By John Pierce, Executive Editor, Baptists Today
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — On the heels of news that Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) is loosening ties with the Baptist State Convention (BSC) and taking on operating expenses formerly provided by the BSC, the coordinating council of the state’s Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBFNC) has announced a special offering to help fund the longtime mission-focused organization during the transition.
“WMU of North Carolina has been the missions backbone for Baptists in North Carolina for over 120 years,” said CBFNC Coordinator Larry Hovis. “… CBF of North Carolina wants to help ensure their legacy of missions leadership and empowerment will continue in the future, and stand with them in a special way during this critical time of transition.”
On Aug. 21, WMU-NC Executive Director Ruby Fulbright announced that the group’s executive board had voted overwhelmingly Aug. 16 to move their offices out of the state convention’s headquarters in Cary, N.C. In addition to finding their own office space, she said, WMU-NC would begin shouldering other expenses traditionally provided by the BSC such as employee benefits and automobiles.
Several entities related to the conservative-controlled BSC have been exploring ways to partner with the convention while retaining a large degree of independence to avoid the kind of takeovers that occurred — through trustee appointments — in all Southern Baptist Convention agencies and many other state conventions over the last two and a half decades.
In 2006, WMU-NC members voted to change governing documents to define the organization’s relationship with the state convention in terms of being a “cooperative partner” rather than an “auxiliary.” WMU leaders also sought to clarify that the organization has sole responsibility for employing staff.
But BSC Executive Director Milton Hollifield argued that, since WMU employees require his approval in order to receive benefits, they are technically employees of the BSC. Attempts at compromise failed to reach any accord on the central issue of hiring. Feeling that such an arrangement intruded on WMU-NC’s autonomy, the group announced plans to move out of its current offices and accept the additional financial burdens.
In quick response, CBFNC — which already provides some financial support to WMU-NC through the CBFNC Mission Resource Plan — has established an emergency fund and issued a call for churches to make a special offering to assist WMU-NC in the transition.
Hovis said gifts to assist WMU-NC can be sent between now and Oct. 31 to CBF of North Carolina at 8025 North Point Blvd., Suite 205, Winston-Salem, NC 27106.
In a statement, WMU-NC Executive Director Ruby Fulbright expressed appreciation for CBFNC’s concern and support.
“We are grateful for the partnership we share in missions education and involvement,” said Fulbright. “Now, I am overwhelmed by your kindness in helping us to meet practical needs — paying the bills.”
The primary source of funding for WMU-NC is the annual North Carolina Missions Offering that also supports North Carolina Men and other mission-related projects.