Laity challenged to stand firm with Christ
November 15 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Laity challenged to stand firm with Christ | Friday, Nov 15, 2002

Friday, Nov 15, 2002

Laity challenged to stand firm with Christ

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

WINSTON-SALEM - A parade of laity, clergy and Baptist college representatives challenged Mainstream Baptists of North Carolina to stand firm with Christ in the mainstream of traditional Baptist belief and practice.

About 300 people gathered for the North Carolina Laity Conference at Knollwood Baptist Church on Nov. 11.

Roy DeBrand, professor of homiletics at the Campbell University Divinity School, said people can be copers, choosers or changers. "God intends for us to be changers," he said. "We can trust God to change us when we can't change ourselves. When we are changed, we can become changers."

DeBrand challenged participants to change the world for Christ and for good.

Jonathan Jones, a layperson from Immanuel Baptist Church in Greenville, said "I see Mainstream as a group of Southern Baptists working together to preserve Baptist traditions that North Carolina Baptists have long held dear."

"I'm tired of seeing Baptists pointing fingers and tearing people down," Jones said. He said rejecting missionaries because they won't sign a creed or rejecting churches that choose to have women pastors made no sense to him.

"I believe politics distracts us from spreading the gospel and building God's kingdom," he said.

North Carolina's five Baptist colleges need Mainstream Baptists, said Stanley Lott, president of Chowan College in Murphreesboro. Lott said the colleges need Mainstream Baptists to undergird them with prayer, send them their students, help them find strong trustees, help them locate people who can contribute needed funds, and support Cooperative Missions giving to the colleges.

Charles Dean, pastor of East Sylva Baptist Church, described events leading to his church's recent withdrawal from the Tuckaseigee Baptist Association. He described it as "liberation day for our church, when we came out of Egypt."

Dean described the church's long history of full fellowship with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Tuckaseigee Baptist Association as being like the time when Joseph exerted influence over Egypt. But "a new pharaoh has arisen," he said, as the SBC controversy came to Jackson County.

Dean said he knew it had come when a church member on the association credentials committee was upset because a majority of the committee wanted to unseat the Cullowhee Baptist Church, founded in 1821, the oldest church in the association, because it had called a woman as co-pastor.

Dean said he attended a meeting of the association executive committee that he knew was designed to exclude the Cullowhee church and to embrace the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, but he left when a majority voted to close the meeting.

"I saw prejudice, intolerance and a spirit of meanness I have never seen in all my years," said Dean, who has been pastor at East Sylva since 1966.

Dean said someone asked why he had turned his back on the SBC. "I didn't leave the SBC," he said. "They left me.

"I have not left my first love," Dean said, speaking at length about his love for the Bible, his love for religious liberty, and his love for Baptists.

Speaking of the Bible, he said "the devil won a great victory when he took what we love the most and turned it into a sword of division."

On religious liberty, he spoke of how former director of missions John Reid was criticized by association leaders because he participated, at the invitation of a local church, in the ordination service of a woman deacon. Dean quoted one critic as saying he wanted a director of missions who would do what he was told, and that the director of missions did not have the right to think for himself.

The conflict in Jackson County "is not about women deacons but about religious liberty," he said. "We will not affirm the Baptist Faith and Message. It is a creed, an instrument designed solely to put women in their place and make the Bible say whatever the powers that be want it to say. At East Sylva we love religious liberty and we won't let any convention take that away."

"Someone asked where we are going," Dean said. "I said 'I don't know, but we're not going back to Egypt.'"

Clella Lee, pastor of evangelism and development at Lafayette Baptist Church in Fayetteville, interspersed a challenge to stand firm in Christ with a cappella verses from the hymn "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand."

"Personally I have chosen to stand on the solid rock of Christ with Mainstream, because Mainstream Baptists believe that Christ is the center of the universe and exalt Christ as the center of Christian faith," she said.

Lee noted that she and her husband attended their first Southern Baptist Convention in 1979, when the conservative drive for control of the convention began.

"There has never been a time in our 25 years of ministry that has not been clouded and hindered by denominational controversy," she said.

Lee quoted Jesus' prayer in John 17 that His disciples might be one so the world would recognize them as His people.

"How is it that we are unwilling to embrace each other with supernatural unity so the world will know?" she asked. "Our challenge is to give authentic expression to that (unity) which God has given in our midst."

She said her church is so diverse that members contribute to all four of the Baptist State Convention's giving plans.

"Our goal is not uniformity, but unity," she said. "We refuse to give in to the notion that it is impossible for diverse people to experience unity together."

"I stand with Mainstream because I believe they are committed to the ideal of cooperation and to preserving the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina," Lee said.

"I realize the time I have left is limited," she said. "I don't want to spend the next 25 years in semantic arguments and power struggles. I want to stand on the rock with Christ and with others who don't think we all have to agree on the way in order to point the way.

"I will stand with Mainstream as long as they are going in that direction," Lee said. "I will stand forever on the solid rock."

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11/15/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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