Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Charlotte pastor is candidate to lead N.C. Baptist State Convention

The Rev. Mark Harris, senior pastor at Charlotte's First Baptist Church, says he'll be a candidate for president when the N.C. Baptist State Convention meets in November.

Southern Baptists make up the largest Protestant denomination in the state, with about 1.4 million members. More than 4,200 N.C. churches are associated with the Baptist State Convention.

Harris, 45, is now the group's first vice president and he's been in the forefront of a push in recent years to move the convention further to the right.

The most prominent example: In 2006, the convention adopted a policy crafted by a committee chaired by Harris. It said Baptist churches that "knowingly act to affirm, approved, endorse, promote, support or bless homosexual behavior" would henceforth be considered "not in friendly cooperation" with the convention.

Among the gay-friendly churches that have since left or been kicked out of the convention includes Charlotte's Myers Park Baptist.

Harris, whose uptown church attracts 1,000 worshipers most Sundays, told the Observer that he would "use the bully pulpit to continue that (conservative) vision" if elected president of the convention.

But mostly, Harris said, he wants to have Southern Baptist churches in the state work together to fulfill the Great Commission -- Jesus' command in the Gospel of Matthew to baptize and teach the Word to people around the world.

Harris said he'd also push for the state convention to closely align itself with mission boards and seminaries of the national Southern Baptist Convention, which has also grown more conservative in recent decades.

Nominating Harris at the November meeting in Greensboro will be the Rev. Marty Jacumin, senior pastor at Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh. He said Harris is the best person to lead the group at a time when some Baptist churches in North Carolina are closing.

"I've really seen Mark's heart for people and for the Gospel, lived out in leadership," he said. "And I've seen him drive from one end of the state to the other for Baptist causes."

Jacumin said Harris understands the need to plant more Baptist churches around the state and help existing churches struggling in this sour economy.

"Right now, more (Baptist) churches are closing each year than are opening," he said.

He also expects Harris to help the state convention become more diverse.

"When you think of Southern Baptist now, you probably think of white churches," Jacumin said. "We need to have more and more Southern Baptist churches that are Hispanic, African American, Chinese."

Harris' decision to run f0r the top job also comes at a time when an increasing number of churches are dropping the word "Baptist" from their names in hopes of attracting people who might be turned off by denominations.

"Over the years, the word 'Baptist' has, to some, been more associated with controversies than a lot of us would like," Harris said. "What I can do (as president) is see that the word 'Baptist' is more associated with the positive impact we are making on the culture, on families, on government."

Neither Harris nor Jacumin said they had heard of any other pastors planning to have their names placed into nomination for president when the "messengers," or delegates, meet Nov. 7-8 in Greensboro.

"No one (else) has announced," said Harris.

If elected, Harris would serve a one-year term, with the option of running for a second one-year term in 2012. There’s a two-term limit.


Anonymous said...

Further to the Right? Is that even possible? The Southern Baptist Convention is so not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches love and compassion, not hate.

Anonymous said...

Someone ought to check First Baptist Church and see how many prominent members have left since he became Pastor at First Baptist.

Former Member

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

How can disaster relief, rebuilding homes of tornado victims and feeding 1000's of people be compatible with hate?

Anonymous said...

F-B-C once stood for First Baptist Church. It now stands for "Formerly Big Church."

Mark Harris is a master at politics. Sadly, ministers and members at other churches who will be voting for him, do not know that First Baptist has lost a large portion of its membership and is having money problems.

When he arrived: 1,200 on a given Sunday morning and offerings were above $100,000 a week.

Now: Approx 500 on a given Sunday... but the published numbers are more like 700 because they count the members of the Korean church that meet inside the First Baptist building and the homebound. Offerings range in the neighborhood of 40,000 if you don't count the income from the parking lot income and the gifts from the older people who die.

Long time ministers and employees are no longer there.

It's all very, very sad.

It used to be a thriving classy church.

Anonymous said...

"Right now, more (Baptist) churches are closing each year than are opening,"

Oh happy day.

bobcat99 said...

Further to the right? He's got to be joking. I admire the Baptists for all the good they do for the needy and sick. In that way, they are such a force for good. But the church also has a history of spewing bigotry and self-righteousness and that history has hurt the Baptist name. Erasing that history will be difficult. Liberalizing will not help the church but neither will "moving further to the right." It reminds people of the ugly part of their past.

MaryCAikens,Artist said...

Great! We are excited about this opportunity for Dr. Mark Harris. We are new members at FBC and think highly of Pastor Mark.
He is anointed and God has given him a way with words to communicate the Gospel of Christ. We are blessed to be a part of this ministry.

Anonymous said...

Great choice! Mark Harris will be an excellent leader for Southern Baptists.

Anonymous said...

I grew up attending the old First Baptist on Tryon Street, what's now Spirit Square. My parents were members there for almost fifty years.

It was a real church then.

I don't know what it is now.

Raisa Costa said...

No doubt that it was a real church. Our church was going through a debt and it really needed urgent financing. That moment Griffin Church Loans lender came into it to help us. church mortgage's necessity

Nusrat Borsha said...

I was brought up by a church and many like me were so. The church loans necessity is immense for them and for churches like that. The wait is for the right lender.