This past year, for the first time in many years, I didn’t attend the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC). I didn’t feel particularly welcome, for one thing: messengers at the previous year’s meeting had voted to eliminate any options for supporting the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), and rhetoric from the floor was decidedly harsh toward those of us who no longer pledge allegiance to the Southern Baptist Convention.
The other reason is that two of my classes at Campbell conflicted with the meeting, and I thought my efforts would be better spent there.
Norman Jameson’s informative article on the Biblical Recorder website reports that messengers finalized changes to the constitution and bylaws that formalize an end to direct relationships between the BSCNC and Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina, Baptist Retirement Homes, and the five colleges and institutions that had remained affiliated with the convention. All of those changes had been in process for years, so actions at the meeting were mainly formalities. The only real discussion, apparently, concerned objections of some messengers to scholarship funds for students attending the Baptist colleges.
After a dismal financial year, the convention approved a sharply lower budget, down from $39.2 million to $34.8 million, more in line with current income and roughly on par with budget levels from ten years ago. The new budget eliminates optional giving plans (previously known as Plans B, C, and D), consolidating all gifts into a single plan that sends a larger percentage, for the fifth straight year, to the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the first time, the entire meeting was held in the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. The added convenience didn’t help attendance, however: it continued a downward trend that has persisted since the 1990s and accelerated in the past five years (the above graph shows the decline from 3,200 messengers in 2005 to 1,836 this year; in the 1990s, attendance topped 6,000).
Undeterred by signs of decline, the convention launched a new three-year program to pump up evangelism efforts, called “Find It Here.”
Given the convention’s virtual and not always friendly separation from CBF supporters, WMU NC, and the colleges — and its increasingly tighter bonds with the SBC — it’s no surprise that more moderate Baptists are finding fewer reasons to continue supporting the BSCNC. If not for the good work of N.C. Baptist Men, longstanding support for Baptist Children’s Homes, and appreciation for the BSC’s conference centers like Caraway, Caswell, and Hollifield, there would be even less reason for remaining involved.
I loved the BSCNC for a long time, and continue to wish it well. Even so, the words of an old Roger Miller tune come to mind: “More and more I think about you less and less.”
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.