10/16/11 — Free Will Baptists say no to idea of split

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Free Will Baptists say no to idea of split

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 16, 2011 1:50 AM

Faced with a resolution that would have split their denomination over the policies and practices of Mount Olive College, delegates to the Western Conference of Original Free Will Baptists voted Thursday to remain in the state convention.

"It was really simple," said the Rev. Gary Bailey, pastor of Stoney Creek Free Will Baptist Church. "There was an overwhelming rebuttal of the resolution to withdraw."

The resolution, which was submitted at the conference's annual meeting in 2010 by pastor James M. Rogerson Jr. of Mount Zion Free Will Baptist Church in Kenly, called for all 51 churches to withdraw from the N.C. Convention of Original Free Will Baptist Churches, because "Mount Olive College has consistently practiced policies and taught unscriptural theories and ideas (evolution), and has allowed those who sell alcohol to sit on their Board, and has accepted funds from breweries and become partners with them through their support, and whereas the college has now hired a woman to be the campus pastor/chaplain, and whereas four conferences have not begun to license and/or ordain women."

Then in the spring of this year, several area churches, led by Bailey and other pastors, held a series of meetings to explain the resolution and its ramifications to their members -- including the fact that any church that withdrew from the convention would have lost its place in the denomination.

He also explained that while the issues of alcohol and women in the ministry are ones that people have legitimately struggled with, Free Will Baptist churches have historically ordained women and recognized the ordinations of other conferences, and alcohol, though mentioned in the Free Will Baptist Church Covenant, is not mentioned in the denomination's Articles of Faith. He also said that those associated with the Pope Fund have never tried to influence the college in any way.

And, apparently, those meetings had an effect, as Bailey said the resolution failed with little to no discussion.

"This thing was a fluke to begin with," he said. "It was quickly dealt with and we moved on to our other business. It didn't even create any excitement."