The funeral for North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms – described by NPR as a conservative purist – is being held tomorrow (Tuesday) at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh, a decidedly moderate Baptist congregation. In an article published in Commonweal titled “The Right Hand of God: Jesse Helms’s Political Theology,” Hayes Barton is described as:
A church where the theology is as moderate and mainstream as its red-brick, tall-steeple architecture.
Hayes Barton is a dually-aligned congregation that list links on its resource page to the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, Baptist World Alliance, Smyth & Helwys Publishing, and Acacia Resources (publishing division of EthicsDaily.com). Basically, the only “moderate-related” organization not listed is the Baptist Joint Committee!
The pastor of Hayes Barton Baptist Church is Dr. David Hailey. Before his call to Hayes Barton, Hailey served as pastor of the moderate Highland Hills Baptist Church which is another congregation affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Hayes Barton also has on staff an ordained female. The Rev. Julia Ledford, a Campbell University Divinity School graduate, serves as the Minister of Christian Education at Hayes Barton Baptist Church. Many members of Hayes Barton are also actively involved in the ministries of the organizations listed above.
It’s quite interesting that a true political fundamentalist/purist like Helms known best for his utter disdain for “liberals” and his inability to “agree to disagree” chose to remain a faithful member of a moderate Baptist church that understands quite well the importance of “agreeing to disagree” and supports with its time and money organizations that have been characterized by many (if not most) of his fellow conservative cohorts from the Christian Right as liberal at best and not-Christian at worst!
**Read testimonies from long-time Hayes Barton members here. According to this website, Helms served as a deacon and Sunday School teacher prior to his election to the United States Senate.
**Anne Graham Lotz is a former member of Hayes Barton. Lotz stated that she thought it was fitting for a “patriotic man” like Helms to pass away on Independence Day with “an exclamation point on his life.”
**Her father, Billy Graham, described his long-time friend Jesse Helms as a “man of consistent conviction to conservative ideals and courage to faithfully serve God and country based on principle, not popularity or politics.”