Surry Baptist Association-Flat Rock Baptist Timeline

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Flat Rock Baptist Church (FRBC) was recently removed from fellowship in the Surry Baptist Association (SBA) for calling a female to the pastorate. Some have disagreed with the way SBA removed them seemingly so quickly1 while others disagree with the removal at all2. The background of the situation may be found in those posts or a more direct story may be found at the Associated Baptist Press.3

I have been in contact with SBA. I wasn’t sure what or how much to say about the issue after doing some reading. After reading about the issue from Mount Airy pastor Alex Martin 4 as well as the above posts it seems most of the information is public.

For the record I agree with SBA on the dis-fellowship of FRBC and I don’t agree that it was a graceless action about which FRBC was clueless. While the action taken at the meeting was not on the agenda, it was brought up on the floor just as any other issue may have been. My thought is that FRBC gave the “go ahead” if you will for SBA to make the best decisions for the association.

Below I will provide the timeline of events leading up to FRBC’s dis-fellowship from SBA. While the timeline may be loosely constructed by the reports thus far, I hope to give a more accurate account.

  • In about April of 2011, FRBC members found out that a female was being considered for the pastorate causing some internal conflict.
  •  On July 6, eight concerned pastors met with the DOM about the issue. They were advised to work through the Membership Committee (MC). A meeting with the MC was arranged.
  • On July 12, the concerned pastors met with the MC who then decided to ask FRBC to meet on August 8 at 7pm. The meeting was opened to the “newly elected pastor, deacon board, pastor search committee and any other leader” whom FRBC chose.
    • The MC reached out to FRBC hoping to discuss the issue and to keep it off the floor of the July 25 meeting, planning to have a special announced meeting if action was needed.
  • On July 25, the DOM returned to work from a mission trip and opened a response from FRBC confirming their calling of Ms. Bailey and explaining that SBA was “free to make further decisions regarding the best interest of your organization, just as we will continue to do so in the future of our church.”5 [Note: This is the "go ahead" statement.]
  • On the day of the meeting in which FRBC was removed from fellowship only 3 of the 6 of the MC could be reached to share FRBC’s response with.
  • Based on FRBC’s response declining a future meeting on the issues,  at the July 25 SBA meeting, the MC chairman, Jim Richland, acting as an association messenger, decided to put a motion forward  to have FRBC removed from fellowship. Brother Richland actually stated, “In light of their decision to continue in their path, I as Chairman of the Membership Committee and as a Messenger of Westfield Baptist Church make a motion that we withdraw our association from Flat Rock Baptist Church.6

The motion received a second which opened the floor for discussion. One pastor spoke up and asked for more time to consider FRBC’s removal. Another pastor stated that a majority of the MC agreed to remove FRBC. A vote was called for which passed the motion by more than 2/3.

These are Southern Baptist affiliations so it makes sense not to have an associated church with a female pastor. The local church may have a female pastor if they like just as an association may choose not to associate with such a church. It’s time to let SBA move forward.

Update! Below is the letter sent to Flat Rock Baptist requesting a meeting on August 8, 2011.

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Tags: , , ; Categories: Baptist,Church Issues,Southern Baptist,theology
The above article was posted on August 9, 2011 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tim Rogers August 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Brother Mark,

Great words. Thank you for the “time line” it certainly helps put some things in order. Also, the motion to delay was something I was unaware. So the association in session decided not to delay.

Blessings,
Tim

2 Mark August 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Hi Tim,

I also have the letter written by the pastor who wanted to delay the vote. He seems to be okay with female pastors the best I can tell. He certainly argues against the complementarian position with straw men.

He states that, “A position against women as pastors is an interpretation, not a clear biblical teaching.” This statement is odd to me for a Southern Baptist pastor given the BFM2K.

Thanks for the comment.

3 Howell Scott August 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Mark,

I appreciate you fleshing out the timeline and including a copy of the letter originally sent to Flat Rock by the Jim Richland, in his capacity as Membership Committee Chaiman. It will probably not surprise you that, after reading the letter and your timeline, there are even more problematic questions that have arisen about this sad process. You and others continue to argue that Flat Rock’s refusal to attend the August 8 meeting (which would have been after the quarterly business meeting scheduled for Jul 25) somehow rises to the level of Flat Rocks “giving the go ahead” for SBA to vote to disfellowship the church. I simply find that reasoning hard to understand.

If one wants to use Richland’s letter as evidence, then it was a poorly written “demand letter.” I have written many a “demand letter” in my day, asking for certain actions to be taken. If those actions were not taken, then there would be specific consequences that would follow. If you could point out in the letter where there was even a hint of Flat Rock being disfellowshipped at the July meeting, I would appreciate it. It simply is not there. We can argue that Flat Rock “should have known” that they would face a motion to disfellowship them at a middle of the summer quarterly business meeting where no advance notice was given to them or to the churches of the Association, but that would be a stretch.

At the SBA meeting in question, there was no motion from the Membership Committee because half the Committee had not only not had time to learn of Flat Rock’s response, but obviously did not have time to pray or deliberate about a proper course of action in this case. Instead of waiting, the MC Chairman, acting not in his capacity as Chairman, but just as an “association messenger,” made a motion to disfellowship, even though the “concerned pastors” were asked to work through the Membership Committee. If, as the one pastor stated, “a majority of the MC agreed to remove FRBC,” then why was this not done as a recommendation of the Committee?

Maybe Flat Rock should have been summarily dismissed from SBA. Even if one holds to that belief, I continue to be amazed at the spirited defense of what, by all appearances, a deeply flawed and graceless process, IMO. Thanks and God bless,

Howell

4 Mark August 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Howell,

I did not say FRBC’s refusal for a meeting in and of itself was the “go ahead”. I said:

“free to make further decisions regarding the best interest of your organization, just as we will continue to do so in the future of our church.”5 [Note: This is the "go ahead" statement.]

Note the word “statement” as in FRBC’s statement for SBA to make further decisions in their best interest is what I referred to as the go ahead. Especially, in light of the first part of their answer which stated they believed God called Bailey to be their new female pastor and they weren’t changing their minds.

FRBC could have accepted a meeting and therefore prolonging an attempt to dis-fellowship themselves. Again, I point back to FRBC’s own words.

Howell, do you think the folks at FRBC were complete morons in this situation not understanding the gravity of the grievances? Do you also fault the rest of the messengers who voted for fellowship removal? This whole even didn’t happen in a vacuum.

5 Tom Parker August 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Mark:

You can spin this all you want and I have to give you credit you are good. This situation was handled poorly. But you fit right in with the majority I have seen show up on most posts. I 100% agree with Howell that this was done in a graceless manner but you and the others are just showing the scary mindset of some in the SBC where you in spite of the facts will try to defend the indefensible.

6 Mark August 9, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Actually, when Brother Richland made the motion, according to the minutes, he stated:

“In light of their decision to continue in their path, I as Chairman of the Membership Committee and as a Messenger of Westfield Baptist Church make a motion that we withdraw our association from Flat Rock Baptist Church.”

7 Mark August 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Tom,

What facts did I leave out and what did I defend that was indefensible?

And my “scary mindset” is showing? Speaking of graceless…yeah.

8 Stuart August 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Just a few additional comments/questions.

The brother probably should have not made his motion as both “Chairman of the Membership Committee” and “as a messenger”. Seems like it should have been just the latter. As chairman of the committee, he had not brought forth any official recommendation, or so it seems from the timeline.

Which begs the question, was considering Flat Rock on the adopted agenda for that meeting? If it was not, then it should have been referred, shouldn’t it? I realize that in many churches, “New Business” is seized as an opportunity for people to circumvent the adopted agenda, but just because something is a somewhat common practice doesn’t make it right. If the item weren’t on the agenda that was adopted at the outset of the meeting, it should have been referred. In this case, apparently, to the membership committee for an official recommendation.

What I’m most curious about is the timing. Does this association really have quarterly business meetings? Each church elects messengers to associational general meetings four different times a year? Am I understanding that right? Seems strange, but in this case it would be necessary because an executive board wouldn’t normally have the authority to disfellowship a church outside of a general session.

It sounds like disfellowshipping the church was an appropriate foregone conclusion. I suspect that I would not be in favor of a church with a female pastor in my own association, and I’m quite certain our bylaws forbid it. I just hope that we’d handle it according to the rules.

9 Howell Scott August 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Mark,

I certainly don’t want to beat a dead horse. I am not arguing that the ultimate outcome was wrong (although I readily admit that I am not as dogmatic about automatically disfellowshipping churches who call female pastors as I once was). What I am arguing — and your additional facts and timeline do not weaken my argument, but rather enhance it — that the way that Surry Baptist Association went about this was unfair, unjust, graceless, and flat out wrong. I can’t convince you or anyone else to come to the same conclusions that I have come to. That’s alright. People can view the facts and circumstances surrounding this sad affair and come to their own conclusions. Thanks and God bless,

Howell

P.S. Could you change your security question? I am severely math challenged! :-)

10 Tom Parker August 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Stuart:

In cases like this, which at least at this point are rare, one rule guides everything–The “ends justify the means”.

11 Mark August 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Howell, do you see FRBC as merely a passive victim in this whole situation?

I’ll think about changing the math problems when I get back from vacation next weekend. :)

12 Doug Hibbard August 9, 2011 at 6:08 pm

One thing that seems evident now that I’m looking at your post, this timeline, and contrasting that with prior posts elsewhere and news reports:

When you do something that is going to attract a bit of controversy: GO AHEAD AND PUBLISH THE WHOLE LIST OF FACTS AND DETAILS.

Because what happened? Some folks thought this looked graceless because it sounded like Bailey Nelson preached once, then the association tossed the church. When you factor in the information here, including the possibility that internal church conflict grew starting in April, it starts to spin differently.

Although I wonder: one of your links goes to a pastor in the same association who affirms women in pastoral ministry. Will the SBA disfellowship that church as well? After all, the pastor there believes no differently than FRBC does, based on his statements.

13 Tom Parker August 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Mark:

Are you trying to get Rev. Alex Martin’s church by linking him to this issue?

14 Mark August 9, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Tom, what do you mean “get” Alex Martin? I found his account and it sounds like he is part of the association. I was looking to see what information had been released so far. I know nothing about his church or anything other than what he said in that post. So, no sir, I can promise you I am not trying to get him in anyway – whatever that may be. I’ve never heard of him before today.

All: BTW, I’m about to take my family to the Biltmore for a nice getaway. And I do have posts scheduled which is probably stupid on my part. Regardless, I will enjoy the rest of the week even if I have to moderate from my phone. :)

15 Tom Parker August 9, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Stuart:

This issue was not on the agenda.

16 Tim Rogers August 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Brother Mark,

Enjoy Biltmore. It is a great time to be up that way. Heat all around NC and Georgia and the NC Mountains are cooling down. Take a jacket as it is supposed to get down into the 60′s during the evenings up there.

Thank you for posting everything. I considered that but didn’t know if I should. You have certainly helped this debate by posting it. One other thing that I am not sure if you have posted. But the church received a certified letter they had to sign for to the pastor because the association office did not have her email address. Thus, for people to imply the pastor was not invited to be part of the August 8 meeting is really disingenuous.

Also, as Howell suggested, I am at the point of keeping a calculator next to my computer whenever I post on your blog. ;)

Blessings,
Tim
Blessings,
Tim

17 Les Puryear August 9, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Mark,

Good post. Excellent investigative journalism.

Les

18 Howell Scott August 9, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Mark,

I’m not sure that I would use victim language to even describe FRBC. There course of action in calling Pastor Nelson obviously was what got the ball rolling, so to speak. Again, there is nothing to indicate that this church was “in trouble” with the Association prior to this. That being said, I guess that my expectations for a group of Christians like the SBA is pretty high. I think that those in the Association, regardless of the actions of FRBA, should have been above reproach, both with fellow Christians and non-believers (see 1 Tim. 3:7 & 2 Tim. 2:24-26). I just don’t see that these standards were even close to being met, but others are free to disagree with my assessment. Thanks and God bless,

Howell

19 Tom Parker August 9, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Les:

This post of Mark’s changes nothing. It is incredible that you and others can not see how this situation was handled wrong.

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