RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (BP) — At the 164th annual meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, with “Encourage to Engage” as its theme, ministers and laypeople worshiped, prayed, elected officers, conducted business, approved resolutions, enjoyed fellowship and heard inspirational messages.
ABSC leaders reported 549 messengers from churches across the state registered for the Nov. 7-8 ABSC sessions at First Baptist Church in Russellville.
Greg Sykes, pastor of First Baptist Church in Russellville, was elected president by acclamation, as were Wyman Richardson, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Little Rock, first vice president and George Goynes, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Doddridge, second vice president.
Messengers approved a $21 million Cooperative Program budget, which implements a new five-year formula for a 2.05 percentage-point increase to Southern Baptist Convention causes by 2022, moving to 45.82 percent from the current 43.77 percent.
Under the five-year CP formula for the 2.05 percentage point increase, 1.05 points will come from the ABSC Executive Board staff budget; 0.5 points from ABSC entities and institutions; and 0.5 points from the Arkansas Baptist News. The increases will be implemented by 0.2 percentage points each year of the budget formula.
Counting what the ABSC defines as Out-of-State Missions, 47.60 percent of the 2018 budget also will include funds allocated to ABSC to connect churches to SBC strategies and Cooperative Program promotion and administration.
Messengers approved a total of six resolutions including resolutions addressing racial reconciliation, polarization in America, Israel and human sexuality.
Only one resolution spurred discussion when Chase Crawford, minister to students at First Baptist Church in Pocahontas, suggested an amendment to the resolution on racial reconciliation.
In presenting his suggestion, Crawford said, “It is important for us to call out evil by name when evil gives us a name to use. The origin of our denomination gives us a unique responsibility of calling out white supremacy by name every time it shows itself.”
His suggested addition, a verbatim statement from a resolution adopted at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix, was to read, “Whereas, Racism and white supremacy are, sadly, not extinct but present all over the world in various white supremacist movements, sometimes known as ‘white nationalism’ or ‘alt-right.'”
After brief discussion, Crawford’s addition was not approved, and the original resolution passed with no changes.
In the resolution, messengers recommitted to “the responsibility and privilege of loving and equipping people of all races and ethnicities in our communities,” urging churches to “demonstrate their hearts for racial reconciliation by seeking to increase racial and ethnic diversity through church staff, leadership and membership” and individuals to “seek reconciliation in their personal relationships and local communities as they demonstrate the power of the Gospel to reconcile all persons in Christ.”
The resolution also stated that Arkansas Baptists “will be diligent in denouncing racial discrimination in whatever form it takes in seeking to bring healing and cohesiveness to our fractured culture as we understand that in the final analysis there is one race — the human race — created by God for His pleasure.”
The resolution titled “On Polarization in America” noted that U.S. culture is becoming more secular and more distant from Judeo-Christian principles, resulting in “a dramatic increase in fringe groups that harbor antipathy for those of other races, ethnicities, national origin, religious identity, economic status, or ideologies.”
Messengers voted to “denounce in the strongest terms the antipathy and hostility hate groups display based on racial, ethnic, religious, class, economic status, and other such illegitimate and unreasonable distinctions, all of which are antithetical to the gospel.”
In the resolution on Israel, messengers voiced concern over “anti-Israel sentiments and activities in this country within certain university campuses, academic and professional associations, popular culture, and even our government.”
Messengers pledged to support “the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state,” rejecting “any activities that attack that right by promoting economic, cultural, and academic boycotts against Israel.”
And, regarding the “Nashville Statement” on human sexuality released earlier this year, messengers stated “without equivocation that we are in complete agreement,” that it is “without error in its declarations based on biblical truths and we wholeheartedly endorse its purposes to avoid condemnation and self-righteousness, while ‘trying to point all persons, regardless of the struggles over sexuality and or self-identity, to salvation and wholeness in Christ.'”
For the full text of the resolutions, go to https://www.arkansasbaptist.org/read/full-text-of-resolutions-approved-by-messengers-at-the-2017-absc-annual-meeting.
‘Above and Beyond’
Greg Addison, ASBC associate executive director, shared a report titled “Engaging Arkansas Baptists Above and Beyond” in which he highlighted the role of the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering in the cooperative work of the state’s Baptists.
Addison made note of disaster relief (DR) in regard to Hurricane Harvey and other disasters this year. Addison introduced Ryan Scantling, ABSC college and young leaders team member and Conway campus minister, who shared how he was involved in coordinating with University of Central Arkansas administration to send UCA students, many of whom who were not believers, to serve with DR in Texas.
“These students, who had a great heart to serve, go down and they, many of them lost as anything, … go down, serve and learn about Jesus from faithful chaplains serving with Southern Baptist disaster relief,” Scantling said.
Addison spoke of the growth of Acts 1:8 One Day mission work across Arkansas, including the annual statewide event as well as association mission days and individual churches that put on events. More than 73 block parties have been hosted across Arkansas during the past year, many of which were funded by the Dixie Jackson offering. Addison also noted the role of the offering in funding church planting.
A block party was held on the grounds of First Baptist in Russellville to demonstrate for church leaders how to hold block parties in their communities.
A church planter commissioning service was held Tuesday evening, Nov. 7. Numerous church planters and sponsoring church pastors introduced themselves and were later surrounded for prayer by annual meeting attendees.
Ken Shaddox, pastor of Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock, presented a motion that the 2017 ABSC Annual be dedicated to Jimmie Sheffield, ABSC executive administrator, in honor of his 60th year of ministry and work on behalf of Arkansas Baptists. The motion passed unanimously.
Times of focused prayer during the meeting were led by Kyle Reno, pastor of The Summit Church in Conway; Dave Hughey, pastor of Geyer Springs First Baptist Church in Little Rock; and Bill Elliff, pastor of The Summit Church in North Little Rock.
Worship times during the meeting were led by Scott Quimby, minister of music at First Baptist Church in Stuttgart, and the worship teams from Central Baptist Church in Conway and First Baptist in Russellville. Master’Singers of Arkansas and the Ouachita Sounds from Ouachita Baptist University also performed.
Exhibits from various ABSC teams, entities and institutions as well as SBC affiliates were set up at the Russellville church. A complimentary lunch was served by DR volunteers on Tuesday and various lunches and dinners were held for specific groups during the two-day meeting. The Link, Agencies + Institutions Fellowship, sponsored by ABSC entities and institutions, was held on Monday evening, Nov. 6.
During a brief Executive Board meeting Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 7, Manley Beasley Jr., pastor of Hot Springs Baptist Church in Hot Springs, was elected president, and Craig Jenkins, pastor of Beech Street First Baptist Church in Texarkana, was elected vice president.
The ABSC’s 2018 annual meeting will be Oct. 23-24 at Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro.