Second association excludes press
July 26 2002 by Steve DeVane and Derek Hodges , BR staff

Second association excludes press | Friday, July 26, 2002

Friday, July 26, 2002

Second association excludes press

By Steve DeVane and Derek Hodges BR staff

A Buncombe Baptist Association committee decided July 18 to exclude members of the press from a series of otherwise public sessions.

The move marked the second time in 10 days that a N.C. Baptist association committee decided to meet in private.

The Buncombe committee was holding "listening sessions." It was gathering information for a report on whether the association, in concept, would consider endorsing a new church that chose to affiliate with the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) but not the more conservative Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The decision to close the meetings was made at the committee's second meeting. A Biblical Recorder reporter attended the first session.

The Recorder intended to cover the third meeting on July 22, but was told by Director of Missions Ron Kiser that the meeting was closed to members of the press.

Association Moderator Dennis Thurman made the decision to close the meetings on July 18, Kiser said. Other members of the committee agreed, he said.

Kiser said the committee would likely issue a statement after it completed its report. Members of the committee might be available for interviews then, he said.

The Buncombe committee is expected to give a report at the association's annual meeting Oct. 14-15.

The committee was formed in response to a motion at an association board meeting by Guy Sayles, pastor of Asheville's First Baptist Church. The motion asked for a committee to find out the association's stance on new churches that affiliate with the CBF, but not the SBC.

The motion asked that the committee consider whether the association would welcome cooperation with such churches and whether the association would endorse funding for them.

The Baptist State Convention (BSC) has given local associations heavy influence into whether new churches get state funding. Earlier this year, the Carolina Baptist Association effectively vetoed BSC funding for Providence Baptist Church, a new CBF church in Hendersonville. That church was co-sponsored by several churches in the Buncombe Association, but eventually joined the United Association, which is made up of churches mostly in the Charlotte area.

Debate in the first meeting focused on the source of money for CBF church starts like Providence. Several people said that money comes from the offerings of SBC churches, which means that SBC churches are promoting a cause with which they don't agree.

In an interview after the meeting, Barbara Vassar, a member of First Asheville, said that is not the case. She said some money for starting churches comes from a BSC giving option, Plan C, that doesn't include funding for the SBC.

"These people think we're spending SBC money on Providence," she said. "I think it's so sad that they are in churches that give to the state convention and don't know the different giving plans."

In 2001, Plan C contributions were $2.29 million, of which $68,706, or 3 percent, was earmarked for "North Carolina Home Mission Projects and New Church Starts," according to the BSC budget. Plan C includes money for CBF but not the SBC.

Vassar said she believes Sayles' motion goes beyond the question of funding for new CBF churches. At issue is where the association stands and whether churches that now support CBF will be accepted by other churches in the association, she said.

"They think we don't love the Lord," she said. "It's just like we don't even speak the same language."

The listening sessions were announced in an e-mail message from Thurman. He said the sessions were not intended for "back and forth debate."

"The committee members aren't there to discuss their positions, but to listen to yours," he said. "We invite you to speak passionately, but always courteously."

Thurman asked members of the association to attend one of the meetings.

"This report will have an impact on the future of Buncombe Baptist Association," he said. "Its implications may likely be profound, not just for new church starts, but in the current fellowship of churches."

The decision to close the meetings followed a July 8 move by the Tuckaseigee Association's Executive Committee to hold one of its meetings behind closed doors. In that meeting, the committee affirmed the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and asked the association's credentials committee to counsel two churches over matters of faith and practice.

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7/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane and Derek Hodges , BR staff | with 0 comments
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