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Ark. Baptists appoint task force for 1-year study of Baptist life

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (BP)–Messengers to the 151st annual meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention Nov. 9-10 at The Church at Crossgate Center of Hot Springs approved a $19.7 million budget, heard of changes in the convention’s partnership missions projects, re-elected a slate of officers and approved five resolutions.

They also approved plans for a simultaneous revival campaign during 2006 and passed a motion asking the ABSC president to appoint a seven-member ministry task force to do a one-year comprehensive study of Baptist life and bring any recommendations for ways to improve ABSC work back to the annual meeting in 2005.

Convention officers re-elected to second terms were Grant Ethridge, pastor of First Baptist Church of Lavaca, president; LeRoy Wagner, pastor of Pearcy Baptist Church of Pearcy for the past 10 years before recently resigning, first vice president; and Larry White, pastor of First Baptist Church of Crossett, second vice president.

One resolution expressed gratitude for adoption of the Arkansas Marriage Amendment and supported a similar amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Others opposed expansion of gambling in Arkansas, supported sanctity of life and a pro-life agenda, expressed gratitude for the 25th anniversary of the conservative resurgence in Southern Baptist life and expressed appreciation to the host church and convention leadership.

The resolution on the conservative resurgence drew an amendment attempt by Ron West, a messenger from First Baptist Church of Booneville. He offered an amendment to replace one of the resolution’s whereas paragraphs with one stating “that we acknowledge many God-called theologically conservative missionaries and seminary professors have been falsely accused of liberalism and that we ask God’s forgiveness for this sin.”

After some discussion, the amendment overwhelmingly failed. Another messenger, who did not identify himself, urged the resolutions committee to withdraw the resolution or for the messengers to vote it down because he saw it as divisive and “a bad way to end a great convention.” The committee, however, did not withdraw the resolution and it passed by about a two-thirds majority.

The other resolutions passed without discussion.

Jim Lagrone, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Bryant who served as convention president at last year’s convention, made the motion for a committee to study Baptist life. In his president’s address last year, Lagrone challenged the new president to appoint such a committee. Ethridge, however, in this year’s president’s address, stated he would not do so unless instructed by the messengers. Therefore, Lagrone made the motion.

“Our fellowship right now is strong,” Lagrone said. “Our fellowship is at peace. This is the time we can look and see if we can do a better job in many areas.”

The motion carried.

The $19.7 million budget includes $11.5 million for state causes and $8.2 million for Southern Baptist Convention causes. The total budget amount is up slightly from the previous year, which was $19.5 million, and the percentages allotted to state (58.23 percent) and SBC causes (41.77 percent) remain the same.

The convention has had international partnerships with Brazil and Bulgaria. While continuing to assist those nations, the new international focus will emphasize partnerships with missionaries who have Arkansas ties. That will include projects in Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, India, Jordan and Ukraine.

Within the United States, the ABSC has formed a new partnership with the Kansas-Nebraska Baptist Convention.

In other action, Bill Fleming, a messenger of River Road Baptist Church of Redfield, offered several motions regarding salaries and benefits of ABSC employees. Each was either ruled out of order or voted down by messengers.

The 2004 ABSC annual meeting will be Nov. 8-9 at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church in Little Rock.

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  • Charlie Warren