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Ga. Baptists celebrate White’s 10th anniversary

MARIETTA, Ga. (BP)–The Georgia Baptist Convention, meeting Nov. 11-12 in Marietta’s Cobb Galleria, adopted a record Cooperative Program budget of $50-million and gave special recognition to J. Robert White on his 10th anniversary as the convention’s executive director.

A total of 2,737 messengers were registered for the meeting, down significantly from last year’s attendance of 4,337.

Among various Southern Baptist leaders on hand to honor White were Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee; Jimmy Draper, president of LifeWay Christian Resources; and Carlisle Driggers, executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

During the special recognition, White was presented with the M.E. Dodd Award in recognition of a lifetime of service in promoting the Cooperative Program. The Georgia Baptist Convention now leads all state Baptist conventions in total gifts to Southern Baptist causes through the Cooperative Program.

The 2003 budget will divide Cooperative Program gifts equally between national and state causes, after subtracting 13.06 percent for shared responsibilities, which includes such items as administrative and promotional expenses that relate to national and state causes and the convention’s portion of contributions to ministers’ retirement accounts with the Annuity Board. The Georgia convention and SBC will thus each receive 43.75 percent of Cooperative Program receipts.

The convention meeting proceeded with little controversy. A proposed amendment to the constitution that would have required half the members of the Convention’s executive committee to be laypersons was soundly defeated. The majority of executive committee members are currently ministers, but most are nominated by local associations that are free to nominate laity or clergy to represent them. Those who spoke against the proposed amendment expressed concern for maintaining associational autonomy, which might be compromised by changing the current process.

The ongoing dispute between the convention and Shorter College trustees over the method for selecting college trustees was referred to the convention’s executive committee for further negotiation, thus averting a showdown on the floor of the convention. The convention elected new trustees but the majority of current Shorter trustees may refuse to seat them. If so, college officials and the executive committee will have to decide what legal options are available to each of them. The convention voted to hold all allocations budgeted for Shorter College in escrow with the Georgia Baptist Foundation until the dispute has been resolved.

Messengers voted to extend the convention’s missions partnership with the Utah-Idaho Baptist Convention, and recognized delegates from its newest partnership country, Moldova. The Georgia Baptist Convention also has current mission partnerships with California, New York and France.

Sonny Purdue, the newly elected governor of Georgia, made an appearance at the convention to ask Georgia Baptists for their prayers as he prepared to take office in January. Purdue, a member of Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins, is the first Georgia Baptist to hold the office of governor since 1983, and the first Republican to be elected since Reconstruction days following the Civil War.

Another governor, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, also was a guest of the convention, speaking to messengers at a Sunday night rally prior to the beginning of the convention. He had just been re-elected governor six days earlier.

Without any opposition, Wayne Robertson, pastor of Morningside Baptist Church, was elected by acclamation to a second one-year term as state president, along with Bob Bagley, a director of missions in northwest Georgia, as first vice president; Mark Harris, pastor of Curtis Baptist Church in Augusta, second vice president; Charles Drummond, pastor of Shorter Avenue Baptist Church in Rome, third vice president; and John Crooks, staff member at Roswell Street Church in Marietta, fourth vice president.

The convention passed a resolution that called for keeping the phrase “one nation under God” as part of the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. Other resolutions supported religious liberty, called for the prohibition of partial-birth abortion, and endorsed the new Southern Baptist emphasis on “Empowering Kingdom Growth.”

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 10-11 at the Columbus Municipal Auditorium.

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  • William Neal