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BGCT reduces budget, sees 1,917 decisions

HOUSTON (BP)–Messengers to the 2009 annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, meeting Nov. 16-17 in Houston, adopted a reduced budget for the second consecutive year and celebrated 1,917 professions of faith registered during 20-plus “City Reach” evangelistic events prior to the gathering.

The much-discussed issue of whether to seat messengers from Fort Worth’s Broadway Baptist Church failed to materialize, as the congregation decided not to send messengers to the meeting.

The 1,493 messengers registered for the event, held at the city’s George R. Brown Convention Center, was the fewest in at least 60 years, according to the BGCT’s newsjournal, the Baptist Standard. Messenger counts for several years in the 1930s and 1940s are not available, but the lowest participation on record was 1,445 in 1937.

Messengers voted unanimously to adopt a $44 million overall budget for 2010, a decrease of 9.8 percent over the 2009 spending plan, which was itself a cut of about 8 percent over the previous year. The budget anticipates $38.86 million in Cooperative Program receipts and $2.13 million from investment income. The BGCT website notes that “out of every dollar in the 2010 budget, 48 cents is for evangelism/missions, 27 cents is for education/discipleship, 10 cents is for advocacy/care and 15 cents is for administration.”

About 19,000 Texas Baptists participated in the City Reach evangelistic events, which registered 3,000 decisions for Christ, including 1,917 professions of faith, the BGCT reported. About 14,000 volunteers participated in a prisons outreach in southeastern Texas, conducted in partnership with Bill Glass Champions for Life, that produced 2,429 commitments, including 1,405 professions of faith. The evangelistic efforts were preceded by a Nov. 4 city-wide prayer rally that drew more than 300 people from at least 120 congregations.

The question of whether messengers from Broadway Baptist Church would be seated became moot when church leaders decided not to send a delegation. Instead, messengers adopted a resolution on sexual ethics that affirmed the BGCT maintained “the consistent position of past convention statements and actions which affirm the biblical sexual ethic of fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness and also affirms the biblical image of marriage as the union before God between a man and woman,” according to the Baptist Standard. In June 2009, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting severed ties with the congregation over its acceptance of members living in homosexual relationships.

In other business, David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church in Canyon, was re-elected president, the BGCT reported. Ed Jackson, a member of First Baptist Church in Garland, was elected first vice president and John Ogletree, founding pastor of First Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston, was elected second vice president.

Messengers also adopted recommendations presented in the final report of their Future Focus Committee, the Baptist Standard reported, including:

— creation of a committee to formulate a marketing plan for Cooperative Program promotion, since the number of BGCT-related churches giving through the Cooperative Program dropped from 4,942 in 1997 to 3,789 in 2008, and funds received for BGCT ministries declined from more than $44.1 million in 1997 to about $37.9 million in 2008.

— a call for state convention designated funds to be invested in nonspeculative accounts (certificates of deposit or money market funds) until the time for expenditure is reached, based on the committee’s conclusion that the convention “was operating in the recent past on financial initiatives that were not fiscally sound.”

— an affirmation of a simplified strategic realignment implemented in May 2009 by BGCT Executive Director Randel Everett, which was organized around three emphases: evangelism/missions, Christian education/discipleship and advocacy/care.

— a decision to retain the legal name — “Baptist General Convention of Texas” — while registering “Texas Baptists” as the convention’s trademark.

Messengers also approved resolutions encouraging lawmakers and public officials “to cooperate in efforts to ensure adequate health care for all members of society”; emphasizing religious liberty and church-state separation; encouraging ministry to people struggling with substance abuse; and expressing grief over terrorist murders at Fort Hood, the Standard reported. The Fort Hood resolution also called for prayer for “just and lasting peace for all people,” for national leaders and “for men and women in uniform,” particularly Baptist military chaplains.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.

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