North Roanoke Association dispute narrowly decided
April 6 2001 by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor

North Roanoke Association dispute narrowly decided | Friday, April 6, 2001

Friday, April 6, 2001

North Roanoke Association dispute narrowly decided

By Jimmy Allen BR Assistant Editor A divisive battle the past few months in a N.C. association resulted April 3 with close votes in favor of those who say they are defending historic principles and a call to refocus on missions.

Messengers to the North Roanoke Baptist Association's semi-annual meeting voted to approve a nominating committee's recommendation despite attempts to have two of the nominees replaced. Separate motions to replace the two nominees to the personnel committee were defeated by votes of 119 to 104 and 126 to 98.

The nominating committee's slate has been a target for controversy the past few months. At the group's first meeting in February, two pastors who are active conservatives in the association were asked if they would serve. But at the next meeting a week later, the nominating committee decided to replace the two pastors with two laypersons - Edna Weeks of Weldon Baptist Church and Al Stroud of Rosemary Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids.

In making the nominating committee report to the association, the chair, Jean Gurganus of Rosemary Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids, noted the controversy and briefly described the meetings of the committee.

After her report, the two other nominations were made from the floor. One was Howard Harden, pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church in Whitakers and a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The other was Al Thomerson, pastor of Chockyotte Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids.

Wayne Martin, pastor of Weldon Baptist Church, defended the nominating committee's slate as representing the association both geographically and spiritually.

"They worked long and hard ... with no agenda except to make things as open and fair as possible," Martin said.

One of the two conservatives initially recommended said last month the controversy was related to theology. Michael Cloer, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, said the personnel committee will eventually choose the successor to the director of missions (DOM), J.D. Harrod. Conservatives don't want the personnel committee controlled by churches supporting the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, he said.

Cloer's comments were made following an informational meeting on March 6 organized by leaders in the association's Woman's Missionary Union (WMU). During the meeting, speakers talked about what they called threats to historic Baptist principles such as priesthood of the believer and local church autonomy.

One of the speakers at the meeting was Weeks, an associate director of the association's WMU.

The approximately 110 people attending the March 6 gathering were encouraged to attend the semi-annual meeting of the association.

The March 6 meeting was spurred in part by a letter dated Feb. 21 and signed by 20 pastors complaining about the nominating committee's decision to withdraw the names of the two conservatives initially recommended. A copy of the Feb. 21 letter, along a description of events, was later sent to church leaders in the association by Tom McLean, pastor of Oak View Baptist Church in Rocky Mount. McLean was one of the letter signers and in his cover letter, he called the nominating committee's action unethical. Another signer of the Feb. 21 letter was William Tomlinson, pastor of Arlington Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, and the other person who was initially recommended to serve. In his church newsletter column, he called the nominating committee's action "unethical and unchristian."

After the votes, Charles Peterson, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids, said he was concerned about the divisiveness in the association. "Perhaps the nominating committee will take that into consideration next year," he said.

Moderator Kenneth Brantley of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids said he is sure the committee will do that. "We certainly don't want divisiveness among our association."

At the end of the business portion of the meeting, McLean asked to speak to the group. "Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the last few months there has been a lot of turmoil, a lot of strife, a lot of slander," said McLean, who then noted the term association means working together.

"We just spent a lot of time arguing over the personnel committee while people outside are going to hell," he said. "Let's get on with winning this world that's going to hell."

McLean asked the group to pray about the sin of selfishness before worshipping.

Donald Etheridge, pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids, then stood and noted that forgiveness should be sought from the DOM, his wife, Donice, and Gurganus, the nominating committee chair, "for what has been thrown at them," including what he called "vicious words."

"Then we'll be more able to go to the lost because they'll know we won't hurt each other," he said.

During the prayer, Bill Grisham, pastor of First Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, noted each person's humanity. "Lord, there are differences that matter. You matter more."

The worship service then focused on the four elements of responding to the Great Commission according to Acts 1: 8 - "and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Connie Armstrong talked about her work with a local Hispanic ministry. Charles Mullen described his efforts with the Angel Flight ministry in which medical patients are flown for care without charge. Scott Gleason noted his church's mission trip to Uganda. And the guest speaker, Geoff Hammond, a former missionary who now works with missions at First Baptist Church, Norfolk, Va., spoke on the need to minister locally, nationally and internationally together.

"It is a simultaneous commandment," Hammond said. "If we want to reach Judea before we reach Samaria, we'll never reach Samaria."

North Carolina's population grew 21.4 percent between 1990 and 2000, he said. "You know what God's doing, He's bringing the world to your Judea."

The Hispanic population in North Carolina grew by 400 percent during the same period from 79,000 to 379,000 "souls God loves and sent Jesus Christ for. Every church needs a Hispanic Sunday School class." If a church doesn't have a Spanish speaking teacher, win one for Christ, he said.

He also encouraged the association's churches to start new churches. He gave one example where a church with 284 members decided to plant a church. Forty of the members left for the church start. Two years later, the new church had 234 members. The home church's membership had grown to 491, he said.

Hammond described an association as a fellowship of churches cooperating to fulfill the Great Commission.

The meeting ended with each person holding hands as Harrod, the DOM, gave the benediction.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/6/2001 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor | with 0 comments
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