The minority reviewed all the dirty tricks used as well as the deed to the church property which specified the property would be returned to the donor, should the church ever cease to be Southern Baptist. That 48% hired a lawyer and took them to court in Nash County, NC, over which group wwas the "real Southern Baptists."
Here is testimony from the State Supreme Count upheld case which ended in 1959 with the minority regaining possession of the property they had basically paid for and built:
During the case, Douglas Branch, pastor of Rocky Mount First Baptist and President of the NCBSC, was called to testify as to the nature of Baptist work. He later became Executive Secretary of the NCBSC. On page 212 of the transcript he cites the same Article III as above (AUTONOMY). Then he goes on to explore its implementation. He describes how the annual session of Convention and Association meets: this is the real “convention.” Then, how the General Board / Executive Committee of each deals with between-session matters. He says: “If an individual church wanted to withdraw fellowship, it would not have to wait until the next convening of an association. If a church voted unanimously to withdraw from association with any other Baptist body, or with the Roanoke Association, and so notified the Chairman of the Executive Committee, the Chairman of the Committee could take note of the fact and call a meeting together and declare that this church, by its own action, was not any longer a part of the association. Practice is my authority for that.”
Asked if he could name instances where churches had been excluded he states: “I can’t name instances where churches have been excluded . . . I don’t know of any instance when an Executive Committee has been called on to declare a church out of fellowship.” He goes on to talk of churches which voted to withdraw from the association. He says: “I have known of a number of cases when the associations would not recognize a withdrawal of the entire group unless it was unanimous. . .The only group you could recognize would be which ever one wanted to stay in the association.” It is obvious throughout his testimony that churches do the deciding and associations do their bidding.
The Doctrine of Authority is the next issue. Dr. Harold W. Tribble had written a book entitled. “Our Doctrine,” in which he states: “The local congregation is autonomous. It derives its authority from within.” Doug Branch states he is in agreement with that concept and spells it out: “What I am saying is that my church is free, entirely free and independent, except that as a cooperating Baptist church we necessarily, and in the home, as in the State and elsewhere, have to have certain self-imposed limitations which make it possible for us to work with other Baptist bodies. With that qualification, I agree.”
The most important statement relative to our current condition follows on p.219: “When Dr. Tribble says in his book, speaking of the associations and the Southern Baptist Convention, that neither the association nor the State Convention nor the Southern Baptist a Convention can exercise the least authority over any individual church; that this principle sometimes works to produce temporary embarrassment but in the end it works for the best; that we may well adhere to it for it is a New Testament principle and it has been tried and found worthy; as to that statement, I would say that no association or convention can exercise any authority over a local church except in those areas in which the churches in cooperation have delegated it to the larger group.”
A fairly new Professor at SEBTS, Nathan Finn, responds:
[quote][78 Nathan Finn November 29, 2010 at 9:48 am
Baptists have almost always affirmed that all of our layers of polity–local churches, associations, and conventions–are autonomous. Baptists have always argued that associations and conventions can refuse to cooperate with a church for any variety of reasons. In the middle third of the twentieth century, there was a concerted effort by denominational progressives and bureaucrats to redefine Baptist distinctives according to a particular freedom-centric interpretation. They cherry-picked quotes from Baptists of days-gone-by. They perpetuated this interpretation in colleges and seminaries (including SEBTS, where Gene Scarborough attended school).
They initiated high-handed power plays in various places, including with the North Rocky Mount case in 1959, where the state convention and a Baptist historian from SWBTS redefined Baptist distinctives so they could win a court case. It was, remains, a travesty of historic Baptist polity.
Facts are our friends, and conservatives, while by no means perfect, have a better understanding of historic Baptist identity and emphases than progressives.
The CR was a return to an earlier view of Baptist identity, one that had been systematically undermined for at least two generations. Gene (and many others) are the products of that, and they really, sincerely believe they know who Baptists *really* are because they were indoctrinated to believe that.
Nathan Finn November 29, 2010 at 12:11 pm
In 1954, North Rocky Mount Baptist Church split after its pastor led a majority of the church to vote to disaffiliate with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the SBC. The pastor had an Independent Baptist background and led the church to become an Independent Baptist church. The minority, which wished to remain Southern Baptist, sued the majority, claiming that they were the “real” North Rocky Mount Baptist Church because they were the group in continuity with the church’s past emphases. The minority wanted to keep all the assets, including the church’s property.
The case worked its way up all the way to the NC Supreme Court in 1959, which ruled in favor of the minority. The judge didn’t understand that in Baptist polity, decisions are made by a majority of the congregation. So while it might be unfortunate (from our perspective) that a majority of the church wished to take the church out of the SBC, it is a fact that the church had the right to do so. Baptist principles lost.
This is where it gets interesting. The North Rocky Mount case united conservatives in the state convention, who rallied to the defense of the majority (even while they pleaded with them to not drop ties with the SBC). A formal conservative network was formed within the BSCNC dedicated to defending local church autonomy in particular and historic Baptist and orthodox theology in general.
But the state convention staff sided with the minority, even (allegedly) helping to fund their lawsuit against the majority. State convention leaders testified on behalf of the minority in court. They also urged all BSCNC churches to amend their bylaws so that, in the event of a similar vote to disaffiliate, all the assets would remain with the minority who wished to remain SBC and BSCNC. Most churches complied. The state convention flew in SWBTS historian W. W. Barnes to testify for the minority. Barnes argued that Baptists have always believed that churches that are started as SBC/BSCNC churches are always such churches, and thus the minority should keep the assets. This was a startling reversal on the part of Barnes, who in 40 years earlier was worried that denominational centralization and bureaucratization was a threat to local church autonomy.
This debate was heavily covered in the Biblical Recorder, including editorials, letters to the editor, and guest articles. Conservatives saw the state convention’s involvement in the case as inappropriate, driven by the disdain progressive bureaucrats had for conservatives and especially those who “played nicely” with Independent Baptists. Progressives countered that the conservatives were really Independent Baptists who didn’t appreciate the Baptist Way of cooperative missions, denominational loyalty, etc.
I hope that helps.
This is totally inconsistent with the written document and the descriptions given me by church members who are old and were right there!
It frightens me when hisory is redacted with a presupposition in mind. Sadly, I think we will see more of it! I have saked several senior NC Baptists when they first heard such redaction and it seems to be in the 80's for them.
What is your best memory of when this distortion first appeared among the Conservatives?