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Calif. Baptists celebrate Whittaker’s 22-year tenure

WEST SACRAMENTO (BP) — Messengers to the 2016 California Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting celebrated the 22-year tenure of the CSBC executive director, elected a new slate of officers and approved a 2017 budget during their 76th session that celebrated “Generations Reaching Generations.”

Held at Russian Baptist Church in West Sacramento Oct. 25-26, the gathering featured a number of CSBC and Southern Baptist Convention entities recognizing Fermín A. Whittaker for his service. This was his last annual meeting as the state convention’s leader; in May he set his retirement effective Feb. 28.

Shawn Beaty, senior pastor of Clovis Hills Community Church in Clovis and chairman of the CSBC Executive Board, announced Whittaker would be named “executive director emeritus” upon his retirement.

Celebrating 22 years

The Tuesday evening (Oct. 25) session featured several speakers and a video about Whittaker’s ministry, highlighting his mantra of reaching “every man, woman, boy and girl” in California for Christ. He reflected on the slogan, saying the Holy Spirit moved him to use it as his focus for the state convention shortly after his election in 1994.

The celebration of Whittaker and his wife Carmen emphasized the “generations” theme as their son Carlos Whittaker, an author and speaker from Nashville, led worship, and they were joined by their other son, Eddie, a business owner from Atlanta. A reception honoring the Whittakers followed the session.

Election of officers

A.B. Vines, pastor of New Seasons Church in Spring Valley, was elected CSBC president, succeeding Randy Bennett, a member of Daybreak Baptist Church in Bakersfield and director of missions for Kern County Southern Baptist Association, who served two one-year terms, the maximum allowed under the CSBC constitution.

Vines, who was nominated by Rob Zinn, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, received more votes than Abel Galvan, church and family minister at First Southern Baptist Church in Anaheim. Galvan was nominated by Victor Chayasirisobhon, senior pastor of the Anaheim congregation.

Chayasirisobhon was elected vice president over Richard Spring, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hesperia.

Galvan nominated Chayasirisobhon while Montia Setzler, pastor of Magnolia Church in Riverside, nominated Spring.

Bo Coburn, worship pastor at Magnolia Church, was recommended by the CSBC committee on convention operations as music director and elected by acclamation.


Messengers approved a 2017 budget of $14.5 million, which includes a Cooperative Program objective of $6.8 million for the third consecutive year. It is based on actual year-to-date 2016 CP receipts and projections for 2017.

If the $6.8 million is realized, national and international Southern Baptist Convention causes will receive $2,346,000, or 34.5 percent, a half-percent increase over the 2016 allocation. CSBC is on track to increase by a half-percent each year until 2018 when the SBC portion reaches 35. The percentage will then be reevaluated.

The California convention’s portion of CP receipts for mission causes is $4,046,000, or 59.5 percent, a half-percent decrease from the 2016 allocation. California Baptist Foundation and California Baptist University will continue to receive 1 and 5 percent, respectively.

The recommendation calls for 100 percent of 2017 Cooperative Program receipts in excess of the CP objective to be designated to SBC missions and ministry.

Other business

A motion to remove Bayshore Community Church in Campbell because of an inclusion statement about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lifestyles (posted on the church’s website) was the only item of miscellaneous business during the two-day meeting. The motion was made by Port Wilburn, a messenger from Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship in San Pablo, who is interim director of missions for San Francisco-Peninsula Baptist Association.

Because of conflicting information about the congregation’s current cooperation with the state convention and SBC, Wilburn moved the motion be referred to the CSBC Executive Board for its Jan. 26 meeting.

Messengers also approved seven new congregations for affiliation, including Bright Home Community Church, Spring Valley; First Baptist Church, Selma; First Beautiful Baptist, Garden Grove; Celebración Latina, West Covina; Divine Fellowship Community Baptist, Los Angeles; Divine Grace Christian Fellowship, San Diego; and First Chinese Baptist, San Gabriel.

Messengers approved a resolution expressing gratitude to the city of Sacramento, Sacramento Region Baptist Network and the host church.

Search committee

Setzler, chairman of the CSBC executive director search committee, reported to messengers the committee has completed “listening sessions” and is ready to move into the next phase of seeking “the man God has chosen” to lead California Baptists in the future. He requested that names of potential candidates be submitted by Nov. 7, noting the person making the nomination should have received permission from the nominee prior to the recommendation. Information should be sent to [email protected].

The Tuesday evening session, as has become tradition, also was a celebration of ministry in the state’s convention, this year focusing on the generations theme. Members of several CSBC “family groups” were featured throughout the meeting, either live or via video, including Randy and Grant Bennett; Glen Paden and Judy Logan; Monty, Randy, Justin and Jon McWhorter; and the Whittakers.

A panel discussion featured pastors Russ Chambers, Hingepoint Community Church in Bakersfield; Chayasirisobhon; Brian Kennedy, Mt Zion Baptist Church in Ontario; and Mike Solorio, Valley Baptist Church in Salinas, addressing ministry to the “next generation.”

Other speakers included Adam Groza, vice president of enrollment and student services for Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Randy Bennett and Zinn.

Mark Nunn, pastor of worship and arts at First Baptist Church in Grass Valley, led worship with a team from his church.

The California Baptist Historical Society presented its annual Heritage Awards to Larry Carpenter, a layman from The Church on Cypress in Carmichael; Dean Durbin, a layman from Grace Community Church in Willits; and Monty McWhorter, a retired pastor and Convention worker.

The Pastors’ Conference, California Women’s Meeting, Fellowship of Church Musicians, On Mission Celebration and several language gatherings were held prior to the annual meeting.

Messenger registration totaled 353, with 128 guests from the more than 2,300 CSBC congregations.

The 2017 annual meeting is set for Oct. 24-25 at Magnolia Church in Riverside.

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  • Terry Barone and Holly Smith