Looking for warmer weather
March 1 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Looking for warmer weather | Friday, March 1, 2002

Friday, March 1, 2002

Looking for warmer weather

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Winter months are depressing enough all by themselves. Short days, cold weather, excessive time indoors and infectious diseases can make this a miserable time of the year.

It seems that the only things heating up are denominational controversies and convention politics, and that leaves me cold.

I'm tired of writing about it, and I suspect readers are tired of reading about it.

If far-reaching national issues of concern were not enough, convention politics in North Carolina were stoked by a recent letter sent by Texan David Currie to 4,760 N.C. Baptists. Currie, a consultant to the national Mainstream Baptist Network, encouraged N.C. Baptists to stand up for traditional Baptist values and win elections. Unfortunately, he did so by means of inflammatory language regarding the "evil of fundamentalism" and by fingering Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson as the architect of an active plan to take over the Baptist State Convention.

Many recipients - including a number of moderates - did not receive the letter kindly, nor did they feel a need for outside help.

There is no question that fundamentalism can be used for evil purposes, as can any other "-ism," but I'm not convinced that religious fundamentalism is inherently evil. The Amish are among the most fundamentalist folks around, and also among the most peaceful.

And, though Patterson has the SBC's renovations on his resume and is on record as wanting to see the BSC take a more conservative track, he's been decidedly low key about it. Most N.C. conservatives I know do not look to him for leadership.

Currie's letter insists that shared leadership is possible only if Mainstream Baptists are in charge. Over the past decade, however, N.C. Baptists have demonstrated both the desire and the ability to work in relative harmony without any single group exercising a monopoly in convention leadership. Accomplishing such a feat is a rare thing these days, but that is no reason to give up on cooperation and let issues of disagreement escalate into open conflict.

It is entirely possible for our leadership to live out mainstream Baptist values (which are essential for cooperation) without holding party membership in the Mainstream Baptist organization.

While national SBC agencies do in fact continue to constrict the tent of fellowship and participation, Baptists from across our state and across the spectrum are serving as state convention officers, as general board members, as committee members, and as trustees of our institutions and agencies.

That is something to celebrate, and something worth preserving.

The worst thing we can do, as I see it, is to promote a winner-take-all mentality. Whether "takeover" rhetoric comes from the right, the left, or one piece of the middle, it's unwelcome in North Carolina.

I may be naive. There are many who think so, and who have told me so.

Some say "you can't trust a fundamentalist."

Others say "you can't trust a liberal."

But I am by nature a trusting soul. I would rather trust and be betrayed than to never trust at all.

Our elected leaders in North Carolina have pledged to support genuine cooperation, and I choose to trust them.

The mounting ugliness among us is enough to make a good Baptist want to crawl in a groundhog hole with Punxatawny Phil and wait for better weather. Unfortunately, too many have done that already, leaving only the most passionate on the playing field.

I find glimmers of hope in the Baptist State Convention's persistent determination to be an inclusive family pursuing God's work, and in the Southern Baptist Convention's new emphasis on following Jesus in kingdom living.

I am convinced that if we ever took Jesus' teachings about the kingdom seriously, we'd all be crying such tears of repentance that we couldn't see well enough to fight.

And that would be something worth writing about.

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3/1/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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