Some conservatives join Mainstream
April 27 2001 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Some conservatives join Mainstream | Friday, April 27, 2001

Friday, April 27, 2001

Some conservatives join Mainstream

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor Several conservative N.C. Baptists, including one who holds an elected office with Carolina Conservative Baptists (CCB), have agreed to serve on the Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina (MBNC) steering committee. CCB wants the Baptist State Convention (BSC) to have closer ties to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which has taken a decidedly conservative shift in the past 20 years. MBNC wants the BSC to maintain its autonomy.

Larry Locklear, pastor of Island Grove Baptist Church in Pembroke and a self-described theological "ultra-conservative," serves on the MBNC steering committee and as a CCB regional director. He said MBNC members who asked him to serve on the steering committee promised him the main goal of the group is to encourage cooperation between conservatives and moderates in North Carolina.

"That is the sole reason that I decided to be a part of the group as a whole and part of the steering committee," he said.

Locklear served on the Commission on Cooperation that proposed a leadership sharing plan in the BSC. The proposal received a majority of votes but failed to get the needed two-thirds vote at the 1999 BSC meeting.

Locklear said conservatives and moderates on the commission got to know each other while working together.

"In that almost two years of working together, my conclusion was our state was not that far apart," he said. "The things we disagree on I found out are not things that keep me from fellowshipping with my moderate brothers and sisters."

Locklear said he wants N.C. Baptists to keep working together.

"I think the good we do is more important that any personal agenda or the moderate or conservative agenda," he said. "During those two years I was never asked to compromise my conservative views in order to work together and I never asked a moderate to compromise their views in order to work with me."

Bobby Blanton, pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville and a conservative, also serves on the MBNC steering committee. He said he agreed to serve on the MBNC committee because of his love for N.C. Baptists and his desire to help do the Lord's work.

Blanton said he got to know moderate N.C. Baptists while serving on the Executive Director Search Committee that nominated Jim Royston to the BSC's top job in 1997 and another group that met to talk about cooperation.

Blanton said the conservatives and moderates on the committees had preconceived notions of each other. After talking with moderates, he said he discovered that their views were "not very different from views I've always held," he said.

"The older I get, there are certain things I have come to realize that are without compromise," Blanton said. "Other issues, as I get older, take on a less divisive nature.

"There are certain things I think are worth fighting for. Others are open to interpretation."

Blanton said he knows that conservatives and moderates don't see "eye to eye" on everything and may choose to do church differently.

"Most of these areas fall in the area of interpretation - personal interpretation and church interpretation," he said. "Overall what unites us is our drive to win people to Jesus."

Mike Smith, pastor of Fruitland Baptist Church in Hendersonville, said he considers himself a theological conservative. Some N.C. Baptists might call him a liberal, while others might call him a fundamentalist, he said.

Smith said he believes in "all the orthodox teachings of the Christian faith." But, he doesn't believe that someone has to be a member of the SBC to be a member of the BSC or a local association.

"It is non-baptist," he said. "I believe in the end you end up infringing on the autonomy of the local church.

"In our autonomy we can't cooperate with the local association if the local association says we have to be a member of the Southern Baptist Convention."

Smith said he thinks the MBNC is the best chance for reconciliation among N.C. Baptists.

"Mainstream is a non-legislative way to share leadership," he said.

Smith said he believes that God has been working among N.C. Baptists.

"Why tear that up for what I see as political gain," he said.

Smith said he fears N.C. Baptists could be facing a "divorce" between conservatives and moderates.

"No one wins in divorce," he said.

Locklear and Blanton were expected to attend their first MBNC steering committee meeting April 28. Smith said he would not be able to attend because of a family commitment.

The group held its first meeting in February, before Locklear and Blanton agreed to serve.

Locklear said he is working with a recently formed group called Native American Interfaith Ministries. The group includes Native American churches in the Pembroke area that are trying to combat social problems.

"If I can do that with people of other denominations who I have major differences with, I can work with people I've been a part of all my life," he said.

Other members of the MBNC Steering Committee are Eugene Bain, Fayetteville; Wilma Cosper, Cullowhee; Matt Ingram, Hickory; Wally Pasour, Mebane; Kathryn Hamrick, Boiling Springs; Roy Smith, Raleigh; Don Taft, Charlotte; Bob Millis, Wilmington; Jo Godfrey, High Point; Don Gordon, Mount Olive; Ann Hiott, Raleigh; and Jerry Wallace, Buies Creek.

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4/27/2001 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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