordance with N.C. Baptist bylaws, a special study committee spent the last six months studying the proposal before it recommended the change to the state convention’s full board of directors.
“Our desire is that we move from a relationship rooted in governance and financial support to one of shared ministry in those areas where the mission and strategies of the convention and the hospital intersect,” Davis said.
Proposed bylaw changes
Board members also heard an overview of a series of proposed amendments to the state convention’s articles and bylaws. J. Allen Murray, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church in Kelly, N.C., and chair of the Articles and Bylaws Special Committee, presented the proposed changes to board members.
The proposals address an array of topics that include defining what constitutes being a church in friendly cooperation with the state convention, how messengers are allocated, streamlining the executive director-treasurer search process, updates to certain N.C. Baptist committees and more.
The N.C. Baptist executive committee will consider the proposed bylaw changes at its next meeting in July before they go before the full board in September and then to messengers at November’s annual meeting.
Prayer for abuse survivors
Board members spent time throughout the meeting praying for sexual abuse survivors, and for pastors and churches to care for them well. N.C. Baptist Executive Director-Treasurer Todd Unzicker and Baptist state convention President Micheal Pardue led two separate extended times of prayer over the course of the two-day board meeting.
Unzicker prayed that pastors would be shepherds who would “defend the sheep” and “help them when they are injured.” Pardue called on N.C. Baptists to “pray for those who were preyed upon,” before leading board members in another time of focused prayer.
The Christian Life and Public Affairs special committee voted to direct Unzicker to engage North Carolina lawmakers in an attempt to adopt, enhance or strengthen state laws that seek to prevent abuse and protect survivors.
Unzicker also said state convention staff would develop and distribute new and existing resources to train and equip N.C Baptist churches in ministering and caring for abuse survivors, while also seeking to eliminate abuse from taking place.
Harrison Smith, a representative from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), told board members about a new partnership between ADF and the state convention. The partnership is designed to assist churches on issues that could impact their religious freedom and includes a review of a church’s governing documents, access to resources, access to attorneys and pro bono legal representation in certain circumstances.
Pricing is on a sliding scale based on average weekly worship attendance. Individuals can learn more by visiting adfchurchalliance.org/ncb. A special promo code at the site also enables participants to receive an additional 20% off.
N.C. Baptist officials reported that through the end of April, Cooperative Program giving has totaled more than $9.2 million which is about $60,000 ahead of the 2022 budget to date.
Through April, giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering totaled more than $1.7 million. Giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering totaled nearly $10.7 million. Giving to the North American Missions Offering nearly $413,000.
Convention officials also reported that they had received a “clean audit” from their external auditors for 2021 financials.
Fruitland nominating committee
Board president Casey Norkett, missions pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, also announced three appointments to the Fruitland Baptist Bible College nominating committee. They were N.C. Baptist board members Johnny Byrd, Zeb Cook and Steven Wade. Norkett also appointed Wade as chairman of the Fruitland nominating committee.
The N.C. Baptist board of directors is scheduled to meet again Sept. 26-27 at Caraway Conference Center.