Chapter Two: 1984–1985 25
Baptist Governance
In January 1981, the University entered into a “covenant relationship” with the Bap-
tist Convention of North Carolina and ceased to be its agency. Before the covenant,
the Convention both nominated and elected Wake Forest trustees; afterward, the
University nominated trustees, and the Convention elected them. Hearn had become
aware that fundamentalism was dominating the more moderate wing of the Baptist
church, and this change had important consequences for the University, especially
with regard to its financial resources.
In a letter to his predecessor James Ralph Scales on July 2, Hearn wrote: “The
Southern Baptists apparently just went crazy in Kansas City.” He was referring to a
strongly worded resolution against women in the pastorate adopted by the Southern
Baptist Convention at its annual meeting. “What the implications of these develop-
ments may be for North Carolina Baptists are difficult to predict,” he wondered,
“especially for a novice in Baptist politics such as myself. They cannot be good,
however, and there are already some indications that the committee structures with
which we have to deal will be more rigid.”
On October 30, Hearn wrote to William W. Leathers, III, Pastor, First Baptist
Church, Rockingham, North Carolina:
The basic problem is the unstable and unpredictable political environment
of the Convention. We have received a specific warning that certain [Baptist]
churches and certain industries will be unacceptable to the nominations com-
mittee. The fundamentalist group has been strengthened on that committee
and elsewhere in the denomination. Wake Forest cannot take these devel-
opments lightly. If our basic mission and our freedom to pursue this mission
be challenged, then we must resist. We must remain faithful to that heritage of
independence and constant direction toward educational excellence, which has
always been the hallmark of Wake Forest.
In another letter to Scales on December 3, Hearn stated that at the November North
Carolina Baptist State Convention in Asheville, he “did not explicitly affirm our
[Wake Forest’s] desire to continue the covenant in its present form.”
His readiness for a new relationship was evident in a May 15 letter to W. Henry
Crouch, Pastor, Providence Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina: “What we
do for the churches and Baptist people and the character of our campus and aca-
demic programs is what gives substance to our religious heritage …. [W]e must take
whatever steps are necessary to protect Wake Forest from those in the Convention
who would compromise the bright future you see for us.” A week later, on May 23,
he wrote to L. Glenn Orr Jr., Vice Chair, Southern National Bank of North Carolina
in Lumberton: “I am afraid . . . that there are fundamental differences between the
interests of Wake Forest and those of some members of the Baptist State Convention
now in positions of authority.”
Clearly, a storm was brewing. When controversies with Wake Forest had arisen
before, the Convention had prevailed. The new president was aware, however, that
the covenant relationship his predecessor had signed a few years earlier was valid for
Previous Page Next Page