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DULUTH, Ga. (BP)–Georgia Baptists meeting in Duluth, Ga., Nov. 13-14 dedicated a new multi-million-dollar ministry center, adopted a record Cooperative Program budget and finalized a separation with Mercer University.
It was the 185th annual meeting for messengers, who capped the first day’s events by taking part in the dedication of the new Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center. The center, accented by powerful symbols of Georgia Baptists’ faith and mission, was dedicated in a ceremony in the facility’s Louie D. Newton Chapel. The hundreds of people attending the ceremony participated in a litany, which proclaimed, “We, your people, dedicate this building for the purpose of sharing the gospel of Christ throughout Georgia and to the ends of the earth.”
The budget for the land and construction of the new mission and ministry center was $43,500,000, GBC Executive Director J. Robert White said, adding that the total cost of the completed facility was going to be less than the budgeted amount. It was announced that the amount to be financed is $19,540,314 and that the loan should be paid in full within 10 years.
Georgia Baptists adopted a record Cooperative Program budget of $52,000,000, including a challenge budget of $1,472,000 for 2007.
“There is not a better way to accomplish our Acts 1:8 responsibility than through the Cooperative Program,” White said. “The Cooperative Program helps us touch our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world in the most effective way. If there was no Cooperative Program we would have to invent something just like it in order to accomplish our mission.”
Present receipts to the Cooperative Program represent a 1.67 percent increase over the same time last year.
The convention also voted to enter into partnerships with the Yucatan Peninsula on the east coast of Mexico and the western regions of Canada including Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory. In Mexico, the emphasis will be on strengthening existing Baptist churches, planting churches, developing a seminary extension as well as a Bible institute, and training indigenous church planters. In Canada the focus will be on evangelism and church planting. These two partnerships will begin in January and continue through December of 2012.
In other matters, messengers finalized a split with Mercer.
Wayne Robertson, pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, told the convention that all of the constitutional requirements had been met to facilitate the discontinuation of the relationship, and he made a motion that a final vote be taken to finalize the discontinuation; the motion was approved by an overwhelming majority of messengers. It was the second consecutive year that such a motion passed.
According to the memorandum of agreement established by the executive director of the convention and former Mercer President Kirby Godsey, the convention’s capital improvement and endowment program (CIEP) funds designated for Mercer and accumulated since 1955 will be transferred to the university. The funds for Mercer totaled $25,500,000 (including individual trusts). Because of the convention’s obligation to the students at Mercer, the 2007 CP budget formula support and allocations will be paid to Mercer in the approximate amount of $3,412,000. This will be paid in accordance with normal distribution of Cooperative Program amounts. After 2007 there will be no more CIEP or CP allocations to Mercer University.
Fred Evers, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Tifton, presented four recommendations from the institutional task force. The first recommendation provided that the Georgia Baptist Convention be designated as the sole member of the institutions and agencies of the convention. The other recommendations were designed to implement the concept of sole membership.
“Sole membership is a legal term used by non-profit organizations,” convention attorney Tom Duvall said. “Our institutions were incorporated before we had a non-profit corporation code. Sole membership will mean that our institutions will have one shareholder -– the Georgia Baptist Convention. We want to be clear that the convention is the sole member and that we have the rights set forth in the Georgia non-profit code.”
White added, “What this means is that no one can steal our institutions without our approval.”
To guarantee that the convention has the right to control the selection of the trustees of its institutions, Article VI, Section 7 of the constitution was amended to specify that the convention is in no way obligated to nominate trustees from names received from the institutions.
“This gives our nominating committee the right to insure that those who sit on our trustee boards are the same kind of people who sit on our pews on Sunday,” White said.
In another action, messengers approved a motion made by Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, who recommended that the messengers accept the Lanier Baptist Association, comprised of 16 churches, located in Dawson and Forsyth Counties, as an association of the Georgia Baptist Convention and to grant it representation on the Executive Committee. The new association will be included in the existing North Central Area Missions Program, served by area missionary Richard Poe.
In the election of officers Wayne Hamrick was re-elected without opposition. Bucky Kennedy, pastor of First Baptist in Vidalia, was elected first vice president. Jim Perdue, pastor of North Cross Church in Cumming, was elected second vice president. Herman Parker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bremen, was elected third vice president. Cindy Evers of Northside Baptist Church in Tifton was elected fourth vice president.
There were 1,694 registered messengers representing 626 churches.
Next year’s meeting will take place Nov. 12-13 in Augusta.
Based on reporting by J. Gerald Harris.