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Ala. Baptists seek racial unity in bus boycott anniversary

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (BP)–Alabama Baptists endorsed a call to use the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, beginning Dec. 1, as a way to foster racial harmony during their Nov. 15-16 annual meeting.

Messengers at the Alabama Baptist State Convention sessions at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville also approved two new international missions partnerships and a record budget for 2006.

“Intentional Evangelism” was the theme for the annual meeting, which tallied 1,006 registered messengers representing 479 churches.

In presenting the resolutions to messengers, Jay Wolf, pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery and chairman of the resolutions committee, emphasized the importance of the resolution on racial reconciliation.

“I want Alabama Baptists to get the credit for being a leader in racial reconciliation,” Wolf said.

The world’s attention will be focused on Alabama with the anniversary of the bus boycott, providing a stage for promoting unity and the progress made in race relations in Alabama, Wolf noted.

Wolf said that in the past, Alabama Baptists have sometimes taken the wrong side on the issue of race, following the culture instead of taking a stand for what is right.

“God calls us to be reconcilers,” he said. “If we can get black and white churches working together, that will be massive.”

The resolution, which passed without debate, endorses “a call to use the season of the 381 days of the Montgomery Bus Boycott Commemoration to foster unity among the African-American and White churches.” Messengers committed themselves “to be doers of the Word (James 1:22) by seeking occasions to connect our congregations with African-American congregations in joint evangelism efforts … [and to] intentionally seek to destroy barriers of racism and build bridges of racial reconciliation to unify the Body of Christ and facilitate a great number of people coming to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord.”

As Alabama Baptists wrap up a six-year partnership with the National Baptist Convention of Venezuela, they will begin two new partnerships with the Ukraine and Guatemala in 2006. Messengers unanimously approved both partnerships for three years with the potential for renewal.

Reggie Quimby, director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions office of global partnerships and volunteers in missions, said the partnership with Guatemala is through the International Mission Board’s Operation GO (Global Outreach) strategy for Guatemala and the National Baptist Convention of Guatemala. Opportunities for ministry include prayer walking, establishing churches and Bible studies, construction and leadership training.

In the Ukraine, the partnership is with Baptists there and with international missionaries serving in the country, and the focus will be church planting, teaching English, prayer walking and establishing medical, dental and eyeglass clinics.

Messengers also adopted a record Cooperative Program base budget of $42,645,000, up slightly from the current year’s $41,500,000; a 2006 CP state causes budget of $500,000; and a CP challenge budget of $43,650,000, as presented by Mike Shaw, chairman of the State Board of Missions.

Shaw, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pelham, Ala., noted that the SBOM also set special offering goals for 2006 in the amount of $18,325,000 with the following breakdown:

— Lottie Moon Christmas Offering: $10 million

— Annie Armstrong Easter Offering: $5.25 million

— Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries Offering: $2,100,000

— World Hunger Offering: $875,000

— Disaster Relief Offering: $100,000

Other resolutions brought before the convention dealt with appreciation for the life and work of Adrian Rogers, opposition to gambling and support of the sanctity of marriage.

Messengers approved a resolution expressing appreciation for Rogers, the longtime pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., and prominent leader in the Southern Baptist Convention. He died Nov. 15 at the age of 74 after a battle with cancer and pneumonia.

Messengers affirmed Alabama Baptists’ historic opposition to “gambling in any form.” Noting the many attempts in the state legislature to find ways to legalize gambling or expand already legal forms of gambling, the resolution called on Alabama Baptists individually to ask the governor and their representatives and senators in the Alabama legislature to stop the attempts.

A copy of the resolution will be sent to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, House Speaker Seth Hammett, each member of the legislature and all major news media in the state. It passed with no discussion.

In a resolution supporting the sanctity of marriage, Alabama Baptists thanked the state legislature for passing the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment during the last legislative session. It will appear on the June 6, 2006 primary election ballot.

The resolution calls for Alabama Baptists to encourage citizens to vote for the amendment and “to demonstrate our love for those practicing homosexuality by sharing with them the forgiving and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Disaster relief volunteers were also recognized by messengers with a resolution in their honor. The resolution thanks not only disaster relief workers but also Alabama Baptist churches and individuals for their monetary donations and hands-on volunteer work. It also expresses sympathy and support for those affected by the hurricanes.

Rick Evans, pastor of Dalraida Baptist Church in Montgomery and a LifeWay Christian Resources trustee, recommended thanking LifeWay for its donation to aid Alabama Baptist churches. The amendment was approved and the resolution passed.

The topic of disaster relief came up various times during the convention meeting. Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, pointed to disaster relief as one example of Alabama Baptists stepping to the forefront to become leaders.

“We are by far the number three disaster relief [group] in the world,” he said of Southern Baptists.

Alabama Baptists are involved in relief efforts at all levels, including areas of the state still recovering from 2004’s Hurricane Ivan; areas hit by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida; and areas in southeast Asia devastated by the 2004 tsunami.

Alabama Baptists have given $2.4 million to disaster relief efforts since Katrina, he said. Of that, more than $2.1 million has been distributed to recovery efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

“For every dollar spent in the state, we tried to match it outside the state,” he said.

Tommy Puckett, director of disaster relief for the SBOM, described the work that has been done since the first of the year.

“Internationally, Alabama Baptists have been rebuilding in Thailand following the [Dec. 26] tsunami,” Puckett said. Six teams of 10 have traveled to Thailand since July, and 10 more teams of 10 are slated to go into both Thailand and Indonesia during the next six months.

On the home front, hurricane relief has been the focus of disaster relief teams since Hurricane Dennis hit July 10. He noted that Alabama disaster relief teams have been continuously serving since that time.

During the SBOM report Nov. 15, Jerry Butler, Alabama disaster relief state coordinator of cleanup and recovery, mud-out and chain saw teams, thanked Lance, Puckett and other state leaders for their work in disaster relief.

“Disaster relief volunteers are truly light in a dark world,” Butler, pastor of South Sauty Baptist Church in Langston, said.

From Dennis through Katrina, Rita and Wilma, Alabama Baptists deployed 30 disaster relief units from 28 associations to respond to needs. Volunteers have cooked 500,000 meals, cleared 1,000 driveways and yards, provided 10,000 showers and facilitated the delivery of more than 450 messages. The temporary emergency child care unit cared for more than 600 children, according to figures Puckett provided.

“All this is because the 600-plus [disaster relief] trained volunteers in Alabama said, ‘I care,’” Butler said.

But there was more work to be done than there were volunteers to do it, he added.

“I think of the number of people we could have helped if someone had just said, ‘Yes, I’ll take the time to get trained.’”

Puckett said training volunteers and evaluating equipment will be a focus of Alabama Baptist disaster relief in 2006.

“Preparing Alabama Baptists to serve with a helping hand and with the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be the focus of being more ready next time,” he said.

John Thweatt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pell City, preached the convention sermon.

Henry Cox, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bay Minette, was re-elected to a second one-year term as president. Roger Willmore, pastor of Deerfoot Baptist Church in Trussville, was re-elected to a second one-year term as first vice president. Jimmy Jackson, pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, was elected as second vice president. Mary Sue Bennett, special assistant to Lance, was re-elected recording secretary. All were elected without opposition.

The 2006 Alabama Baptist State Convention will be held at Hunter Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Nov. 14–15, and the convention preacher will be Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church in Fairhope.

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  • Jennifer Davis Rash