Regional CBF group organizes
January 10 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Regional CBF group organizes | Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Friday, Jan. 10, 2003

Regional CBF group organizes

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

A group of church leaders in western North Carolina has taken the first step toward forming a regional network of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) churches.

Supporters say it's too early to say if the group will become an association that seeks affiliation with the Baptist State Convention (BSC), but a number of the churches have either pulled out of or are dissatisfied with their associations.

The motion to begin the work of forming a "Western North Carolina Cooperative Baptist Fellowship" came Jan. 6 at a monthly, informal meeting of leaders of CBF-friendly churches. The group will be "a network of churches, individuals and parties, for purposes of education, fellowship, missions and worship, in our desire to fulfill the Great Commission," according to the motion by Alan Gragg, a retired seminary and college professor and a member of First Baptist Church in Asheville.

A steering committee was formed to begin working on the project. The committee will bring a report to a meeting at Calvary Baptist Church in Asheville on Feb. 3.

Guy Sayles, pastor of Asheville's First Baptist Church, will serve as chairman of the committee. Other members are A.C. Ownbey, a layperson from First Baptist Church in Black Mountain; Joe David Fore, a retired campus minister and member of First Baptist Church in Asheville; Brian Fleming, a youth minister at First Baptist Church in Arden; Gail Coulter, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Hendersonville; and Gragg.

Sayles said his committee will look at ways the network can serve the needs of churches.

"I can say our main interest will be in saying what we should be doing locally rather than who our partners are," he said.

Thirty-one people attended the Jan. 6 meeting at a restaurant in Asheville, according to Buddy Corbin, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Asheville and recorder for the group. Twenty-nine of those present signed a statement agreeing with the motion, he said.

Corbin said those attending the meeting discussed a synopsis of a Nov. 25 gathering at Hominy Baptist. He said 178 people from 11 churches attended that meeting.

Small groups discussing several issues reported almost unanimous interest in being part of a regional CBF body, according to Corbin's synopsis of the meeting. The groups also discussed shared ministry options and potential strengths and drawbacks to a regional group.

Corbin said that even though some of the churches represented aren't happy with the direction of their local associations, the decision at the Jan. 6 meeting "wasn't intended to be a slap at anybody."

"The formation of a regional CBF naturally grows out of a need for relationship with like-minded churches and people who are weary of Baptist infighting and simply want to go about the business of serving the Lord," he said.

Joe Yelton, pastor of Hominy Baptist Church in Candler and moderator of the Jan. 6 meeting, agreed.

"It doesn't mean these churches are all going to pull out of their associations," he said. "It doesn't mean they're mad or angry."

Yelton said he prays that in 100 years people will look back and say the Southern Baptist Convention and the CBF accomplished good things.

"To God be the glory," he said.

Yelton called the Jan. 6 decision "truly at great moment in Baptist life."

Jim Fowler, missions coordinator for CBF of North Carolina, said the move is significant.

"It's a movement of churches saying 'we want to fellowship together, we want to move forward, not backward,'" he said.

Fowler said the decision is "church-led, not CBF-led."

"This is not a top down thing," he said. "This is coming from the churches.

"We're certainly happy to see it happen."

Fowler said informal groups of CBF-friendly church leaders are also meeting in the Durham, Greenville and Wilmington areas. Some church leaders in the Laurinburg area are interested in holding similar meetings, he said.

"We're in a position where we're responding to what our churches are asking for," he said.

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1/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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