Tennessee Baptist Convention rejects more presidential power

Rick Wagner • Nov 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The Tennessee Baptist Convention, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, meets Wednesday on the second day of a two-day session at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center. Erica Yoon photo.


KINGSPORT — The Tennessee Baptist Convention Wednesday turned down the Amendment 6 proposal to give the convention president more voice on who serves on a key board.

And affirmation of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message turned out not to be a universal litmus test for serving on the Executive Board, meaning that two Tri-Cities nominees withstood challenges despite not affirming the 2000 BF&M.

Both developments could be seen as a setback for conservatives in the Brentwood-based convention, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and has affiliate colleges and hospitals, including Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City.

The Rev. Leonard Markham of Fairfield Glade First Baptist Church in Fairfield argued against the Amendment 6 change, saying the 16-member board that already includes the president is a much broader group than just one person. Markham said the change would put an undue burden on the president.

“I believe it would politicize the office of president,” Markham said. “I think it’s going to divide us, not unite us.”

The Rev. Ron Stewart, convention president and pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Knoxville, argued for the change.

“I understand that change is difficult. But to me change is the definition of growth,” Stewart said.

For his replacement, the convention chose Tom McCoy, pastor of Thompson Station Baptist Church in Thompson Station, but chose not to give McCoy the proposed nominating powers Stewart argued would bring fresh leadership to the convention.

“What’s best for the Tennessee Baptist Convention is for a balance of power,” Stewart said.

However, the amendment failed when the convention voted 338-331, which was a just shy of a 50.53 percent to roughly 49.47 percent vote — far short of the required two-thirds majority.

The proposal would have allowed the convention presidents, who serve one-year terms, to choose two nominees for the Committee on Boards to recommend to the full convention.

Although no specific nominee would be guaranteed a recommendation by the committee, the change would have allowed the president to keep submitting nominees until two were acceptable to the committee.

The Rev. Earl Wilson of Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville argued against the change as going counter to “all our members are yearning and burning to come together.”

On the other hand, George Jackson of First Baptist Church of Millington argued for the recommendation.

“He (the president) only recommends. They (nominees) still have to be voted on by this convention,” Jackson said. “It’s not turning our convention into a dictatorship.”

Convention delegates, called messengers, wrapped up two days of meetings at Kingsport’s MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center. They learned Tuesday that a three-year conflict between Belmont College and the convention has been resolved.

The Nashville college will provide the Tennessee Baptist Convention $11 million toward a ministry endowment fund, and the convention will drop its lawsuit attempting to regain control of the school, lost in 2004 when the school moved to become independent.

The agreement ends the convention’s 56-year-old relationship with the school.

The messengers after turning down Amendment 6 voted to turn down three of four challenges to the Executive Board but accepted two challenges to proposed Committee on Committees appointees ineligible to serve because of residency.

After surviving the challenges, Church Hill lay person Lynn Parker and the Rev. Brent Seals of Elizabethton will serve after all.

Seals’ opponent, Terry Kirby of Alpha Baptist Church in Nolichucky, lost 248-291 with four ballots disqualified, while Parker opponent David Williams of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Nolichucky lost 192-451.

The convention turned down Executive Board challenges to lay person Dean Shelton of Fairview First Baptist of Nashville, Seals of First Baptist of Elizabethton and Glen Sullivan of South Knoxville Baptist Church but approved the challenge of William Stephens of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, instead electing Gale Hartley of Jamestown First Baptist.

Of those challenged, all declined to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message without reservations. Challengers all affirmed the 2000 BF&M.

According to information provided messengers at the convention, Shelton wrote, “I believe every page of the Bible, but I’m not sure about the BF&M 2000,” while Seals said he affirmed the 1963 Confession. Parker affirmed “most parts” of the 2000 document, while Sullivan said, “No, I affirm the doctrinal statement of my church.” Stephens answered simply no, while Hartley answered yes.

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