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Calif. convention-goers list 1,300 who need the Gospel

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (BP)–Messengers to the California Southern Baptist Convention’s Nov. 14-15 annual meeting were challenged to make evangelism a priority, and they approved a resolution related to Christians in public schools.

All speakers who addressed the convention at Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield said evangelism should be a priority in the Golden State. Fermín A. Whittaker, executive director of the CSBC, distributed blank cards and asked messengers to write the names of three people whom they knew were not Christians. After the cards were collected, messengers had identified almost 1,300 unsaved persons.

“These names represent faces, flesh and blood, friends and family members that you know would not go to heaven if they died,” Whittaker said.

He encouraged the audience to have the same passion the Apostle Paul had for Israel.

“The passions of our heart must be, ‘Oh God, give us Greg, Judy, Francisco before we die!’” Whittaker said.

During the business sessions, Sid Peterson, a messenger from Westchester Baptist Church in Bakersfield, made two motions adding verbiage about the Baptist Faith and Message to the CSBC messenger registration card. Both motions were approved with little discussion.

One motion altered the current wording on the messenger card to identify a “cooperating church” as one “in agreement” with the Baptist Faith and Message.

The card had identified a cooperating church as one that “has not adopted articles of faith in conflict” with the faith statement.

“The current statement on the card is not in agreement with our [CSBC] constitution,” Peterson said. “Now I would guess that most of our churches have not adopted any articles of faith. But as it is now, we can have churches who are cooperating according to the statement on the messenger card but not necessarily according to our constitution.”

Peterson also made a motion to insert a sentence on the card that reads: “I affirm our church meets the requirements of Article III of the CSBC constitution.”

Article III addresses membership qualifications for churches and messengers to the convention during the annual meeting. One of the qualifications Peterson addressed is that churches be “in agreement with The Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Peterson also made a motion to amend the CSBC constitution by making the BF&M most recently adopted by the SBC the version to qualify churches for membership in the state convention. Presently, churches qualify that “are in agreement with The Baptist Faith and Message as adopted” by the SBC. Peterson’s constitutional amendment was referred to the 2007 annual meeting.

Messengers approved an overall budget of $12,007,045 for 2007, a decrease of $23,000 from the current budget. The new budget includes a Cooperative Program goal of $8,316,471, up 5.4 percent over the 2006 objective of $7,890,315. Of that, 28 percent is allocated for the Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries, a three-quarter-percent-of-budget increase over the 2006 allocation. If CP receipts are more than anticipated in 2007, the overage will be divided equally between the SBC and CSBC.

Messengers also approved a slate of nominees to serve on the CSBC executive board, California Baptist Foundation board of directors and California Baptist University board of trustees.

Before approving the nominees, Ron Wilson, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Thousand Oaks, asked whether those nominated had signed an agreement with the BF&M.

“I couldn’t find the part about the Baptist Faith and Message [in the report],” Wilson said. “Have these people all signed on to it? Are they in agreement with it or in opposition to it?”

As a member of the board of trustees for the North American Mission Board, Wilson said he and other trustees “are required to be in agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message. Do we have something similar to that in our convention?”

Such a requirement is not part of the convention’s constitution. Messengers also approved resolutions about abortion and parental notification and affirmation of positive Christian workers in the California public school system.

A resolution had been submitted to the CSBC resolutions committee calling on churches to devise an “exit strategy” from the public school system, citing various moral and spiritual problems associated with the instruction offered by many schools. Among other statements, the original resolution referenced research stating that many children who attend public schools leave the church at age 18 and do not return.

Ron Wilson, who submitted a lengthier resolution, called the committee’s original version “tremendously weak.”

“We are in a cultural war and the common denominator of the children who leave the church is the public school system,” he said. “I believe the resolution needs to say more things about that. This … will be viewed as an endorsement of the public school system.”

Sharon Grubb, a messenger from First Southern Baptist Church in Sylmar, offered an amendment to the original resolution drafted by the committee, asking that it include an encouragement to California Southern Baptists to “whenever possible form Christian clubs in the public schools under the equal access law provided by the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Messengers approved Grubb’s amendment and then the resolutions committee’s version of the resolution.

The resolution asserts that public school systems in California “continue to support moral issues not embraced by California Southern Baptists” and encourages Baptists to “envision and work to implement changes within the California public school system that honor both Christ and our children.”

Another resolution regarding the recent defeat of California’s parental notification proposition called on California Southern Baptists to “publicly express … their grief over the defeat” of the proposition and encouraged CSBC churches to “support and encourage legislation in opposition to abortion and any further degrading of parental rights and authority when dealing with minor children.”

In other business, Martin Davis, a messenger from Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, made a motion that the CSBC executive board examine the benefits that sole membership would provide for the convention under California nonprofit corporation law.

Davis prefaced his motion by saying the CSBC needs to look at sole membership “in light of actions taken by the Southern Baptist Convention concerning their entities over the last decade.”

The motion asked that a report be made to the convention during its next annual meeting which would include recommendations of amendments “to our governing documents that they may deem to be appropriate.”

The motion was referred to the executive board.

Paul Wilkerson, recently retired director of missions for Inland Empire Southern Baptist Association, was elected convention president for 2007 in a runoff with Gerald Squyres, pastor of Huntington Beach Baptist Church in Huntington Beach. Wilkerson succeeds Tom Stringfellow, pastor of First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills, who served consecutive one-year terms, the maximum allowed under the CSBC constitution.

Also elected were Jeff McCulty, pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Santa Monica, first vice president and Daniel Hsu, pastor of Mandarin Baptist Church of San Fernando Valley in Northridge, second vice president. McCulty won over Randy Maynard, pastor of Cornelia Avenue Baptist Church in Fresno, while Hsu was unopposed.

The convention registered 614 messengers, up more than 100 over the 2005 attendance of 507. Guests totaled 312.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 13-14 at the Russian Church of Evangelical Christian Baptists in West Sacramento.

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