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Ala. Baptists approve office relocation

PELL CITY, Ala. (BP) — Approving the relocation of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions’ office and a flat $40 million Cooperative Program budget for 2017 topped business items addressed by messengers during their state convention annual meeting Nov. 15–16.

Messengers also unanimously elected John Thweatt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pell City, as president and adopted five resolutions, four of them related to social and religious issues. The convention theme for the 194th annual meeting was “Sent … Here, There and Everywhere.”

SBOM Executive Director Rick Lance told Alabama Baptist messengers meeting at Eastmont Baptist Church, Montgomery, that every generation since the 12 disciples — who were a “ragtag group” — have been “overwhelmed and overcome by the massive mandate to be sent here, there and everywhere.” And rightfully so, as it’s a big undertaking with eternal effects, which is why Lance said it’s important to start with the “here.”

“The Bible Belt is becoming increasingly more like the rest of the U.S. … We cannot abandon the ‘here’ part of being sent,” he urged.
And Alabama Baptists are striving to be faithful to this mandate, specifically in their giving.

Lance noted Alabama was the No. 1 state in Cooperative Program giving to the Southern Baptist Convention, and giving to the inaugural Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering has exceeded its 2016 goal of $750,000, nearing $800,000. These two facts are reasons to celebrate, Lance said.

“Thank you for your giving through the Cooperative Program and to special offerings,” Lance told messengers. “You have made a world of difference and you are making a world of difference in a world where a difference needs to be made.”

Zeroing in on the business side of his report, Lance said the State Board of Missions’ (SBOM) is looking toward its future with anticipation. SBOM will be moving to a new, 39,900-square-foot facility in Prattville, a location that will become a Great Commission Ministries Resource Center for Alabama Baptist churches.

The Baptist Building in Montgomery is 87,500 square feet but SBOM staff has decreased from a high of 121 in 1998 when Lance was elected as executive director to the current 67, so the new smaller building will be more in line with existing staff, SBOM officials noted. See related Baptist Press report.

“We need to anticipate the future and this is one good way to do that,” Lance said.

And while Alabama Baptists’ giving through the CP may be a little shy of the $40 million budgeted amount for 2016, Lance noted SBOM is projected to end the year under budget.

Messengers unanimously approved the 2017 budget to remain the same but with a change in the breakdown.

The percentages for 2017 are 52 percent ($20,808,238) for Alabama Baptist causes and 48 percent ($19,191,762) for SBC causes. The percentage for 2016 was 53/47.

The 1 point adjustment remains in line with Alabama Baptists’ “parity plan” publicized in 2015.

In November 2015, Lance told convention messengers meeting in Daphne, “We are moving more and more to the point of parity by 2020 with the SBC.”

Since 2012, Alabama Baptists have adopted budgets that increase the SBC allocation by an average of 1 percentage point annually and plan to continue until parity with SBC is reached.

All allocations proposed for 2017 remain the same for state convention entities and SBOM’s ministry efforts with the exception of Samford University in Birmingham. In order to assist the state convention in the move toward dividing all CP receipts evenly between SBC and Alabama Baptist causes, Samford agreed in 2015 to reduce its annual allocation by $400,000 a year for four years with that money redirected to SBC causes.

This was the second of the four years.

And all gifts coming in above the $40 million goal will be allocated equally between SBC and Alabama Baptist State Convention ministries.

Messengers also approved the 2015 SBOM audit and 2017 $22,200,000 goals for the convention’s five special offerings:

— Lottie Moon Christmas Offering — $11,600,000

— Annie Armstrong Easter Offering — $6,100,000

— Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries — $2,700,000

— Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering — $1,000,000

— Alabama Baptist World Hunger Offering — $800,000

Thweatt, who previously served two one-year terms as state convention first vice president, was unopposed in the election for president. Tim Cox, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, Chelsea, was unanimously elected first vice president.

Buddy Champion, pastor of First Baptist Church, Trussville, was elected second vice president over Craig Carlisle, pastor of Twelfth Street Baptist Church, Rainbow City, near Gadsden.

Messengers also re-elected Billie Davis as the recording secretary and Bobby DuBois as statistical secretary and registration secretary. Davis serves in the SBOM executive director’s office. DuBois is the SBOM associate executive director.

Immediately following the annual meeting Morgan Bailey, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in Bessemer, was elected SBOM chairman. Mike Goforth, pastor of Sardis Baptist Church in Boaz, was elected vice chairman.

All five resolutions presented to the convention were adopted without any discussion from the floor.

— Resolution No. 1 on appreciation recognized Eastmont Baptist Church in Montgomery for “use of their facilities, services of every kind, and their support and hospitality.”

— Resolution No. 2 in support of pro-life action in the Alabama Legislature noted how Alabama Baptists “have long advocated in our churches and in the public arena for the right to life of the unborn.”

“During the 2016 Legislative session, the Alabama Legislature passed three pro-life bills including the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, the Unborn Infant’s Dignity Act and a bill requiring abortion clinics to be at least 2,000 feet away from a public school.” The resolution resolved that messengers thank the sponsoring representatives “for their courage and resolve to see these bills to passage.”

— Resolution No. 3 on gambling resolved that messengers “oppose any and all attempts by the governor and/or state legislators to expand any form of state-sponsored, state-sanctioned and predatory gambling in Alabama” and that a copy of the resolution be sent to Gov. Robert Bentley, members of the newly appointed gambling advisory council and Alabama legislators.

— Resolution No. 4 on prayer and support for Israel noted how Israel “represents the descendants of Jacob as an ethnic, cultural and national entity and the New Testament affirms that salvation is from the Jews and that God’s Word concerning Israel will be fulfilled.

“We are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the salvation of Israel,” the resolution reads, “and acknowledge that within the nation of Israel we have many brothers and sisters in Christ.”

— Resolution No. 5 on the perspective of Christians toward the Islamic world noted, “We believe that all human beings are created in God’s image. … That the state wields the sword of justice … and that not all Muslims are radical terrorists and are often the primary victims of radical Islamic terrorism.”

It resolved that Alabama Baptists should also view the Muslim world as a missions field, the resolution reads, and resolved that messengers join other Baptists in sharing the Gospel with Muslim peoples.

To read the full text of the resolutions, visit https://alsbom.org/2016/11/15/2016-resolutions/

Three Alabama Baptist churches also were honored for their CP giving during the annual meeting:

— Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Vestavia Hills for giving the largest
amount of money through CP in the state in 2015 — $768,504.12.

— Fairfield Highlands Baptist Church in Midfield for giving the largest per capita giving — $338.20.

— Pisgah Baptist Church in Selma for giving the greatest percentage of undesignated giving — 26.33 percent.

Outgoing state convention president Travis Coleman Jr., pastor of First Baptist Church in Prattville, referenced the “genius of our Cooperative Program” in his president’s address Nov. 15.

“Our partnership with God means we must give financially to support the message and ministry. It takes money and it starts in the local church when our people have a good understanding of biblical stewardship. As our members give and are led to see beyond their local ministries, then they can participate in a cooperative way with other like-minded congregations,” he said.

Coleman focused his address on the “why of Christian missions, reminding those in attendance that God reconciled the world to Himself in Christ and He “has entrusted us with this reconciliation ministry and message … which is unashamedly evangelistic.”

“Paul was an ambassador and he says we are ambassadors as well,” Coleman challenged messengers. “We are to exert our influence and the power of the Gospel. We have been duly authorized. Let us not disappoint our sovereign God.”

Greg Corbin, pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church in Birmingham, delivered the convention sermon during the closing session Nov. 16.

From one pastor to the next, there are many differences — age, church size, you name it. But all of those differences fall away in the face of “our one message,” he said.

Paul understood this as he wrote a letter to the church in Corinth, telling them his philosophy of ministry in 1 Corinthians 2:1–5. These five verses describe Paul’s one message, and what should be every pastor’s one message, Corbin said.

–“We must have a conviction of the priority of the Gospel.”

–“We must have a commitment to the sharing of the Gospel.”

–“We must have a confidence in the sufficiency of the Gospel.”

“The Gospel will get the job done,” Corbin said. “(It’s) the only thing that will get the job done.”

The 2017 Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting will be held in Huntsville at Whitesburg Baptist Church on Nov. 14–15.

The convention preacher for the 2017 annual meeting will be Stuart Davidson, pastor of Eastern Shore Baptist Church in Daphne. The alternate preacher is Terrence Jones, pastor of Strong Tower at Washington Park in Montgomery.

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  • The Alabama Baptist Staff