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Calif. Baptists stand firm on Baptist Faith & Message

FRESNO, Calif. (BP)–Messengers to the 62nd annual meeting of California Southern Baptist Convention rejected changing the convention name and kept the Baptist Faith and Message as a requirement for membership of churches.

For the third time since 1998, messengers rejected dropping “Southern” from the organization’s name, a proposal initially put forth by a 50-member strategic planning team in 1998.

Several messengers spoke in favor of and against the proposed name-change amendment to the convention’s constitution. The amendment failed to garner the required two-thirds vote, and the convention’s name remains the same.

Another constitutional amendment that would have deleted the Baptist Faith and Message as a requirement for membership also failed. The amendment would have changed the constitution and would have recognized a cooperating church as one that has “doctrine and conduct consistent with the faith and practice of churches as taught in the Scriptures” rather than churches who are “in agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Dewey Squyres, pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church in San Jose, introduced the amendment at the 2001 convention meeting. Saying the convention had “used the Baptist Faith and Message in an inappropriate way,” Squyres noted, “When you take a human statement of faith and use it as the authoritative standard of orthodoxy, you are using it as a creed. I believe this amendment is actually consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message and with our history as Baptists.”

Several messengers denied that requiring agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message constituted using it as a creed.

“Nazarenes are people of the Book but doctrinally we disagree. Methodists are people of the Book, but doctrinally we disagree,” said Rob Zinn, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, “The Baptist Faith and Message is a confessional, and I need it. When people say, ‘What do you believe?’ I need it. If we pull this out and say that’s not what we use, we open the door to every wind of doctrine.”

After lengthy debate among messengers, the amendment failed to receive the required two-thirds vote.

Under the theme, “United in Joy,” messengers approved a $17.1 million budget, $7.8 million of which is based on Cooperative Program receipts from California churches for missions, evangelism and ministry opportunities in California and throughout the nation and world.

The 2003 budget reflects a 4.63 percent increase over the 2002 budget but does not reflect an increase in the Cooperative Program objective. The change is reflected in anticipated increases in designated offerings for state, national and international missions.

Of the amount budgeted in the CP objective, the Southern Baptist Convention will receive 30 percent, or $2.4 million, for worldwide missions, no change from 2002.

An Empowering Kingdom Growth recommendation of the CSBC executive board was approved. The recommendation, a covenant between CSBC leadership and churches, affirmed EKG as a call for California Southern Baptists to seek first the King and his Kingdom.

In a demonstration of unity, the document was signed by Fermin A. Whittaker, CSBC executive director; Deryl Lackey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Upland and 2002 chairman of the CSBC executive board; Montia Setzler, pastor of Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside and 2002 CSBC president; K. Milton Higgins, president of California Baptist Foundation; and Ronald L. Ellis, president of California Baptist University.

With Setzler having served two one-year terms as president, the most allowed by the CSBC constitution, messengers unanimously elected Wayne Stockstill, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hesperia, as president for 2003. David Gill, pastor of Concord Korean Baptist Church in Concord, defeated Dudley Bristow, pastor of First Baptist Church of Irvine/Tustin in Tustin, to become first vice president. Bristow then defeated David Turner, pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church in Lakeview Terrace, to become second vice president.

There were 747 messengers and 320 guests who registered for the 2002 meeting. The messenger count for the Fresno convention was up 51, or 7.3 percent, compared to the 2001 meeting.

Featured speaker for the convention was Billy Kim, president of the Baptist World Alliance, from Seoul, South Korea.

The 2003 annual meeting will be Nov. 18-19 in San Diego.

    About the Author

  • Terry Barone