IRVING, Texas (BP) — Messengers to the 14th session of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting approved a $26.2 million budget; passed resolutions ranging from the personhood of the unborn to biblical gender roles; and elected Mesquite pastor Terry Turner as president.
Also, 126 church leaders signaled their intent to lead their churches to “embrace” an unreached, unengaged people group (UUPG) — part of an SBTC challenge to Texas Southern Baptists to work toward engaging with the Gospel 1,000 of the estimated 3,800 UUPGs worldwide.
Turner, the first African American elected as SBTC president, was unopposed. He is a trustee of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and was described by his nominator, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, as a commendable servant, a courageous supporter of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message doctrinal statement “and in the continuing history of great and godly presidents of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.”
Patterson said Turner, with an undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism, “is ready to broadcast the Gospel to the world” and with two master’s degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary, “he knows what to talk about.”
Patterson also praised Turner, a Guthrie, Okla., native, as a missions advocate, having spread the Gospel in Zambia and Belize, and a church planter who has led Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite to grow from five families when it began in 1991 to a membership exceeding 2,100. The church also has helped plant five other congregations.
Loui Canchola, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, an eight-year-old congregation in McAllen, was unopposed for a second term as SBTC vice president, while James Nickell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Quitman, was unopposed as recording secretary.
The first convention to be held at the new Irving Convention Center drew 901 messengers and 875 registered guests — an all-time high for total attendance. The annual meeting included a focus on “Praying and Going” based on Acts 13:2-3.
EMBRACING PEOPLE GROUPS
The closing session of the Nov. 14-15 meeting included a missionary challenge for Southern Baptist churches in Texas to embrace 1,000 unreached, unengaged people groups (UUPGs) as part of an International Mission Board strategy. Hearing from retired and current missionaries as well as IMB President Tom Elliff via videotape, the audience offered a clear response.
In all, 126 leaders from Texas churches responded to the appeal to lead their members to embrace at least one UUPG. Prior to the meeting, about 75 churches had agreed to engage a people group, said John Meador, pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless and outgoing SBTC Executive Board chairman.
“Why 1,000? Because to whom much is given, much is required. God has given us incredible favor, harmony and focus, providing resources for us,” Meador said in behalf of the SBTC goal. “If we don’t lead the way, who will?”
Meador added, “I’m thrilled to be part of the army of God of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and I want to answer my commanding officer who says, ‘Go,’ with a resounding, ‘Yes, we’re going. Yes, I will lead my church to go … to the ends of the earth, reaching unengaged unreached people groups with the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God.'”
While much of the focus of the convention’s closing session was placed on India, Embrace is a global effort. Churches are encouraged to seek God’s leadership as to whom they will embrace, SBTC missions director Terry Coy said.
Existing SBTC international partnerships and the new Embrace strategy are “separate but not totally distinct strategies,” he said.
The 2012 budget of $26,274,704 is a 3.16 percent increase over 2011. On behalf of the Executive Board, Meador said, “God has blessed us in great ways. This budget is a prudent approach to take advantage of the opportunities and be wise with the resources God has provided for us for the year 2012.
“We are called to walk by faith, but also walk in such a way that when we look back we could say we were wise,” Meador added, expressing appreciation for the convention’s generosity in giving $1 million in reserve funds through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions earlier this year.
Of the 45 percent of undesignated receipts retained for in-state ministry, about 36 percent is earmarked for missions and evangelism; 9.94 percent for facilitating ministries; 13.03 percent for church ministries; 10.64 percent for operational and financial line items; 9.94 percent for facilitating ministries; 9.5 percent for communications; 7.94 percent for minister/church relations; and 7 percent for multi-ethnic ministries. The Minister’s Outside Retirement and Protection Benefits special allocation amounts to 5.97 percent.
The SBTC forwards 55 percent of Cooperative Program funds to Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministry worldwide.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT
SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told messengers the convention would continue to adapt to the churches’ needs. He recounted the insights gleaned from a series of “Praying & Listening” sessions in the first half of 2011, noting recurring requests for help in such areas as leadership development, discipleship and technology.
Noting that the mandate from SBTC churches has been to keep church planting a priority, which is reflected in the annual CP budget, Richards said accordingly, “We will keep it a centerpiece of our efforts and energies.”
Richards encouraged churches to continue reaching Texas while also engaging the world. Noting the challenge from the convention for churches to engage unengaged, unreached people groups, Richards said the Apostle Peter’s vision in the Book of Acts that led to his engagement of Gentiles with the Gospel required overcoming some obstacles. Yet Peter obeyed God, leading to his witness with Cornelius.
There are Corneliuses everywhere responding to the light of natural revelation, and “God is touching your heart to answer the call” to offer the Gospel, Richards said. “The question is who? Who will go for us?”
Messengers approved five resolutions “On the Personhood of the Unborn,” “On Israel,” “On Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” “On Financial Stewardship” and “On Appreciation for President Byron McWilliams.”
The personhood resolution came after Mississippi voters defeated a referendum that would have legally recognized the personhood of the unborn beginning at conception. The SBTC resolution noted, “we affirm that all human life in the womb should have the protection rights of personhood under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” The resolution also affirmed states with personhood amendments under consideration, and “we encourage our elected Texas legislators to adopt an amendment that would affirm the personhood of the unborn.”
The Israel resolution affirmed that “one of the promises of the Abrahamic covenant concerns the land of modern-day Israel” and that the state of Israel has a right to exist in its current location. Also, “we call on both the Jewish and Palestinian people to pursue and adopt policies that cultivate genuine peace between themselves and their neighbors.”
A resolution on biblical manhood and womanhood affirmed the “equal worth and value” of men and woman in creation and in Christ while noting distinctly biblical roles “in the life and function of the church” and in the home. The resolution affirms “the call of women to many ministries in the church,” but recognizes “that the office of pastor is limited to men.”
Financial stewardship was addressed by a resolution calling the tithe “the biblical model” and lamenting personal debt and statistics showing the median giving for American Christians is “slightly over one-half of one percent of after-tax income.”
The resolutions may be read online at texanonline.net.
SBTC President Byron McWilliams, pastor of First Baptist Church in Odessa, urged the convention to follow John the Baptist’s lead in seeing that “He must increase but I must decrease.” Jesus’ cousin was fulfilled with his subservient role to the Christ, McWilliams said.
“May we as the SBTC always properly handle the glory of God because He must increase and we must decrease…. We are the little servants of an illustrious Savior,” McWilliams added.
Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church of Humble, delivered the convention sermon from Psalm 95. Warning against the unfaithfulness of the ancient Israelites in the wilderness, Lino pled in light of the challenge to engage unreached peoples, “All we are saying today is, if you hear the voice of God about the mission of the church, will you harden your heart or will you trust and obey?”
Messengers offered no motions made from the floor and all reports were approved without discussion.
In addition to SBTC missions and ministries challenges, messengers and guests heard from Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land, SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page (by video), LifeWay Christian Resources consultant Pat Ford, GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins, North American Mission Board Associate Vice President Shawn Powers, and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Phil Roberts on behalf of all six SBC seminaries.
Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., preached a guest sermon during the closing session, underscoring the theological significance of the biblical account of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.
“This story is not about the power of David, the little guy, it’s not a story about the underdog who won…. This is a story about the God in whom David trusted,” Dever reminded. He warned preachers not to brag on themselves or their institutions but in the God who blesses.
Two SBTC area coordinators were honored during the annual meeting with the H. Paul Pressler Award — T.C. Melton of Abilene, who covers West Texas, and Casey Perry of Malakoff, who covers East Texas. They were recognized for their extensive service pastoring and in mentoring church leaders statewide.
As a pastor, Melton mentored numerous younger men, including Golden Gate Seminary President Jeff Iorg and B&H Publishing Group President Brad Waggoner, both of whom served under him.
Perry, a leader among Southern Baptists for many years, was involved in the SBTC’s formation. He has served on numerous denominational boards, most recently as a trustee at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The SBTC’s 2012 meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12-13, returning to Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio.
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist Texan; Jerry Pierce is the paper’s managing editor. The Texan (www.texanonline.net) is the newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.