The South Carolina Baptist Convention is negotiating with a potential buyer for White Oak Conference Center in Winnsboro.
The SCBC Executive Board approved a motion in April 2016 to seek a buyer for its conference center, established in 1979, after studying the long-term maintenance and operational costs of keeping the facility open.
According to an SCBC news release dated Oct. 12, an Atlanta-based investment firm has expressed interest in starting a Christian charter school in Fairfield County and is eyeing the White Oak property — which includes residential, classroom, dining and recreation facilities — as a possible location.
Gary Hollingsworth, SCBC executive director-treasurer, spoke to the Executive Board, which met Oct. 9-10 in Columbia, about his discussions with the Atlanta firm. The board voted to affirm a motion that Hollingsworth engage in further dialogue with the investment firm.
Board members were given a copy of a preliminary contract. Hollingsworth stressed that the discussions are ongoing and, pending the board’s affirmation, the convention could enter into a 24-month contingent contract with the Atlanta firm.
He said the current contract is for the developed conference center property only — the buildings and adjacent grounds — and the SCBC would retain ownership of more than 600 acres of undeveloped land and timber.
The terms of the contract would also allow the convention’s summer programs to continue to be held at White Oak and would protect wastewater treatment access for South Carolina WMU’s Camp La Vida, which shares infrastructure with White Oak.
“I informed the [potential buyers] up front about the Woman’s Missionary Union’s relationship to this sale, and that if they were unable to agree to that, then we couldn’t have any further discussions,” Hollingsworth said.
The board approved a motion from the advisory team through the Operations Committee that Hollingsworth move forward with a contract of intent to purchase White Oak.
In other business, the board heard a report from Budget, Finance, and Audit Committee chairman Talmadge Tobias. The board approved the committee’s proposed 2018 SCBC operating budget of $28 million. “This is a challenge-faith budget that has been thoroughly evaluated,” Tobias said. SCBC messengers will consider the budget at the state convention’s annual meeting Nov. 7-8 at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia.
The board also heard updates from three ministry partner representatives.
Tom Turner, president of South Carolina Baptist Ministries for the Aging, sought the board’s affirmation of SCBMA’s expansion plans to serve more senior adults and their families. In 2015, the SCBMA board approved a five-year strategic ministry plan and conducted related studies. Results show Columbia as a strong demographic area, and SCBMA is moving forward with plans to build a new Midlands retirement community. Turner pledged to communicate any significant steps SCBMA takes in this process moving forward.
Board members were introduced to Connie Maxwell Children’s Home president Danny Nicholson, who began his work in September.
Evans Whitaker, president of Anderson University, reported that his school’s current enrollment is 3,500, making it the second-largest private university in South Carolina. More than 65 AU students prayed to receive Christ at the first chapel service of the new school year.
In his report to the board, Hollingsworth presented the SCBC annual meeting theme, “Unite.” He encouraged board members to unite in prayer for revival and spiritual awakening, spiritual leadership and gospel partnership.
“The future of the SCBC will be determined by the extent to which we unite around our priorities and commit to cooperate to see them fulfilled,” he said.
SCBC president Keith Shorter, pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, closed the board meeting with a message of servant leadership. Shorter extended invitations for “One Day,” an afternoon of service slated for Tuesday, Nov. 7, during the annual meeting. Roughly 20 projects are planned for messengers to participate in across Columbia, including prayerwalking, distributing Bibles, and meaningfully engaging the community.
“Let’s not be the kind of Baptists who sit in a meeting to talk about evangelism and loving people,” Shorter said. “Let’s be the kind of Baptists who leave the building and love people.”
For more information about “One Day” or the 2017 SCBC annual meeting, visit www.scbaptist.org.