Executive Committee hears reports and recommendations

by Mike Creswell
Monday, February 3, 2014 | 317 days old

The Executive Committee (committee) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (convention) received several reports during its meeting at the Caraway Conference Center on Tuesday, January 28, 2014. The committee met prior to the scheduled January meeting of the Board of Directors (board). However, since inclement weather affected much of North Carolina, the board meeting was cancelled — the board must have a minimum number of members present to legally conduct business on behalf of North Carolina Baptists.

Unfortunately, as the first board meeting of the year, this meeting would have been especially important—committee chairpersons are elected during the first board meeting of each year. These chairpersons, along with four board members elected from the board membership at-large, the officers of the convention, and the presidents of North Carolina Baptist Men and the North Carolina Baptist Associational Missionaries Conference comprise the executive committee.  To keep the executive committee operating smoothly, the board will need to address this and other matters in a special meeting before its next scheduled meeting in May.

To open the meeting, the committee heard a final update regarding the sale of the Hollifield Leadership Center. The board had previously decided that funds from sale of the Hollifield Leadership Center would be used to help the Caraway Conference Center update and expand its facilities near Asheboro. During Tuesday’s meeting, the committee approved a plan that will speed up this process, though that plan will still need to be approved by the full board.

The Hollifield Leadership Center is a 30-acre conference facility on Lake Hickory, near Conover. The convention acquired it in 2000 and improved the property to create a meeting facility for North Carolina Baptists. But low use of the facility meant that it was too expensive to operate, and the board voted to sell it in September 2012.

The North Carolina Boy's Academy (NCBA) bought the property and will reopen it as a ministry for troubled boys later this year. The NCBA is a branch of Teen Challenge, a worldwide ministry founded by David Wilkerson in 1958.  The Convention financed $2.25 million of the $2.5 million purchase price with equal payments to be made annually over the next five years, beginning with the first payment of almost $500,000 this year.

Jimmy Adams, the chairman of the Business Services Special Committee, said his committee is expected to recommend that the board allow up to $2.25 million from the convention's contingency reserve fund to be made available to Caraway Conference Center for its program of expansion and improvements. The annual payments from NCBA will be used to replenish the contingency reserve fund.  Adams is chairman of deacons at Cornerstone Baptist Church, Greensboro.

John Butler, who has handled the negotiations for the sale and is the convention's executive leader for business services, said the convention is required by policy to keep a contingency reserve of at least 10 percent of the annual budget approved by the convention each November. The contingency reserve is also viewed by the convention’s external auditors as the reserve needed to meet future benefits for retirees of the convention.  The amount of those future liabilities has decreased in recent years due to personnel policy changes regarding eligibility for retiree benefits and the scope of retiree benefits.

Butler said the plan, if approved by the board, would permit Caraway to begin construction on a new auditorium, to be named Hollifield Hall, at an estimated cost of $1 million. The plan would also allow for three guest room lodges with a total of 24 additional rooms, estimated to cost about $1.2 million above what has been spent on the projects. Butler said much of the work such as acquiring permits, site preparation, and other tasks have already been completed. Some of the new facilities could be available for use as early as January 2015, he said.  The projected work is less than the plan originally called for, he said. "We want to work with what God has given us and be good stewards," he said.

In response to questions, Butler said the contingency reserve fund, which consists of $4.6 million, will be sufficient for future retiree benefits, even after $2.25 million for the Caraway expansion. If a problem arises with repayment, the convention holds a lien on the Hollifield property and would be able to recover it, he said. But Butler expressed confidence in the business plan of the North Carolina Boy's Academy and said he expects no problems with repayment. "I think they will be good partners for our churches in providing needed ministries," he said. The Executive Committee voted unanimously to recommend the plan to the board.

For the final financial report of the 2013 budget, the committee received the following information:  The convention received $29,100,744.99 in 2013 through the Cooperative Program, which was 13 percent below budget and 3 percent behind 2012's total, Beverly Volz, the BSCNC director of accounting services, said.

"We finished in the black," Milton A. Hollifield Jr., the convention’s executive director-treasurer, said. He praised the convention staff for their care in budget management.

North Carolina Baptists gave $1,907,940.80 to the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) in 2013, which was a 2.7 increase from the 2012 total, Volz said. The NCMO funds primarily support the work of North Carolina Baptist Men and the convention's church planting ministry, with 10 percent going to associations for area missions and ministry projects.

Volz said North Carolina Baptist churches gave $5.8 million to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions in 2013, which was slightly more than the 2012 total. They also gave $12.5 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions in 2013, which was more than seven percent below the 2012 amount.

Dougald McLaurin praised the work being done in Baptist associations across the state when he spoke to the committee as the new president of the North Carolina Baptist Associational Missions Conference. McLaurin is the director of missions for the Tar River Baptist Association, which is made up of 55 churches in and around Louisburg.  He said five churches in Tar River are going through a transformational process. Through prayer drives, "little by little, eyes are being opened to the lostness that exists within the shadows of their steeples," he said.

Tar River Baptists have been helping plant new churches in Toronto, Canada— McLaurin said his office forwarded more than $100,000 to Toronto for that purpose in 2013. McLaurin urged committee members to check in with their own local associations. "There are exciting things happening in your association," he said.

To close the meeting, John Gore president of North Carolina Baptist Men reported that  North Carolina Baptist men are still active in New Jersey and New York, and that there are still opportunities for service there as part of the ongoing recovery efforts following Superstorm Sandy.