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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–Messengers at the Oct. 31-Nov. 1 Arkansas Baptist State Convention annual meeting approved a Ministry Task Force report that includes recommendations to regionalize ABSC executive board ministries, increase the percentage of Cooperative Program funds forwarded to Southern Baptist Convention causes and explore bringing the Arkansas Baptist News, currently a convention agency, under the ABSC Executive Board.
Each recommendation will be referred to other Arkansas convention committees or boards for further deliberation.
The 837 messengers also authorized the ABSC executive board and its officers, working with Emil Turner, ABSC executive director, to build a new Baptist building in a new location if the existing building in downtown Little Rock sells. The potential relocation results from the donation of about five acres of land at I-430 and Col. Glenn Road in west Little Rock by an anonymous Baptist deacon. The gift is contingent upon the ABSC beginning construction on the property as soon as possible. The land was appraised at just under $1 million.
For a second year, messengers approved giving agency status to the Arkansas Baptist Assembly at Siloam Springs. Because the action involved a change to the convention’s articles of incorporation, it required passage at two consecutive conventions. Messengers also approved articles of incorporation for the assembly, along with a 15-member board of directors recommended by the ABSC nominating committee.
Other business included a slight revision to the ABSC CP unified budget formula and adoption of a 2007 CP budget of more than $20 million. Ministries within Arkansas will receive 58.23 percent and SBC ministries will receive 41.77 percent of 2007 CP receipts.
Beginning in 2008, each year of the five-year budget formula period, the SBC portion will increase by .2 percent. The SBC portion in the fifth year, 2012, would be 42.77 percent.
Harry Black, Washington-Madison Baptist Association missionary, was re-elected to a second term as convention president. Danny Johnson, associational missionary for the Pulaski Baptist Association who served as second vice president last year, was elected first vice president. Mark Lashley, pastor of Pickles Gap Baptist Church of Conway, was elected second vice president. Each was unopposed.
A nine-member Ministry Task Force, appointed in early 2005 to study Baptist life and report back to ABSC messengers, presented five recommendations. Stephen Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church in Russellville and task force chairman, emphasized each was a referral to be considered by the appropriate bodies.
Black ruled that the five recommendations would be voted on as a block.
“I will not allow us to discuss potential outcomes,” he said, adding that if anyone tried to discuss outcomes “of what the referrals accomplish, then it would be my responsibility to rule that out of order.”
Recommendation one asked the executive board’s program committee to consider “more effective ways of communicating” ABSC services and ministries to churches.
Recommendation two stated, “In an effort to enhance communication about the ministries of our convention, and to maintain careful stewardship of our Cooperative Program resources, we recommend that the president of the Executive Board and the president of the Arkansas Baptist News board each appoint a committee of no more than three board members, including themselves, to discuss the possibility of merging the Arkansas Baptist News and the Vision publication under the Executive Board ministries of the state convention.”
In a dinner meeting during the annual meeting, the Arkansas Baptist News board of directors unanimously approved a motion stating, “This board of trustees goes on record strongly favoring the ABN remaining under the direction of an independent board of trustees appointed by the convention.”
The committee will be appointed and a meeting likely will be scheduled in early 2007.
Recommendation three asked the ABSC executive board to “study the feasibility of regionalizing” executive board ministries and to “pursue such action related to relocation of the Baptist building as to maintain the most effective stewardship of Cooperative Program resources and efficiency in ministry to our churches.”
Recommendation four suggested increasing the CP percentage forwarded to SBC causes and urged churches to increase their CP support.
Recommendation five asked the ABSC constitution and bylaws committee to consider eliminating from the convention’s articles of incorporation the following statement: “The Baptist Faith and Message shall not be interpreted as to permit open communion and/or alien immersion.”
J.T. Harvill, pastor of Chidester Baptist Church in Chidester, moved that each recommendation be voted on separately. His motion failed by about a two-thirds negative vote.
Van Harness, pastor of West Side Baptist Church in Greers Ferry, asked if the task force had asked for or received input from those opposed to changes suggested in recommendation five. Davis responded that it would be the responsibility of the constitution and bylaws committee to explore any such opposition.
The referral recommendations passed with a scattering of no votes.
The only other business from the floor was a motion by Jean Pilcher, a member of First Baptist Church in Little Rock, to dedicate the convention annual to John Dresbach, a member of the ABSC leadership and worship team, who died May 1. The motion carried.
Messengers approved four resolutions. One referred to the November elections and urged Baptists to vote and stay informed about issues and candidates. It further urged rejection of a proposed constitutional amendment on charitable bingo.
Sidney Thompson, pastor of Ironton Baptist Church in Little Rock, attempted to amend the resolution by deleting the final phrase urging rejection of the constitutional amendment. His motion died for lack of a second.
Another resolution opposed establishing private clubs that serve alcoholic beverages in dry counties.
Another opposed gay couples serving as foster or adoptive parents. Larry Lloyd, a member of University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, offered an amendment to drop what he considered an inflammatory word in opposition to an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that the state’s child welfare agency cannot ban homosexuals from being foster parents. His amendment was soundly defeated.
Yet another resolution expressed appreciation to ABSC leaders and the host Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.
Messages preached at the annual meeting focused on the convention theme “Empowered to reach the world,” based on Acts 1:8.
The 2007 annual meeting will be Nov. 6-7 at First Baptist Church in Van Buren.