When I was growing up, I was in a church that constantly pushed missions. The ladies in that church were WMU to the core. They certainly overstepped their stated objective many times, but the end result meant missions would go forth. Therefore, not many of the Deacons were too excited when they had to approach the WMU about their violation of church calendar scheduling and the likes. Many of these men would respond; “well it is for missions and how can you argue against promoting missions.” Or, my favorite, “we do not want to upset the women.” I learned, growing up in that church environment, three principles that have served me well as a Pastor today. Principle One, don’t cross the WMU Director. Principle Two, don’t cross the WMU Director. Principle Three, don’t cross the WMU Director. As you can tell these three principles are exaggerations. However, what I observed as a child in this environment was that the WMU Director could and did make life difficult for everyone if she did not get certain things when it came to this organization.
Here in North Carolina we had a brew-ha-ha start 16 months ago. It began innocently enough as our Women’s Missionary Union-North Carolina (WMU-NC) decided they needed to change a phrase that defined their relationship with The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC). The phrase changed from “auxillary” to “cooperative partner”. Many in North Carolina Baptist life decided it was not worth arguing over and thus decided to allow the Executive Director to work through the issue with the WMU-NC Director.
It seemed this controversy escalated when it was noted that hiring practices were being violated and had been for years. The WMU-NC saw the BSCNC Executive Director as merely signing paperwork in order to place WMU-NC employees in the BSCNC payroll. The BSCNC Executive Director saw it has his fiduciary responsibility to be involved with the hiring of WMU-NC employees. The WMU-NC countered with documents from a 1997 Executive Board vote detailing that the WMU-NC is autonomous of the BSCNC. What does all of this mean? Who knows, but I do have some observations and questions.
It seems that the WMU-NC is operating from a utilitarian point of view. Simply put utilitarianism says “the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome“. Here in NC we have struggled for years with moderates within the convention. As conservatives we have tried hard not to push people out but to remain resolute in our stands that we were in support of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) while maintaining a spirit of cooperation. Thus, the conservatives never left to form their own convention here in NC. The WMU-NC appears to be driven by a desire to receive funds from, and partner with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBF-NC). They are not able to do that with their charter, as they are listed as an auxiliary, thus the change to “cooperative partner”. However, they still desire to be part of the North Carolina Missions Offering, which if it is fully funded they receive a little under $900k, which is the largest percentage amount in the NCMO. It seems all can tell the driving desire to continue in relationship with NCBSC.
Here is why I believe the WMU-NC is operating from a utilitarian mindset. Does the WMU-NC believe they have done anything wrong by changing their charter without any input from the BSCNC leaders? The WMU-NC would probably respond with a resounding NO! If you or I respond by questioning their reasoning for their answer they will point to the good of missions and how they will be able to expand that work by partnering with other “like minded Baptist” here in North Carolina. However, it is wrong for an auxiliary organization to change their charter without input from the very organization of which they are the auxiliary. Also, I question the decision of the Executive Committee in 1997. I do not remember changing the status of the WMU-NC to an autonomous body coming before the convention. It may have and was passed, but I do not remember it and cannot find any account of it. Utilitarianism says that it may be wrong to do this but if everyone feels good about it, then morally it is alright. We therefore begin making decisions based on what makes us feel good instead of what we have spelled out as right and wrong.
Our state paper’s new editor, Norman Jameson, deals with this issue on his blog. In the comments section I thought some very well reasoned arguments carried the day. One person by the name of David commented that a lack of accountability is the issue. By the WMU-NC making this move they are removing their accountability from North Carolina Baptist Churches to a small board of directors. By WMU-NC board of directors voting to remove themselves from under the umbrella of the BSCNC as an auxiliary, they have no accountability to the churches of North Carolina. Another visitor by the name of Janet commented that if the WMU-NC wants to leave then they should go. She also calls on the BSCNC to set up a group to carry out the task of the WMU-NC.
This latest level of contention is sad. The WMU-NC is not just leaving the building, it seem they are leaving North Carolina Baptist. I do wish them well, but I can tell you that I will be meeting with my WMU leadership to set the record straight. I would like to ask a couple of questions. If you are in North Carolina, how are you going to respond to this situation with your WMU? If you are not in North Carolina, how would you respond to this type of situation with your WMU? What does this mean for the NCMO? Would you designate that everything go to all of the other missions except WMU-NC? I do pray that we in North Carolina weather this storm. I also want to ask the leadership of the BSCNC a question. Can you tell me what we as conservatives have gained by saying we now have conservatives in leadership? More on my response to that question in a later post.