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PHOENIX (BP)–Messengers to the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention’s Nov. 14-15 annual meeting unanimously adopted a Cooperative Program Growth Plan “whereby Arizona can begin walking down a path to become a great giving convention.”
The plan, adopted by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, N.C., earlier this year, delineates a process for state conventions to increase the percentage of Cooperative Program gifts forwarded to the SBC for national and international missions and ministries. The goal is for state conventions to share Cooperative Program gifts 50/50 with SBC causes.
The 340 messengers adopted a $3.4 million Cooperative Program budget and a $3.8 million state convention operating budget for 2007. Next year’s Cooperative Program budget is a 1.8 percent increase over the present budget, and the operating budget is down from $4 million.
The ASBC allows churches to designate the percentages used in distributing their Cooperative Program gifts. The 96.5 percent of Cooperative Program gifts that are sent undesignated by churches will continue to be divided according to the present state-national distribution formula, with 75 percent being used in Arizona and 25 percent being forwarded for SBC missions and ministries.
The total $3.4 million Cooperative Program budget will be distributed as follows: SBC Cooperative Program, $822,900; Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, $2,105,897; Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, $260,275; Arizona Baptist Children’s Services, $138,041; and Baptist Senior Life Ministries, $83,287.
Income sources in the ASBC operating budget include the $2,105,897 from Cooperative Program giving by Arizona churches; $1,609,452 from the North American Mission Board; $54,996 from LifeWay Christian Resources; and $63,150 in other revenue.
Jim Loui, a member of First Chinese Baptist Church in Phoenix, was elected president by a vote of 126-73 over Rick Butterworth, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Overgaard. Loui is the first non-Anglo to be elected state convention president in Arizona.
Sean Haynes, associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lake Havasu City, was elected first vice president by acclamation. Ernestina Herrera, a member of Iglesia Bautista del Sur Amistad in Douglas, was elected second vice president on the first ballot. Also nominated were Andrew Baskin, associate pastor for youth and administration at First Southern Baptist Church in Kingman, and Cory Bramlett, pastor to students at Happy Valley Baptist Church in Glendale.
Messengers unanimously adopted the report of the ASBC evaluation team appointed last year to analyze the current convention structure.
John Elder, chairman of the team and pastor of Green Valley Baptist Church in Green Valley, said it was not the team’s intent to present a final report but to suggest “arenas for further discussion.” It will be the responsibility of the ASBC’s convention council to enact the report, he said.
The report commends the current course of the convention while making suggestions for adjustments and improvements in six areas:
— creating a Hispanic church facilitator position.
— improving communication through a more interactive website, a clear marketing strategy and an online newsletter to leaders.
— studying the feasibility of holding regional or statewide events to allow ministry couples to network.
— giving facilitators more freedom to cast vision rather than simply respond to field requests.
— commending the partnership with the Arizona Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and encouraging support of ideas to expand this ministry.
— recommending the development of guidelines for future cooperative agreements with independent ministries such as those already established with Arizona Baptist Children’s Services and others.
Beginning the third year of a three-year partnership with the Sonora Baptist Convention and Mexico Baptist Convention, messengers adopted a resolution challenging Arizona churches to expand the partnership opportunities. Currently nine Arizona churches have partnerships with six churches and five missions in Sonora, Mexico.
Messengers resolved “to radically increase our efforts and effectiveness in ministering to and evangelizing the Hispanic Community in both Arizona and Sonora, and to be a positive example in Arizona and the U.S. of bridge-building and cooperation based on love.”
Steve Bass, ASBC state missionary, noted in his report the conclusion of the trial and sentencing of two former Baptist Foundation of Arizona executives earlier this year. The Baptist Foundation of Arizona declared bankruptcy in 1999. Eight employees and associates were indicted, and six accepted plea agreements.
“Thank you for praying through this … and saying forgiveness and healing must come to God’s people,” Bass said. “I believe with all of my heart that God is going to bless you because of how you have acted through this whole ordeal.”
Near the close of the meeting, Dan Coker, the convention president, announced the appointment of a committee to study the feasibility of building a learning center on vacant land adjacent to the state convention office.
The center would provide class and conference rooms for Golden Gate Seminary and the ASBC. It would not include ASBC office space, and construction would not be financed through the Cooperative Program.
The committee will present its report at next year’s Nov. 13-14 annual meeting at Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.