Hughes, Earp to run as Mainstream candidates
April 3 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Hughes, Earp to run as Mainstream candidates | Friday, April 4, 2003

Friday, April 4, 2003

Hughes, Earp to run as Mainstream candidates

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

GREENSBORO - Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina (MBNC) officials announced on March 29 that the group would endorse David Hughes for president of the Baptist State Convention (BSC), and Raymond Earp for BSC first vice president.

The announcement was made to about 70 people at a MBNC meeting at First Baptist Church in Greensboro.

Raymond Earp
Hughes is pastor of First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. Earp, a layperson from Beaufort and former president of N.C. Baptist Men, ran for BSC president in 2001, but was defeated by current BSC President Jerry Pereira, pastor of First Baptist Church of Swannanoa.

Pereira and current BSC First Vice President Bob Foy are completing their second terms in office and are not eligible for re-election.

BSC Second Vice President David Horton is completing his first year in office and can run for a second term in November. MBNC officials said they do not intend to oppose him if he runs for re-election.

Horton is pastor of Gate City Baptist Church in Greensboro.

Hughes and Horton became friends in 1997 while both served on the "Committee of 20," a group of 10 conservatives and 10 moderates who held several meetings to discuss the BSC's future.

They later served together on the Commission on Cooperation, which proposed a Shared Leadership Plan. The plan was defeated when it failed to get the needed two-thirds vote at the 1999 BSC annual meeting.

In an interview after the MBNC meeting, Hughes said he and Horton are still friends.

"I still have a very high regard for him," Hughes said.

In a telephone interview, Horton said he wishes Hughes the best.

"He's a fine man and I think a lot of him," Horton said.

Horton said he wasn't ready to say if he would run for re-election but he appreciates Mainstream's decision to not oppose him. He said that if he did run for re-election, he wouldn't have a problem working with Hughes.

David Hughes, left, greets Lewis Boroughs after the Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina meeting.
During the MBNC meeting, Hughes said that he had come to have peace with becoming a candidate just a few days earlier.

"In all honesty, I'll tell you I got here with some reluctance, maybe some kicking and screaming, but I'm grateful to be here," he said.

Hughes who has been active in the BSC, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and CBF-North Carolina, told of how he lessened his involvement in denominational work several times in the last 20 years. Each time, something brought him back.

He said several members of MBNC approached him several months ago about running for office. Since then he did "a lot of soul searching, a lot of praying."

"Why am I doing it?" he asked. "Because I believe we're at a crossroads. I believe we have a small window of opportunity left to make a difference.

"At the end of the day, I want to look in the mirror and say, 'You know what - it may not have gone the way I wanted it to, but I did my best.'"

Hughes talked of recently seeing a friend who had grown up in Winston-Salem's First Baptist Church, but was now a member of another denomination. The man told him, "If I wouldn't have grown up in your church, all I'd know about Baptists is you come together in Winston-Salem and have a ... fight."

"That comment has haunted me," Hughes said. "With all the things going on, that's what he thinks about N.C. Baptists. That makes me sick."

Hughes said he wishes the man could tell about how Baptists know how to disagree honorably; about how they're trying to make the church culturally relevant without compromising the gospel; about how Baptists are not for divorce, but offer ways to recover from divorce; about how they're not for homosexuality, but are welcoming to them and anyone who is broken.

"I think we've got a chance to say some things," Hughes said. "Are we going to win in November? If you look at recent history, you'd say, 'Probably not,' but winning may not mean winning the election. It may mean making a statement and letting God take care of the rest."

Earlier in the meeting, Ken Massey, a member of the MBNC steering committee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Greensboro, talked about the Mainstream vision for North Carolina.

Massey told of hearing about a "blue on blue" incident in Iraq where in the fog and confusion of battle soldiers had fired on friendly forces.

"If that sounds like a metaphor to you, it does to me, too," he said.

He said Mainstream Baptists do not want to "charge up the same hill" of Baptist controversy over the last 24 years. Instead, they want to "point to a new mountain," he said.

"There was a time when we thought we could stay on course by staying between the ditches on the right and the left," he said. "It never occurred to us that the ditches might be on the wrong road."

Massey said MBNC has a two-fold platform that it wants to emphasize more than its candidates.

First, MBNC wants to know if churches that are affiliated with the CBF can be full partners in the BSC and if loyalty to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is going to be a litmus test in the state.

Massey said that early in the controversy in the SBC, some said they just wanted parity. Eventually they took absolute control and are now purging anyone who dissents, he said.

MBNC wants to know if the BSC is going to be as rigid and exclusionary as the SBC, Massey said.

"It's not a mandate; it's not a threat," he said. "We simply want to know, 'Is there room for churches that are no longer loyal to the SBC?' In November, we aim to have an answer."

Second, MBNC wants to know if the BSC is ready to become a 21st century denomination, "a new wineskin for the new wine of God," Massey said.

"When Mainstream Baptists say we are running on a platform of change in the BSC, no one should take that as criticism of anyone at the Baptist Building," he said.

Massey said there are good men and women working at the building, but asking them to retool now is similar to asking Marines in Iraq to make major changes to their tanks in the midst of battle.

"Can we call a cease-fire to get ready for the transformation that God longs to bring?" he asked. "If not, whoever wins the Baptist battle will inherit a '57 Chevy that's rusted out and won't run."

If the battles can be stopped, Mainstream churches are willing to partner with all N.C. Baptists, Massey said.

"If not, our congregations have some difficult choices to make," he said.

Massey said that MBNC does not presume to say what changes need to be made in the BSC.

"The road we're on as disciples of Jesus Christ is steep and winding - Jesus called it the narrow way," Massey said. "What Mainstream Baptists want to know is if this road is wide enough for all Baptists or are some going to go over the side."

Mainstream Baptists want to walk side-by-side with all N.C. Baptists, but not follow, he said.

"It's not a threat; it's not a mandate," Massey said. "N.C. Baptists, tell us where you're going."

Massey compared the current state of Baptist affairs to the immune system in a human body.

When an immune system gets weak and under functions, the body can be attacked by disease.

"Sometimes, the immune system doesn't under function, it over functions and attacks healthy cells," he said. "Mainstream Baptists want to ask N.C. Baptists to diagnose what's happening."

Massey told about Jack MacGorman, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He said MacGorman has a striking love for Jesus Christ, but can no longer teach at the school because he can't in good conscience sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

"That tells me our immune system has gone berserk," Massey said.

In a phone interview after the meeting, Massey said Mainstream Baptists will know the answers to their questions by the outcome of votes for BSC officers. Candidates endorsed by MBNC will support the group's platform, he said.

"It boils down to the election of officers," he said.

When asked about Mainstream's chances of success Massey said, "It depends on whether or not we can recapture the moderate folk who have checked out (of the BSC) emotionally."

Hughes said in the interview that he was going to try to energize those N.C. Baptists.

"Maybe a word of encouragement from a fellow burned out N.C. Baptist will make a difference to some of them," he said.

Earp said after the meeting that he learned from his last try at office that MBNC needed to be more organized.

"I feel like we're going in the right direction," he said.

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4/3/2003 11:00:00 PM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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