Cullowhee cuts ties with association
August 9 2002 by Steve DeVane and Derek Hodges , BR staff

Cullowhee cuts ties with association | Friday, Aug. 9, 2002

Friday, Aug. 9, 2002

Cullowhee cuts ties with association

By Steve DeVane and Derek Hodges BR staff

An N.C. Baptist church that faced criticism for calling a woman co-pastor has withdrawn from its association and at least two other churches are considering leaving.

Cullowhee Baptist Church voted Aug. 4 to withdraw from the Tuckaseigee Baptist Association. First Baptist Church in Sylva and East Sylva Baptist Church have meetings planned to discuss leaving.

The moves come less than a month after the association's Executive Committee voted in a closed meeting to ask the association's credentials committee to counsel Cullowhee and First Baptist Church in Sylva over matters of faith and practice. A motion for the association to break fellowship with the two churches was ruled out of order.

The Sylva church has supported Cullowhee.

Jeffrey and Tanya Vickery became co-pastors of Cullowhee in January. That same month, the Pastors' Conference in the association sent a letter to the credentials committee asking it to take action against the church. The pastors said "there are matters of doctrine and practice within the Cullowhee Baptist Church that do not conform to the clear teachings of the New Testament."

A few weeks later, Cullowhee's pastors and deacons wrote a letter to the credentials committee, saying the Pastors' Conference has wrongly made the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) the doctrinal guideline for fellowship in the association.

In April, the credentials committee voted 3-2 in a closed meeting to recommend that the church's messengers not be seated at the association's annual meeting in October and that the church be removed from the association "unless corrective action is taken." The committee said the church was in violation of the association's bylaws.

The committee did not report its April vote to the association's Executive Committee, which decided behind closed doors on July 8 to affirm the 2000 BF&M and asked the credentials committee to counsel the two churches.

The credentials committee met a short while later and asked representatives of the two churches to meet with it within a few days. Both churches sent letters indicating their willingness to meet at a later date. The committee met anyway and decided by a 4-1 vote that messengers from the two churches should not be seated at the association's annual meeting in October.

Jeffrey Vickery said most church members at Cullowhee decided not to wait. He said the vote to leave the association came during the church's regular church conference.

The discussion was mostly centered on when, not if, the church would leave the association, he said. Three church members out of about 26 present voted against the motion because they wanted to wait and leave the association after the October meeting, he said.

"We would rather the next headline be something positive rather than conflict," he said.

Vickery said one of the most telling statements during the meeting came from a layman who said, "It takes two people to fight. We can stop the fight by choosing to leave."

Vickery said he thinks the Cullowhee church will cooperate with other churches in the area, but not necessarily by "forming another structure we have to spend energy to keep alive."

Two of those churches are expected to be Sylva First and East Sylva Baptist Church, both of which have publicly supported the Cullowhee church.

Wayne Hill, pastor of Sylva First, said the deacons were scheduled to meet Aug. 11. A vote to leave the association would probably be considered when the entire congregation meets that evening, he said.

"We're just trying to be respectful and supportive to the Cullowhee church," he said. "None of us wants to cause distress."

Charles Dean, pastor of East Sylva, said the church deacons plan to meet Aug. 11 as well. That meeting will likely produce a recommendation to discontinue fellowship with the association, he said.

"I don't want to stay," he said. "I'd like to see our church pull out."

If all three churches withdraw, it could be a financial blow to the association.

During the 2000-2001 fiscal year, the three churches accounted for nearly a fourth of the association's total church support and more than 21 percent of the association's total receipts. Most of the contributions came from Sylva First, the association's biggest financial supporter that year.

Dean said as many as five other churches might be considering cutting their ties to the association. He said that if Sylva First and East Sylva follow Cullowhee out of the association, "I think you're going to see a lot of others follow."

He thinks those churches could eventually form a new association.

"We're just tired of fighting this thing," Dean said.

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8/9/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane and Derek Hodges , BR staff | with 0 comments
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