Members of the N.C. Baptist board of directors celebrated changed lives and prayed for more during their spring meeting, held May 22-23 at the Fort Caswell Coastal Retreat and Conference Center.
In his report to the board, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Executive Director-Treasurer Todd Unzicker shared that N.C. Baptist churches have reported more than 1,500 baptisms that took place in conjunction with “Fill the Tank” Baptism Sunday on April 16.
Unzicker said approximately 450 churches pledged to participate in the initiative, but only about half have reported their baptism totals. Still, this year’s total is on par with the nearly 1,600 baptisms reported by more than 320 churches in September 2021, the last time N.C. Baptists held a similar baptism emphasis.
“The Lord is saving. The Lord is saving,” Unizicker said to applause from board members.
Board members adjourned the meeting by praying for more changed lives during the upcoming summer camps to be held at Fort Caswell and other N.C. Baptist camps and conference centers. Board members joined state convention officials around the stage and throughout their meeting space in Hatch Auditorium as they prayed for God to move in the room that will host daily worship services for youth attending summer camp beginning in just a few weeks.
Each summer, N.C. Baptist camps collectively report that hundreds of students trust Christ for salvation, answer a call to ministry or rededicate their lives to Him.
“Where we’re standing right now is holy ground,” Unzicker said. “Judging by what we’re seeing, we think God is really on the move, and we want to end our time as a board praying for God’s help [in reaching the next generation.]”
Unzicker also unveiled a forthcoming initiative called “ServeNC” to the board that encourages every N.C. Baptist church to spend one week in August 2024 meeting needs in their communities. Numerous board members pledged to participate during the meeting by raising commitment cards.
“We want our state to know that N.C. Baptist churches love and want to serve every single person in our state,” Unzicker said. “We are asking every single church in our state to devote a week to serving our state. What if we could glorify Jesus in one week where every single church was truly on mission together serving their town, their community, their city. Imagine the local witness to a lost and dying world by meeting the physical needs just like Jesus did.”
Unzicker said more details about the initiative will be shared in the months ahead to give churches adequate time to plan to participate next August. Preliminary information is available online at ncbaptist.org/servenc.
In other business, the board approved some recommended actions, elected a new vice president and heard a series of ministry reports.
Church cooperation policies approved
The board approved a pair of policies that establish a process to determine if a church is in “friendly cooperation” with the state convention. The policies are based on criteria set forth by the state convention’s articles and bylaws that add greater specificity about what defines a cooperating church which were approved by messengers at last year’s annual meeting.
The article and bylaw changes approved by messengers include provisions that churches in friendly cooperation with the state convention should financially support the Cooperative Program and not “affirm, approve, endorse, promote, support, or bless” LGBTQ+ lifestyles, discriminatory behavior based on race or ethnicity, or behavior that contradicts biblical teaching related to sexual abuse.
The approval of those article and bylaw changes authorized the board of directors to develop corresponding policies to make a determination about a church’s status when questions arise. The N.C. Baptist executive committee unanimously endorsed the policies in a meeting last month.
Bylaw study extended
The board also voted to give the Articles and Bylaws Committee more time to explore potential changes to the executive director-treasurer search process that is outlined in the state convention’s governing documents.
After a series of proposed changes to the executive director search process were not approved by messengers at last year’s annual meeting, the board of directors approved a motion at its January meeting asking the Articles and Bylaws Committee to re-examine the process and report back to the full board at this year’s fall board meeting in September.
With its action this week, the board authorized the Articles and Bylaws Committee to share any proposed recommendations with the full board by the fall of 2024.
“We believe there are some needed changes to language, but we want to do it the right way and not rush the process,” Articles and Bylaws Committee Chairman Luke Lunceford told the board. Lunceford serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Rocky Mount.
State convention bylaws currently stipulate that the executive director-treasurer must be elected at an annual meeting or a special called meeting based upon the nomination of a candidate by the board of directors for consideration. The bylaws also state that additional nominees may be made from the floor of the meeting.
New board VP elected
Robert Hefner, senior pastor of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church near Greensboro, was elected as board vice president in a special election. Hefner was the only candidate, and he was nominated by Ryan Bennett, lead pastor of Glenwood Baptist Church in Marion.
The board vice president position became vacant last month when board president Casey Norkett resigned to accept a position with the Baptist state convention. Convention bylaws prohibit convention staff members from serving on the board of directors. Following Norkett’s resignation, vice president Zeb Cook, pastor of Apex Baptist Church, automatically assumed the role of board president.
State convention officials reported to the board that financial giving from N.C. Baptist churches to the Cooperative Program (CP) and special offerings are all up year over year.
Through the end of April, CP giving totaled more than $9.5 million, about $339,000 or 3.7% ahead of the same time period as last year. Giving to the North Carolina Missions Offering totaled more than $437,000, which is about 5.9% ahead of last year.
Gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions are also up year over year. Giving to the Annie Armstrong offering has totaled more than $1.9 million to date, while gifts to the Lottie Moon offering has totaled more than $10.7 million to date.
N.C. Baptist Accounting Manager Kecia Mariotti also reported that the state convention received a clean audit for 2022.
The board also approved a motion to transfer 20% of 2022’s net operating income to a contingency reserve account that is overseen by the board’s executive committee. The total amount to be transferred is approximately $71,000.
The board’s executive committee also met in conjunction with the full board meeting.
During that meeting, board president Zeb Cook made three appointments to the Fruitland Baptist Bible College nominating committee. They were: J. Allen Murray, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church in Kelly; Denise O’Donoghue of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh; and James Weddington, lead pastor of Eastern Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte. Murray will serve as the committee’s chairman.
In other business, executive committee members learned that James David “Jim” Goldston III resigned as a member of the Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) of North Carolina’s board of trustees and from his position as BCH board chairman.
Goldston and his wife, Agnes, both of Raleigh, were arrested by the Wake County Sheriff’s Office on May 11 and charged with animal cruelty and communicating threats. According to multiple media reports, the Goldstons were accused of poisoning three of their neighbor’s dogs and sending them threatening letters as part of an ongoing dispute. The Goldstons were released from custody after they each posted a $30,000 bond.
James Goldston released a statement through BCH that was shared with the executive committee. In the statement, Goldston denied the allegations and said he was resigning to avoid being a “distraction or hindrance” to the ministry of the Baptist Children’s Homes.
The next meeting of the N.C. Baptist board of directors is scheduled for Sept. 25-26. The executive committee is scheduled to meet again July 11.