In church life there is always someone that wants special attention. They desire it so much that many times the items they desire comes before the church for a vote. Usually when the vote is taken it comes as a result of campaigning in order to get the proper people in place in order to speak for the special item that calls for the entire church’s attention. When the vote is taken most Baptist will move in the direction of the vote and you never hear from it again. Unless that special item that would give someone the special attention that they sought is not passed by the church. Then there is an all out attack on the leadership of the church. You will hear things like; “the Deacons do nothing but follow the Pastor”; “the Pastor is a dictator that only wants his way”; “the people in this church have lost their voice”; and my personal favorite one to hear; “this is all about control and power”.
Denominational life is not that much different than church life. In denominational life you have the same types of issues come before the body. This past North Carolina Baptist State Convention (BSCNC) meeting was no different. What was different were the Wednesday morning votes. Dr. Roy Smith, retired Executive-Director Treasurer, presented an amendment to the budget that called for increasing the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) $500k. This increase was to go the Women’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) to enable them to make their transition from being under the umbrella of the BSCNC to becoming completely independent. This amendment was soundly defeated. That was the surprise. I was shocked that the amendment was defeated by such a large majority of messengers on Wednesday morning.
You have to know NC Baptist politics to understand my shock. First we are speaking about WMU. For NC Baptist there are three rules to surviving in the local church and state denominational life. One, do not say anything in private that you are not willing to vouch for in public. Two, most of the time those elected by the church/convention are not really the ones setting the vision. Three, never, ever, under any circumstances, cross the WMU. Why is the third one so important? Because you cannot argue against spending money that will enable missions. Also, you cannot debate why we need to close down the arm that is responsible for raising the Missions Offering.
Because the amendment failed we left Greensboro, NC with the understanding that the ball was now in WMU-NC’s court as to what they are going to do. Do they stay or do they go? If they stay the leadership of BSCNC has made it clear they will receive them back. But the WMU-NC has decided to leave and that appears final. Then something comes in the mail for the WMU director in the churches across NC that are affiliated with the BSCNC and it was a bit surprising. I was more disappointed than surprised but surprised was still my reaction. There was a personal letter signed by Dr. Roy Smith, along with his wife, inviting the WMU Directors to various meetings across the state. In this letter, disguised as an invitation to informational meetings, the WMU-NC’s apparent financial crisis is laid at the feet of the BSCNC leadership. Dr. Smith encourages the local WMU Directors to receive a special offering in their churches to help raise funds for the WMU-NC to make their transition for the next year. Dr. Smith invokes sentiments based on false information. Dr. Smith writes: “A crisis has been thrust upon Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina by the leadership of the Baptist State Convention.” This statement is, at the least ill informed about the issues, and at the most, intentionally false.
There are various areas of concern for me and I pray the leaders in our convention address them. First, Dr. Smith’s letter was a personal letter that was distributed by WMU-NC in WMU-NC envelops using a BSCNC postal stamp. That is correct BSCNC funds, because the NCMO offering is a negative offering, are being used. Dr. Smith has spoken disparagingly against the leadership of BSCNC and he did it on the BSCNC’s dime. Second, what precedence is being set by this letter? I am certain, with Dr. Smith being the NC Baptist historian that he is, there will be some obscure letter produced from somewhere in the 1950′s that comes from a person asking for funds for missions. However, I believe that one will find, if such a letter is produced, that it was a cooperative offering that was being promoted. The WMU-NC offering that Dr. Smith is promoting is one that is very divisive. Second, this letter is completely against the way that Baptist have done things in the past. Whenever a vote was taken in the past that did not go the way of conservatives, they regrouped and presented it differently to the convention the following year. Many walked away disappointed and even angry but never was there this kind of questionable tactics performed. Dr. Smith, through this move, has expressed that he knows better than 1500 BSCNC duly elected messengers on how to vote. Dr. Smith’s amendment was voted down and he has now found a way to retaliate on the dime of the ones that he is trying to bring down. Third, Dr. Smith has completely distanced himself from the Southern Baptist Convention. He is strangely making accusations against the leadership of the BSCNC and has consistently distanced himself along with the BSCNC from the SBC. The vote was taken by a duly called convention and the WMU-NC needs to make a decision. Because Dr. Smith is leading this charge and all of the churches that are hosting the meetings are aligned with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the WMU-NC needs to make a decision. Either talk to the leadership of the convention and rectify a wrong, or leave and let the hollow promises of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-NC keep the bills paid. However, it appears that a decision has already been made. Here is a quote of Rev. Ruby Fulbright, Executive Director of WMU-NC:
WMU of NC is very appreciative of the continued support of CBFNC and the churches of this fellowship. We are grateful for the partnership we share in missions education and involvement. Now, I am overwhelmed by your kindness in helping us to meet practical needs – paying the bills. So many times the Father shows His amazing love in very unexpected ways.
Fourth, this letter comes out the end of November. By the timing, it is now presented as a direct appeal against the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. How many churches will have WMU-NC Directors standing before their respective congregations, crying crocodile tears, appealing for people to take part of their planned Lottie offerring and send it to the WMU-NC? I think it is an egregious act for WMU-NC–an organization that says their hearts are for missions–to send out a letter at this time of the year. If this letter were to have come in January, I could have backed off of such strong rhetoric. However, with this letter surfacing at this time of the year, it tells me that the WMU-NC no longer is holding the ropes. It seems they have decided to release the ropes and allow our missions to suffer in order to fulfill their selfish desire not to have Milton Hollifield sign off on the people they hire. What a shame!
While I know there is nothing that the BSCNC leadership can do, per say, concerning this letter. They can call for Dr. Smith to reimburse the BSCNC for the funds it took to pay for the envelopes and postage. I am appalled and offended that a retired E-D/Treasurer would take this kind of public posture against a duly elected E-D/Treasurer. Dr. Smith owes Rev. Hollifield a public apology. The entire time that Brother Milton worked in the BSCNC he never spoke against Dr. Smith, and there probably will not be anything said by Brother Milton against Dr. Smith now. But Dr. Smith has made an unprecedented move against the BSCNC and the WMU-NC has made an unprecedented move against Lottie and our Missionaries.