Western network of Baptists begins to take shape
June 13 2003 by Derek Hodges , BR Correspondent

Western network of Baptists begins to take shape | Friday, June 13, 2003

Friday, June 13, 2003

Western network of Baptists begins to take shape

By Derek Hodges BR Correspondent

A meeting of a new "network" of Baptists in Western North Carolina has given hope of a great future to the group's founders. Nearly 200 people attended the first fellowship gathering of the Western North Carolina Baptist Network in late April.

Several of the founders and others have been holding informal meetings once a month to discuss the shape of the group, whom its members may include, and what its governance will look like.

So far an interim steering committee, which has served as the group's only governing body, has established a framework for building the rest of the network. One of the goals of the group, according to Guy Sayles, pastor of Asheville First and chair of the steering committee, has been maintaining a spirit of cooperation. Several of the churches that have joined the group have either been voted out of their associations or say they no longer feel "welcome" in their current association.

Though the group has associated itself with the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Sayles said they are open to working with any group that wants to work with the network. He also said that agreement with member churches will not be required of churches that wish to join in the future.

"We don't expect that the churches that participate in this have unanimity of opinion with us. If they want to network with us like we're doing, they're welcome," Sayles said at the fellowship meeting.

Joe David Fore, retired Baptist campus minister at UNC-Asheville and a member of the steering committee, said the group was not formed as a replacement to state convention associations already working in the area. He said the motivation behind the network was to provide fellowship for churches that felt like they were not being given that opportunity in other places.

"I heard a pastor with tears in his eyes say, 'Listen, I need some fellowship,'" Fore said. He said that incident made him realize, "It's time to do something."

He said the fellowship was an answer to many prayers. "There's some new things happening in Baptist life they're really exciting," Fore said. "That's what Baptist life is all about, fellowship, missions, evangelism and community."

Fourteen churches have joined or expressed interest in joining the network to date. The first fellowship meeting brought 116 registered visitors to Arden First. In addition, several unregistered students from the Western Carolina University Baptist Student Union attended the meeting.

Lois Taylor, who attended the April meeting with her husband Garland, said she thought the network was a great thing. Taylor said that when she heard about the network, "I was excited, I thought it would be a great thing to have going on."

Currently the group has set its borders for membership as including the western end of the state. They have defined the vague term "western" as being "Morganton and west." Additionally, however, they have said they intend their borders to be "porous," so as not to exclude other interested churches.

According to Sayles, the group's next event will be a mission project at member church Providence Baptist of Hendersonville. Though a date has not been set, the group hopes to work on construction needs in the church's new building in July.

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6/13/2003 12:00:00 AM by Derek Hodges , BR Correspondent | with 0 comments
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