Buncombe unlikely to support CBF churches
October 25 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Buncombe unlikely to support CBF churches | Friday, Oct. 25, 2002

Friday, Oct. 25, 2002

Buncombe unlikely to support CBF churches

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

Will the Buncombe Baptist Association support a new church that wants to affiliate with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), but not the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)?

Probably not.

That's the crux of a report from the association's New Work Committee. The association adopted the report at its annual meeting Oct. 14-15.

The report doesn't mention CBF in its seven criteria for starting a new church. But the report does say it would be wrong to ask the association to support a CBF-only church since most of the association's churches support the SBC and not the CBF.

The report was intended to address an earlier motion by Guy Sayles, pastor of Asheville's First Baptist Church.

Sayles wanted to know the association's stance on new churches that affiliate with the CBF but not the SBC. He asked 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 effective veto power over funding for new churches. Earlier this year, the Carolina Baptist Association effectively nixed 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.

Sayles said he wanted a clear answer to his questions.

"We didn't get clarity," he said. "It's not a clear report."

Sayles said there is a "clear disconnect" between the background information in the report and its conclusions. The background information includes a "fairly good description of Baptist polity," he said.

"The conclusions don't seem to follow from that," he said.

Sayles said that he reads the report as "at least a qualified no" to the question of whether the association would support a new church that's affiliated with only CBF.

Steve Harris, pastor of New Life Community Church in Asheville, was chairman of the New Work Committee that wrote the report.

Harris said the answers to Sayles' two questions were "qualified no's."

"No, we'll not give a blanket endorsement to CBF-only churches but we will give an open, honest consideration to any church that comes before us," he said. "Our desire is to be as conciliatory as we can, to give an honest, genuine, open consideration to anyone."

Harris said the key question is the motivation behind the start of the church.

"We would not be interested in endorsing a politically motivated church, in other words a church that would be planted just to have a CBF presence in the area," he said.

Dennis Thurman, moderator of the association, said there is no guarantee that any new church will be funded.

"We can guarantee that it will not be if someone comes in and says, 'Our whole reason is to start a CBF church,'" he said.

He said a new church has to meet the association's criteria.

"Those are the things we're looking for," he said.

The criteria do not mention CBF.

"That is not in the criteria, but if someone comes in with that as their agenda, that will end the discussion at that point," he said.

A CBF-only new church might be considered if there is not "an overt agenda," he said.

"If a church comes in and they don't make that their agenda, all we can do is come in and give that church every opportunity to succeed," he said.

Joe Babb, who served on the committee, says the report deals with a question Sayles didn't ask. Sayles' motion didn't ask for such an endorsement, he said. Babb presented a "minority report" at the associational meeting that would have deleted a section concerning CBF but would have kept the criteria for new churches.

The motion to amend the report failed. The vote to adopt the report was "very decisive, very clear cut," Thurman said.

A motion to ask the BSC to take responsibility for doling out church planting funds from the separate giving plans was ruled out of order by Thurman. He said the association had already dealt with the matter when it adopted the report.

Babb said the report "prohibits what's currently accepted." He said the Buncombe constitution doesn't require affiliation with the SBC.

At least one church in the association is affiliated with CBF, and not SBC, he said.

Sayles said he is troubled when the relationship a church has with one Baptist body is linked to its relationship to another Baptist body.

"That's contrary to my understanding of Baptist polity," he said.

Sayles said his church will reconsider its relationship to the association, but he couldn't say what decision would be made. Regardless of that decision, "our church is going to pursue network style relationships with like-minded churches in western North Carolina," he said.

Thurman said the committee was trying to be conciliatory and not disrupt the fellowship of the association. The group attempted to find a "win-win" situation, he said.

"We don't want any churches to leave," he said. "We tried to bend over backwards to state our case in a way as that would not happen."

Harris agreed.

"We want to keep our association together," he said. "We have churches very strongly on both sides.

"We don't want the churches affiliated with CBF to think we're trying to control things and get discouraged and leave. At the same time, we don't want to plant churches that are planted with political motivations."

Harris said the "polarization" in the association is related to differing views on the controversy in the SBC since 1979.

Some are happy with the conservative movement in the SBC and see it as a move toward doctrinal accountability and the authority of the Bible and away from liberalism. Others see it as heavy-handed control and a threat to the priesthood of the believer, he said.

The controversy is almost like a separation in a marriage, he said.

"The separation papers were filed in the development of the CBF, but there hasn't been a divorce," he said. "The question is whether there's going to be a divorce."

The report "was an attempt to hold off the divorce (in the association) without compromising our convictions," he said.

"I think it's going to work very well in our association because we have a committee very focused on the criteria and not politics," Harris said. "If that's not good enough for someone, I don't know how much we can do."

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10/25/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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