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Calif. Baptists celebrate 75 years, increase CP

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (BP) — With the theme, “Until It’s Finished,” California Southern Baptists celebrated 75 years of ministry in the Golden State, adopted a budget with an increased percentage to the Southern Baptist Convention and re-elected their president during their annual meeting Oct. 27-28 at Valley Baptist Church.

The California Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Bakersfield, Calif., highlighted historical references to the beginning of the organization at First Southern Baptist Church at Shafter in 1940. The Tuesday evening session celebrated the event with a 10-minute historical documentary followed by vignettes from CSBC entities — California Baptist Foundation, California Baptist University and Jenness Park, the convention’s camping facility in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Frank S. Page, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, challenged California Southern Baptists to look to the future. He said, “We have divine power and provision as believers, but I ask you tonight, what are you praying for? I’ve heard prayers about the last 75 years. What are you praying for the next 75 years?”

Honored that evening with Heritage Awards from the California Baptist Historical Society for their “rare and dedicated service” to CSBC were Robert Rooks and Sid Peterson, longtime pastors who also served in various denominational positions. The two joined more than 70 who have received the award since its inception in 1982.

Messengers approved a 2016 budget of $15.9 million, which includes a Cooperative Program objective of $6.8 million. The total budget is an increase of $29,485, or 0.2 percent, over the 2015 spending plan of $15,872,081.

The 2016 budget includes a half-percent increase for Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries, moving to 34 percent, or $2,312,000, if the goal for 2016 is achieved. The CP objective also allocates 5 percent for California Baptist University, 1 percent for California Baptist Foundation and 60 percent, or $4,080,000, to CSBC ministries for church starting, healthy churches and missions discipleship.

Randy Bennett, director of missions for Kern County Southern Baptist Association and a member of Daybreak Baptist Church, Bakersfield, was re-elected president, over Joe Slunaker, associate pastor of Hemet Valley Baptist Church in Hemet and an adjunct professor at CBU. Bennett received 223 votes, with 63 for Slunaker.

Abel Galvan, family life minister at First Southern Baptist Church in Anaheim, and Bob Gallina, pastor of Green Hills Baptist Church in La Habra, were nominated as convention vice president. Galvan was elected with 152 votes over Gallina’s 137 votes.

Mark Nunn, minister of music at First Baptist Church in Grass Valley, was elected music director for the 2016 annual meeting. Beth Ketcheside, CSBC executive assistant and a member of Crosspoint Church in Fresno, was elected recording secretary.

Others addressing messengers at the convention were Fermin A. Whittaker, CSBC executive director; Roger Spradlin, host pastor; and Bennett, CSBC president.

Whittaker said, “I know the enemy is powerful, but my God is all-powerful. I want Christians to stop surrendering and to stop running!

“Be who God has created you to be — be who He has placed in your heart. Don’t surrender a second of your life to the enemy.”

While Spradlin urged messengers to “preach the Word,” Bennett encouraged them to “live by faith, and not by sight.”

Messengers and guests heard from Peteris Sprogis, bishop of the Union of the Baptist Churches in Latvia, with which the convention recently began a partnership. He encouraged California Southern Baptists to join Latvian Baptists in a “church planting movement.”

The only business addressed was a motion referral from the 2014 annual meeting directing the convention’s committee on resolutions, credentials and membership to propose a “clear and open review process” for congregations wanting to affiliate with the state convention. Committee chairman Alan Littlejohn, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Desert Hot Springs, presented recommendations for the application process and the application itself.

Minor discussion followed and centered on information being posted online and the role of the association in CSBC membership. A few voiced objections to posting personal information about churches or staff online saying it would be inappropriate to post on the Web.

David Wilson, pastor of Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Redondo Beach, said, “I’m trying to understand some of this. Normally they (churches) affiliate through the association.”

Littlejohn responded, “We’re not trying to circumvent the process at all. A lot of times churches don’t come through associations. Several churches have come (directly) to the state convention to associate. The affiliation process at various associations is by no means the same.”

He noted the committee’s preference is for churches to affiliate with an association, but pointed to Baptist polity whereby associations, state conventions and the national convention all are autonomous and a church can choose which entity or entities with which to affiliate.

He added the intent of the recommendations was for the state Convention to get “a process in place.”

Messengers approved three resolutions. One of the three called for “Christians to avoid lawsuits.” The resolution referred to Christians or Christian entities suing other Christians or Christian entities. The resolution, which passed with no discussion, called for Christian brothers and sisters involved in lawsuits to “pursue Christian mediation and/or arbitration” and called on the CSBC and its staff to develop “a systematic way for referring individuals and entities to Christian mediators and/or arbitrators.”

The 75th anniversary drew 427 messengers and 188 guests.

The 2016 annual meeting is scheduled Oct. 25-26 at Russian Baptist Church in West Sacramento.

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  • Terry Barone and Holly Smith