Mainstream rides out first year
February 1 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Mainstream rides out first year | Friday, Feb. 1, 2002

Friday, Feb. 1, 2002

Mainstream rides out first year

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina (MBNC) celebrated its first year of existence Jan. 29 with frank discussion of the group's stands and strong statements about its purpose.

MBNC was organized at a meeting in Greensboro a year ago. The group formed to preserve the Baptist State Convention and promote what it calls historic Baptist principles.

Don Gordon, who gave up chairmanship of the MBNC steering committee after the recent meeting, reported on the group's accomplishments in its first year.

Roy J. Smith, former executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) and the interim chairman of the MBNC steering committee, spoke about his dreams for N.C. Baptists.

Larry Harper, BSC second vice president, gave a brief devotional message.

More than 100 people attended the meeting, which also included a series of "listening sessions" facilitated by steering committee members.

Gordon, pastor of First Baptist Church in Mount Olive, said in his report that he believes MBNC dictated the terms of debate in the races for BSC offices. He said all three candidates who won "espoused Mainstream values of cooperation, inclusiveness and state-first priorities." Not all the candidates who took those stands won, but the only one who didn't lost, Gordon said.

Joy Heaton, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Enfield, took issue with Gordon's comments during a listening session, calling it "spin."

"We lost," she said. "'Fess up, we lost."

Harper was the only MBNC-endorsed candidate who won. Two candidates endorsed by MBNC lost. Charles Page, who was endorsed by MBNC and Conservative Carolina Baptists (CCB), pulled out of the race for BSC president because of health reasons.

Heaton said she disagreed with the decision to endorse a candidate previously endorsed by CCB.

Other discussion in the listening session centered on what MBNC might do if fundamentalists take over the BSC.

Heaton said some conservatives are trying to "talk the good talk" of cooperation.

"You guys on the steering committee are buying it," she said.

Gordon said he thinks MBNC will continue to try to reach out to cooperative conservatives and cooperative moderates.

Bible believers

In his report, Gordon said Mainstream Baptists believe the Bible, but oppose fundamentalism.

"We are committed to not only believing (the Bible), but also obeying it," he said. "We believe that making marvelous statements about our fidelity to the Scriptures without living according to the ethical demands of Scripture diminishes our Christian witness. Therefore, we want to be just as guarded in how we treat our neighbors as in the proclamation we make about the Bible."

The inerrancy of the Bible was the conservative battle cry during the fight for control of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Conservatives have effectively shut out moderates from leadership positions in the SBC.

Gordon said MBNC believes that someone loyal to the SBC or the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) can hold leadership in the BSC.

"We are not so arrogant to think that only one national body of evangelical Christians can carry out the Great Commission," he said. "God is bigger than the SBC, the CBF, the BSCNC, and any other organization that has letters in it."

Unity with Jesus

Smith said he hopes that N.C. Baptists can come together under the lordship of Jesus Christ and His mission in the world. He said he wants N.C. Baptists to appreciate and magnify the diversity that has characterized the BSC since its founding in 1830.

"It is my contention that this has been an asset, not a liability," he said.

Those on the far sides of the theological spectrum have served as a sort of "checks and balances" to keep the BSC from going too far to either side, Smith said.

"We have built a denomination where we have emphasis on evangelism and social ministry," he said. "Through the years, the vast majority of N.C. Baptists have felt at home in that family."

Smith said he hopes N.C. Baptists will continue to support the BSC's institutions and agencies.

"There are those who would gladly see the institutions of higher education take wings and fly away," he said.

N.C. Baptists should also continue to emphasize freedom, including soul competency, the priesthood of each individual believer and the autonomy of the local congregations, Smith said.

"The highest authority in Baptist life is the local congregation," he said. "Members are to be priests under God."

Smith said denominational agencies exist for the churches. That should be said at every BSC meeting, at every associational meeting and 10 times at every SBC meeting, he said.

"Baptists believe there are no spiritual hierarchies in the kingdom of God," he said. "There are no first- and second-class citizens in the kingdom.

"A true, authentic Baptist knows that in Jesus Christ we are all peers together. We are all one in Him."

Smith said he hopes Baptists can recapture and maintain their values.

"This can be the beginning of our greatest days in N.C. Baptist life," he said. "It can be the beginning of something else.

"By the grace of God and the efforts of people like you, this can be the greatest era in ministry, evangelism and missions ever known. I believe it can happen and I pray to God it will."

Relationships, not religion

Harper, pastor of Forest Hills Baptist Church which hosted the meeting, compared Baptist distinctives to the wrinkles people get as they age. Unfortunately, he said, some Baptists see no value in them and want a "face lift."

Harper encouraged N.C. Baptists to follow Jesus' example.

"His approach was to develop relationships rather than religion," he said.

Harper pointed out the variation among the disciples, from Simon the zealot to Matthew the tax collector.

"I really believe there's hope because the post-moderns are taking us back where we should be," he said. "This new breed of believers are not far from where Baptist wrinkles are.

"They are first looking for community."

Harper said "the religious police" often try to squelch that type of community.

"Post-moderns may just be the one way God is calling us back to the central issue of the early Christian church and that's community, wrinkles and all," he said.

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2/1/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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