Conservatives won the presidency of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Tuesday morning, tightening their grip on leadership and raising questions about whether moderates will split from or pull back in their financial support of the state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention.

David Horton, pastor of Gate City Baptist Church in Greensboro, defeated David Hughes, pastor of First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, by a vote of 2,280-1,553. It was the ninth straight win for a conservative-backed candidate and the largest margin of victory since 1996 (60 percent-40 percent).

While moderates said leading up to the election that this year might determine whether many will still have a place in the 4,000-church convention, they were taking a wait-and-see approach immediately after the vote, according to a reporter covering the meeting contacted by phone.

Horton said he will seek to provide a place for moderates and that he hopes they will stay with the state convention, according to The Associated Press.

That conversation will be informed by whether conservatives follow through on an expressed desire to remove a giving option that allows moderate churches send money to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship instead of the Southern Baptist Convention.

North Carolina is one of the few state conventions associated with the SBC that accommodates churches on the losing side of the conservative-moderate conflict in the national body by allowing them to give outside of official denominational channels without those funds being counted as “designated” monies, apart from the Cooperative Program unified budget.

Conservatives have said moderates’ hidden agenda is to hurt the SBC because of its conservative leadership. They rejected a plan announced by Hughes to reduce funding to the SBC as a way to solve financial woes in the state convention, which has already reduced staff because of a budget shortfall.

Also in the morning session, messengers heard a 10-minute edited version of a message taped weeks ago by their convention’s president, Jerry Pereira, who died Friday after a six-month battle with cancer. The former first vice president, Bob Foy, became president at Pereira’s death and also spoke during the time scheduled for the president’s address, issuing a “layman’s challenge” to churches.

Like some of his predecessors, Pereira, pastor of First Baptist Church of Swannanoa, considered himself a theological conservative but called for Baptists on both sides to be charitable when they disagree. “If we are fussing we are not fishing,” he said a year ago in his acceptance speech. “Our job is not to throw rocks but to throw ropes.”

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