WOODBRIDGE, Va. (BP)–Virginia Baptists elected a new executive director and honored the man he will succeed during a two-day meeting marked more by celebration than business.
Messengers to the Baptist General Association of Virginia’s annual meeting Nov. 8-9 in Woodbridge elected John V. Upton Jr. to lead the organization of about 1,400 congregations. He will assume his new position on March 1, when Reginald M. McDonough will retire after 15 years as executive director.
About 1,000 messengers registered for the meeting, which was held in the bustling Washington suburbs for the first time since 1982, when the BGAV met at First Baptist Church of Alexandria.
Also a first was the Thursday-Friday schedule, which was a change from the traditional Tuesday-Wednesday meeting time. The BGAV is experimenting with the format and time of its annual meeting, which will be held next year on a Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8-9, in Virginia Beach.
Messengers also approved the report of a committee studying the BGAV’s relationship with national ministry partners and adopted a $15.2 million budget for 2002.
Upton, 48, was elected executive director of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board Oct. 9, but the BGAV’s bylaws require that the board’s executive director also serve in that capacity for the state association.
The native Virginian has led the board’s mission mobilization group since 1995. Earlier he was pastor of Urbanna (Va.) Baptist Church. He and his wife, Deborah, who is an associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., also served as missionaries in Taiwan through the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.
Upton is a graduate of Averett College (now University), a Baptist-affiliated school in Danville, Va., and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. The Uptons have two sons and a daughter.
McDonough and his family were honored several times during the BGAV meeting. A portrait to be hung in the chapel of the Virginia Baptist Resource Center in Richmond was unveiled and keys to a new automobile were presented to McDonough. On Thursday night, a video highlighted his 15 years of ministry among Virginia Baptists.
“When I was called to this position, I told Julian Pentecost [former editor of the Religious Herald, newsjournal of the BGAV] that I had some concern about not being a native Virginia son,” McDonough said. “Julian told me that being a Virginia Baptist was not based on where you were born but on your attitude. He was right.”
McDonough said he and his wife, Joan, will continue to live at their home in Midlothian, a Richmond suburb.
The report of the BGAV’s national ministry partners study committee was adopted with little opposition, although Tom McCann of Martinsville, who chaired the committee, moderated a vigorous discussion in a breakout session. The panel was formed at last year’s BGAV meeting to “recommend the best possible uses in 2002 and beyond of the BGAV resources and cooperative endeavor we share with national ministry partners.”
The final report essentially leaves intact the BGAV’s relationships with entities of the Southern Baptist Convention, with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and with other ministry partners. However, the report recommends several changes:
— That the BGAV partner directly with Baptists in other countries, while continuing its ties to mission-sending organizations like the CBF and the SBC International Mission Board.
— That if a missionary to be appointed jointly by the SBC’s North American Mission Board and the BGAV meets the BGAV’s doctrinal criteria but not NAMB’s, the BGAV will use funding allocated to NAMB in the World Mission 2 track of the BGAV’s budget to employ the missionary.
— That the BGAV seek formal representation on the board of directors of the Baptist Center for Ethics, which already receives funding in the BGAV budget.
— That the John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Falls Church, Va., be included in the BGAV budget. Messengers later adopted a budget for 2002 that allocates funds for the three-year-old school started by Baptists in the Washington area.
— That funds be increased for Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.
— That the Virginia Baptist Mission Board’s referral service, which helps churches find staff ministers, require clients of the service to “pledge to do their best to keep their churches in the BGAV.”
— That a Virginia Baptist Mission Board staff member be authorized to serve ministers requesting alternative annuity, insurance and protection plans for ministers, while retaining the current relationship with the SBC’s Annuity Board, and that the VBMB provide matching funds for ministers in alternative plans on the same basis as those made available for Annuity Board participants.
— That the BGAV ask the Baptist World Alliance to reconsider its membership requirements. Currently those requirements limit membership to national associations of churches, effectively omitting both the BGAV and the CBF from joining the BWA.
Messengers also agreed to the national ministry partners study committee’s request that it remain in place to study and monitor the BGAV’s national relationships.
Another study committee, this one examining the BGAV’s relationship with ministry partners in Virginia, presented its report but asked for a vote to be delayed until next year’s meeting in Virginia Beach. The proposal would dramatically alter the funding relationship with entities such as the Virginia Baptist Home, the Virginia Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services and the six schools and colleges affiliated with the BGAV by significantly reducing their base support in the budget, while encouraging the agencies to seek financial support from a special fund for specific projects and direct solicitation from churches. Bill Wilson of Waynesboro, Va., who chaired the study committee, said Virginia Baptists need a “year of dialog” before committing themselves to the plan.
The 2002 budget, which goes into effect on Dec. 1, is $200,000 more than the current funding plan. As in previous years, it retains some funds for ministries in the state, while offering churches three channels for national and world ministry causes. Congregations also may craft their own plan of giving.
Churches in the World Mission 1 track (which supports causes of the Southern Baptist Convention) send 66 percent of their gifts to Virginia ministries and 34 percent to the SBC. Congregations in the World Mission 3 track (which funds causes of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) send 72 percent of their gifts to Virginia ministries and 28 percent to the CBF. The World Mission 2 track funds SBC, CBF and other causes; 72 percent supports Virginia ministries and 28 percent causes outside the state.
The only change in the budget was the additional funding for the John Leland Center, which was placed in the World Mission 2 track. The school will receive 2 percent of total WM2 funding. To achieve that amount, funding for the ministerial scholarship fund in that track was reduced by 2 percent.
Messengers elected Reginald Warren, pastor of Sycamore Baptist Church in Franklin, Va., as BGAV president for the coming year. Also elected were Beth Fogg, a member of Second Baptist Church in Richmond, as first vice president; Aubrey Rosser, an attorney and member of First Baptist Church in Altavista, as second vice president; and Fred Anderson, executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, as clerk.