Ruby Fulbright began her executive director’s report to Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) with a single word: “Whew!”
After a topsy-turvy year in which WMU-NC lost its office space and all Baptist State Convention (BSC) financial support as the price of preserving its autonomy, Fulbright said the organization – the largest state WMU in the country – is still growing, adding 138 new mission organizations in the past year. The announced attendance of 1,343 was the largest since 2002.
While grieving the deaths of former presidents Mabel Claire Maddrey and Dorothy P. Allred, Fulbright cited multiple reasons to celebrate. Those included the ongoing construction of a new unit lodge at Camp Mundo Vista, continued growth in Restorative Justice and Christian Women’s Job Corps ministries, and advances in multi-cultural work. For the third year in a row, North Carolina has a national Acteens panelist and Baptist Nursing Fellowship marked its 25th anniversary as a new Professional Christian Women’s Network gets underway. A number of women-only mission trips are also being planned.
In reflecting on the challenges of the past year, Fulbright said WMU-NC’s decision to ensure its autonomy had been applauded by many, but had “caused confusion and miscommunication among others.”
“Some things have been said that are absolutely not true,” Fulbright said, things that have caused hardship in some churches. “We want to express our apology for any difficulty you have gone through or may be going through,” she said, “and to remind you that WMU was born in adversity. Faith and obedience and being true to our calling is costly.”
“I hope you will hear that WMU-NC is still committed to missions,” Fulbright said, “to working alongside all North Carolina Baptist churches and associations in Christ-centered and Bible-based missions.”
WMU-NC still loves God and wants to share that love with all the world, and is still committed to working together with BSC leadership.
“In all honesty, that relationship still needs work,” she said. Fulbright pointed out that BSC officials have removed any mention of WMU-NC from the UpClose audio-video magazine and the “Church Leader” page designed by the BSC for publication in the Biblical Recorder. Likewise, a reference to WMU-NC has been left out of articles on BSC website concerning who to contact about the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon missions offerings – even though the partnership arrangement with WMU national requires that such materials be distributed by state WMU organizations.
“Those decisions were made by Baptist State Convention leadership, not WMU,” Fulbright said. “We will discover new ways of communicating with you,” she said, and “we’re still committed to working with the Baptist State Convention or others who want to do missions with us.”
After WMU-NC was excluded from the BSC’s North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO), the Heck-Jones Offering used prior to advent of the NCMO was reestablished. Fulbright reported that more than $336,000 has been contributed thus far. “It’s not enough, not yet, but God is providing for our needs in other ways,” she said.
Fulbright thanked those who had helped pack boxes, donated furniture, sent notes, or encouraged the staff in other ways. Stopping her report, Fulbright, the WMU-NC staff, and members of the WMU executive board donned cowboy hats and went throughout the audience to say “thank you” while country artist Tracy Lawrence’s “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” played over the sound system.
WMU-NC’s new office suite is now ready, and nine staff members will be relocating during the week of April 14, Fulbright said. “Moving will be no easy task, but it will cost less than we ever thought possible, and donations have been overwhelming,” she said.
“We’ve had our lions and tigers and bears this year, but that tension can help us,” Fulbright said: tensions between dependence and independence, frontiers and boundaries, quality and quantity, present and future.
“We are laborers together with God, radically involved in the Great Commission,” she said. “Some think we’ve been radical this year, but I’m more concerned with our radical faith from here on out. With this faith women will be lifted from the pit of despair to the mountain of hope … Children will be blessed … Young people will sow the seeds of missions around the world … We will cement in Baptist history a union that is self-supporting and blessed by God.”
WMU will teach, pray, and go together as God has commanded, Fulbright concluded. “I believe we are following God’s orders, and accountable to God for how we handle this opportunity. History is on our side in believing that WMU-NC will go forward.”
[WMU-NC’s new physical address is 1200 Front Street, Suite 110, Raleigh, NC 27609. The location is near Wake Forest Road, just inside the I-440, the Raleigh “beltline.”]