Virginia Baptists Committed to End Nominations

RICHMOND—Virginia Baptists Committed, an informal network of moderate Baptists in Virginia, will not nominate a slate of candidates for statewide office when the Baptist General Association of Virginia meets this November.

The decision, which VBC co-chair Timothy K. Norman said was made during the group’s semi-annual gathering in Richmond on April 14, marks the first time in almost three decades that VBC will not present a candidate for each statewide office.

Norman, pastor of Glen Allen Church in the Dover Association, recalled the success achieved by VBC.  “Every year for over 25 years we nominated the president, and most of the other officers, Virginia Baptists elected.  I do not say this to boast about our political prowess, but to celebrate the outstanding leadership we helped put in place for a generation of Virginia Baptist life.

Our purpose has been to guarantee that every November there would be at least one prepared, committed, fully-vetted candidate for every elective office. The BGAV is in a better place now than before when it comes to this process.  Others have done this in recent years and we don’t need to do it this year.”

VBC was formed in 1983 in response to growing attempts by ultra-conservative Baptists to take over the Southern Baptist Convention and the BGAV.   “We did not want to have happen in Virginia what was happening to the national body and to other state conventions,” said Norman.  “And we believed that we represented the authentic Baptist witness in Virginia when it comes to Baptist traditions and principles.”

The group worked on two fronts.  They recruited clergy and laity in each of the BGAV’s 43 district associations to encourage churches to elect messengers to attend the annual meeting of the SBC in June.  This practice ended after the 1990 SBC in New Orleans.  Next, they nominated candidates at each BGAV annual meeting for over 25 years.

Recently, however, VBC saw its membership having a diminished interest in making nominations each year.  Mike Clingenpeel, Pastor of Richmond’s River Road Church and VBC’s other co-chair said the role of VBC is not what it once was:   “We are pleased that the threat of ultra-conservatives to the BGAV is no longer significant, because people with that ideology can support Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.  We also are pleased to see a renewed interest in BGAV work by others, as evidenced by multiple candidates at several recent annual meetings.  This participation is a good thing in Virginia, and we do not believe it is necessary for VBC to take the lead in this effort any longer.  If this changes, we reserve the right to step back in to the process.”

Clingenpeel added that VBC would not disband, and that its members would continue to be involved in the work of Virginia Baptists.   “We believe in the BGAV.  Always have.  Don’t look for our voices to go silent on the mission and ministries of Virginia Baptists. “

Also at the April 14 meeting Norman and Clingenpeel, the two pastors who have led Virginia Baptists Committed for the past 6 years, announced they are stepping down from their work with the moderate Baptist group later this year.

“I enjoy attending the meetings of VBC,” said Clingenpeel.  “These are my friends.  They care about things that matter.  They are kingdom people, not just Baptist people.  But every organization needs fresh leadership from time to time and I need to have one or two fewer things on my plate. So it’s time for me to bow out.”

Norman agreed.  “I will continue to stay involved in the BGAV, but I agree with the decision of VBC to discontinue presenting candidates for office for the time being.  My service with VBC is one of the many enjoyable ways I have served Virginia Baptists.  I will continue to do that without being co-chair of this fine group.”

Both agreed to serve until the fall meeting of VBC in October.

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