BSC leaders nix funding for CBF church
April 12 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Funding denied for Hendersonville church | Friday, April 12, 2002

Friday, April 12, 2002

Funding denied for Hendersonville church

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

HENDERSONVILLE - Providence Baptist Church of Hendersonville will not receive church-start funding from the Baptist State Convention (BSC), according to a recent letter sent to the church by BSC officials.

The decision, which was also announced during the BSC's Executive Committee meeting at Caraway Conference Center on April 11, came after the BSC, in effect, gave an association in the area veto power over the funding.

Controversy has swirled around the young church, which announced last summer that it planned to affiliate with the BSC and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), but not the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The church also called a woman, J. Gail Coulter, to serve as pastor and church planter.

Coulter was serving on staff at First Baptist Church of Asheville, the mission's primary sponsor. Providence has several other sponsors, most in the Buncombe Baptist Association. The church, however, is geographically located in Henderson County, which is home to the Carolina Baptist Association.

When church representatives made overtures for admission to the Carolina Association, they were told that the association requires affiliated churches to be cooperating members of the SBC.

Providence was later accepted into the United Association, which requested partnership funding for the church.

A number of pastors in the western part of the state voiced opposition to state funding of the church, and the BSC Executive Committee appointed a "Church Starts Study Committee" to look into the matter.

The committee's report, approved by the Executive Committee on Dec. 4, affirmed language in the BSC constitution that says "the Convention works in partnership with the district associations" in seeking to fulfill its purposes. The Executive Committee instructed the BSC administration to develop a process for dealing with exceptions to the typical method of working within geographic associations, and empowered administration officials to make funding decisions in those cases. A "check-off" form was then developed for local associations to indicate their level of endorsement for church starts located in their geographic area.

When the Carolina Association was asked to complete a form relative to the Providence congregation, representatives checked two of the possible six responses, including one under "Strategy Issues" that says, "It appears that this start could have negative impact on the harmony and fellowship of the association."

Under a heading for "Funding Issues" officials checked the response, "This association agrees that new church starts are a vital part of the BSCNC mission strategy but this association at this time does not feel comfortable in offering support to this church start."

Options not chosen include, "This association will consider participating strategically and financially in support of this new work," and "This association is not formally or strategically opposed to this church start and would not object to financial support being given to it by the BSCNC."

The BSC's decision to deny funding was based squarely on the guidelines approved by the General Board and the Carolina Baptist Association's stated belief that BSC funding for the church could have a negative impact on the fellowship and harmony of the association, according to a letter to the church from BSC officials. Nelson Tilton, team leader for church planting, and Milton Hollifield, executive team leader of the Mission Growth Evangelism team, signed the letter.

Sandy Beck, director of missions for the Carolina Association, said the association's answers on the form were related to the church's lack of ties to the SBC.

"This is a church that is not a Southern Baptist church and we have adopted in our purpose statement that we are a fellowship of Southern Baptist churches," he said. "They do not fit in with our purpose."

Beck said he has no problem with United Association supporting the church.

"I have no opposition to autonomy," he said. "Therefore the United Association has every right to accept who they want according to what I read in the Baptist State Convention constitution."

Beck said the association's response was not related to the church having a woman pastor.

"Gail's a real sweet person," he said. "I have no problem with her as a person."

BSC officials reminded the Executive Committee that the convention has funded many types of church starts, including some that support CBF. Circumstances of the Providence church are unique, officials said, and the decision relative to its request should not be interpreted as determinative for how churches will be dealt with in the future.

"We should not see this as 'the' situation, but as 'a' situation," said Hollifield, who said he hopes the issue doesn't cloud the future of church planting.

In a written statement, Coulter responded to the letter, indicating no ill will toward the BSC. "Of course, Providence Baptist Church in Hendersonville is disappointed and sad that the Baptist State Convention has decided not to provide us with church planting funds from the gifts of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Plan C churches," she said.

But, Coulter noted strong support from CBFNC, sponsoring churches, the United Baptist Association and personal supporters, who plan to celebrate the church's first nine months in a special service on April 21.

"The response from the State Convention calls us as a congregation to renew our commitment to prayer for our ministry and for the convention," Coulter said. "We must voice our prayers of thanksgiving for the evidence of God's love in all those who do undergird us in such a fine fashion. This response also is a call to reinforce our efforts at ministering with the Gospel to unchurched and unsaved people in this area and around the world. We know that the Holy Spirit of God is very present in our expression of being Christian and Baptist witnesses in this place. We thus trust God, as we follow, to provide for our needs."

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4/12/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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