HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (BP) — Arkansas Baptists have elected as second vice president Steven Bell, pastor of Otter Creek Community Church in Little Rock, who is believed to be the first African American officer in the group’s history.
The vote came at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention’s (ABSC) 162nd annual meeting at Hot Springs Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Bell, a Pine Bluff native, planted the Otter Creek church in 2012 and previously served as a youth pastor for eight years in Little Rock.
Messengers elected Gary Hollingsworth, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, as ABSC president, and first vice president Sam Roberts, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuttgart.
ABSC leaders said 615 messengers from Arkansas churches attended the meeting, and observers placed the overall attendance including guests at well over 1,000. Comparatively, messengers at last year’s meeting in Texarkana numbered 515. The ABSC does not record guest attendance.
With the theme “Everyone Matters,” messengers to the Nov. 3-4 meeting worshipped and prayed together, conducted business, approved resolutions and heard reports and messages from a variety of speakers.
Messengers approved a 2016 Cooperative Program budget of $22 million, the same as it has been for four years. The ABSC will forward 43.13 percent (or $9,489,546) of the budget to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international ministries; retain 55.87 percent (or $12,290,474) in the state, and allocated 1 percent (or $220,000) to shared ministry expenses.
Nine approved resolutions address racial reconciliation, the sanctity of human life, services to children at risk, the biblical definition of marriage, religious liberty, the persecution of Christians worldwide, the 90th anniversary of the Cooperative Program and spiritual renewal and revival.
ABSC Executive Board teams, ministries and other representatives shared various reports, including testimonies about church planting, impact stories from work funded through the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering and other work around the state, such as one-day mission trips.
Greg Sykes, ABSC Executive Board president and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Russellville, reported that the property of the former First Baptist Church, Diaz, was given as a gift to Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, in order for Central Baptist to start a mission church. Sykes said the transaction showed up in the convention’s financials as a gain and loss, but explained that because of the nature of the transaction, it was not an operational loss.
Archie Mason, ABSC president and senior pastor of Central Baptist, reported a church that started at the location is now running two services, averaging around 150 people in worship, and has its own teaching pastor.
Mason moderated a panel discussion Nov. 3 during the afternoon session that included Nick Floyd, teaching pastor of Cross Church, Fayetteville; Wes George, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Rogers; Brad Lewter, senior pastor of Grand Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Smith, and Andy Swart, elder/lead pastor of Metro Church, Rogers.
Worship during the meeting was led by the worship team from Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro; Leslie Willis of Parkway Place Baptist Church, Little Rock, and the worship team from Hot Springs Baptist Church. Additional special music was provided by the Ouachita Baptist University Choir and Arkansas Master’Singers.
During a brief Executive Board meeting, Sykes was reelected board president and Wyman Richardson, pastor of Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock, was elected vice president.
Messengers set the 2016 ABSC annual meeting for Oct. 25-26 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.