N.C. Baptist leaders announced a new church planting partnership, shared a report on a review of policies and procedures pertaining to sexual abuse, and endorsed a proposed $29.5 million CP budget for 2023, as well as a series of proposed changes to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s articles and bylaws.

SOPHIA, N.C. – N.C. Baptist leaders announced a new church planting partnership, shared a report on a nearly yearlong review on policies and procedures pertaining to sexual abuse, and unanimously endorsed a proposed $29.5 million Cooperative Program budget for 2023, as well as a series of proposed changes to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s articles and bylaws during a regularly scheduled two-day meeting of the board of directors held at Caraway Conference Center on Sept. 26-27.

N.C. Baptists, NAMB launch SendNC

N.C. Baptist Executive Director-Treasurer Todd Unzicker formally announced a new partnership with the North American Mission Board’s Send Network called SendNC, which is designed to maximize support for church planters across the state.

The SendNC partnership will provide additional opportunities and resources for church planters, which include augmented coaching, expanded care, synchronized training, first-year benefits and increased funding.

“This partnership effectively turns every city, town and hill in North Carolina into a Send City,” Unzicker said.

Mike Pittman, N.C. Baptist church planting strategist, will lead the effort as the SendNC director. 

Sexual abuse review report

Unzicker also shared the findings of a comprehensive review of existing policies, procedures and practices of the state convention related to sexual abuse awarness, prevention and response. 

Unizicker said the review found the state convention’s existing policies and procedures to be in good standing, but in need of updating in some areas. During the course of the review, state convention leaders also sought to make sexual abuse resources more available and accessible to churches.

The review was conducted in consultation with subject matter experts, abuse survivors and other leaders. The review came at the direction of the board of directors’ executive committee in November 2021.

Unzicker will also present the findings to messengers attending this year’s N.C. Baptist annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., which is scheduled for Nov. 7-8 at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center.

The board of directors also took action on other items that will be presented to messengers at the annual meeting in November.

Budget proposal affirmed

The board unanimously approved a proposed $29.5 million Cooperative Program budget for 2023, which represents an increase of nearly 5.4% or $1.5 million more than the current budget of $28 million.

The proposal also calls for a 3% increase to global ministry partners, which would bring N.C. Baptists’ allocation that primarily supports international missions, North American church planting and theological education through six national seminaries to 48% of the total budget. 

Under the proposal, state convention ministries would also receive $350,000 in additional funding over the current 2022 budget.

In presenting the proposal to the board on behalf of the Budget Special Committee, chairman Rick Speas acknowledged economic uncertainties brought about by rising inflation, but he called the proposal “a good God-sized target for us in 2023.”

Speas pastors Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The board also unanimously approved a special challenge budget for 2023, which calls for any Cooperative Program giving in excess of $29.5 million to be split evenly with 50% going to support global ministry partners and 50% going to support state convention ministries.

The board also unanimously approved a $2.5 million goal for the 2023 North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO), which reflects a 19% or $400,000 increase over the current offering goal of $2.1 million. Speas said the NCMO goal hasn’t increased in more than a decade.

While the offering goal would increase under the 2023 proposal, allocations for the ministries that NCMO support would remain the same. Those allocations are: 41% to N.C. Baptists on Mission; 28% to church planting; 15% to mission camps; 10% to associational projects; and 6% to mobilization ministry projects.

The budget proposal, challenge budget and NCMO goal will be presented to messengers attending the N.C. Baptist annual meeting for consideration.

Proposed article & bylaw changes

Board members also unanimously approved an amendment to the state convention’s articles of incorporation and a revision of the state convention’s bylaws.

The amendment to the articles of incorporation seeks to better define what constitutes a church that is in “friendly cooperation” with the state convention while also encouraging active participation by affiliated churches in N.C. Baptist life.

The proposed amendment broadly defines a church that is in friendly cooperation with the state convention as “one which financially supports the Cooperative Program of the Convention” and has a “faith and practice that closely identifies with Baptist beliefs and distinctives.”

Additionally, the amendment strengthens criteria by which a church may be deemed to not be in friendly cooperation with the state convention. That criteria includes actions that affirm, endorse, promote or support the LGBTQ+ lifestyle, discrimintaory behavior based on race or ethnicity, and behaviors inconsistent with biblical teachings related to sexual abuse.

Currently, the only provision in the articles of incorporation pertaining to a church not being in friendly cooperation with the state convention is related to affirming homosexual behavior.

The board also unanimously approved a full revision to the state convention’s bylaws that addresses several items that primarily seek to streamline some ways in which the convention conducts its business while providing a degree of flexibility in determining the board and committee structures.

Highlights of the proposed revision include providing more flexibility in scheduling the annual meeting, providing more flexibility in permitting the board and committees to meet virtually, and providing more flexibility in determining the structure and composition of the board and certain committees.

The proposed revision also includes adding more specificity to the executive director-treasurer search process, as well as updates references to related entities and other organizations that have historic relationships with the state convention. 

The proposed changes to the articles of incorporation and bylaws will now go before messengers at this year’s annual meeting for consideration.

Adoption assistance grants

The board also approved a motion by state convention president Micheal Pardue to establish an adoption assistance fund that would provide grants to adoptive families who are members of cooperating N.C. Baptist churches.

Pardue serves as pastor of First Baptist Church of Icard in Connelly Springs, N.C. He and his wife, Rachel, are adoptive parents.

Seed money for the fund would come from reallocating $100,000 from an N.C. Baptist contingency reserve account, which must first be approved by the state convention’s Operations Committee. Once established, churches, institutions and individuals will be able to contribute to the fund’s principal balance.

When fully instituted, cooperating N.C. Baptist churches would be eligible to apply for grants that would provide reimbursement for qualifying expenses of church families who complete an adoption that could potentially total up to $3,000 per adopted child.

More details about the grant program and application process will be announced once the fund is formally established.

Board officers re-elected

All three board officers were unanimously re-elected to their respective positions without opposition.

Casey Norkett, missions pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., was re-elected to a second term as board president. He was nominated by James Weddington, lead pastor of Eastern Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.

Zeb Cook, pastor of Apex Baptist Church in Apex, N.C., was re-elected to a second term as board vice president. He was nominated by Matt Brogli, pastor of Eagle Springs Baptist Church in Eagle Springs, N.C.

Angela Kilby, member of First Baptist Church of Cary, N.C., was re-elected as board secretary. She was nominated by Jason Miller, pastor of Dutch Cove Missionary Baptist Church in Canton, N.C.

Committee chairs elected

Board and special committees also elected new chairmen. They were: Chris Baucom (Convention Relations Special Committee); Johnny Byrd (Mission Catalysts Committee); Dimas Castillo (Communications Committee); Andrew Clark (Operations Committee); Steven Wade (Christian Life and Public Affairs Special Committee); and James Weddington (Ministry Strategies Committee).

New Fruitland board members approved

The board also approved three new members to the Fruitland Baptist Bible College board of directors, based upon the recommendation of Fruitland’s nominating committee. The new Fruitland board members are: Jamin Hendrix, a layperson from First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, N.C.; Iain MacSween, a layperson from Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C; and Micheal Pardue, pastor of First Baptist Church of Icard in Connelly Springs, N.C.

Financial update

N.C. Baptist officials reported receiving nearly $18.3 million in Cooperative Program receipts through Aug. 31, which is about 3% below budget and about 2% behind year-over-year giving totals. Those percentages are typical for this time of year, officials said.

Through the same time period, giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions has totaled nearly $6.3 million, giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions has totaled more than $11.9 million and giving to the North Carolina Missions Offering has totaled more than $766,000.

Other business

In other business, the board authorized Caraway Conference Center and Camp officials to construct a new director’s residence on the main Caraway campus at a cost not to exceed $230,000. The project will be funded from a special reserve account using proceeds of the previous sale of the current director’s residence to Jimmy Huffman, which the board authorized in 2021.

The board’s executive committee unanimously approved several updates and revisions to the state convention’s employee handbook. According to convention bylaws, the executive committee also serves as the state convention’s personnel committee.

The executive committee voted unanimously to approve a recommendation by the Committee on Nominations to name Bob Lowman as chairman of the Committee on Convention Meetings following the unexpected death of current chairman David Richardson earlier this month. Lowman serves as the executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte, N.C.

The executive committee voted unanimously to disfellowship College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., for being in violation of the state convention’s governing documents related to affirming homosexual behavior.

Retiring board members honored

Convention officials also recognized 18 individuals whose terms of service on the board conclude at the end of the year. They were: David Bame, Jeff Blackburn, Timmy Blair, Johnny Byrd, Mark Collins, Noah Crowe, Scott Faw, James Harrington, Clark Henderson, Brenda Hicks, Tommy Hullette, David Jones, Tim Madaris, Linda McLaurin, Jon Mills, Mark Perko, Rick Speas and Billy Stines.

Huffman recognized

The board also recognized Jimmy Huffman, current director of Caraway Conference Center and Camp, for 30 years of service in N.C. Baptist life. Huffman has served as Caraway’s director for 16 years after serving for seven as the associate director. Before joining the Caraway staff, Huffman served seven years in various roles with N.C. Baptists on Mission, which was then known as N.C. Baptist Men.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the board of directors is scheduled for Jan. 30-31, 2023, at Caraway Conference Center.