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Ga. Baptists increase budget, boost CP giving

MARIETTA, Ga. (BP) — A brand new Georgia Baptist Convention reinvented for a new era in ministry was unveiled to messengers at the 194th annual meeting of the state convention. Messengers, meeting at Roswell Street Baptist Church on Nov. 9-10, also approved a 2016 budget of $40,600,000, a modest $200,000 increase over the current year’s budget and the first increase in six years.

Messengers also approved a full two-percentage point increase in Cooperative Program gifts to Southern Baptist Convention ministries in the budget. The total giving to national ministries including designated funds is 53.95 percent.

A portion of the annual Cooperative Program budget includes funds allowed by the SBC to remain in the state. These funds, frequently referred to as “shared causes,” include the promotion of the Cooperative Program by state convention employees and media as well as the bookkeeping expense of collecting the funds, recording them, and sending one check each month to the SBC. That process, shouldered by state conventions, avoids individual churches sending thousands of checks each month to the SBC Executive Committee.

53.95% forwarded to SBC Executive Committee

GBC Executive Director J. Robert White reported that Georgia Baptists gave a total of $62,096,469 in mission gifts — including Cooperative Program and designated gifts such as Mission Georgia, Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon missions offerings throughout the Oct. 2014-Sept. 2015 church year. The state convention forwarded $33,498,449 (53.95 percent) to the SBC.

“We are so thankful for our churches who support missions in Georgia and around the world,” White said.

White noted 55 percent of the debt servicing line item, which was no longer needed due to the debt on the Missions Center being retired through a gift of the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation, was being added to the state’s Cooperative Program funds that are forwarded to the SBC.

Those new funds, which equal two percentage points, will result in an additional $429,493 to the International Mission Board, $194,171 to the North American Mission Board, $188,803 to the six seminaries, $25,475 to SBC operations, and $14,508 to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

New identity for GBC

White rolled out the reinvention of the state convention and its new name — Georgia Baptist Mission Board — during his report to messengers. The new name and structure will take place on January 1.

The current name does not sufficiently describe the agency’s focus — missions — and, White said, the new name would position it closer to the missionary-sending entity that it has become.

The change could result in the eventual sale of the Baptist Missions and Mission Center on Sugarloaf Parkway, whenever a suitable offer is received, with minimal staff relocated to a much smaller facility. The convention will slowly move toward field-based personnel and practitioners to save on overhead costs and bring state missionaries closer to the field.

The commissioning service for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board will be held for staff in a special chapel service on Jan. 5. Mark Hearn, pastor of Baptist Church of Duluth, will be the guest speaker. While not open to the public due to space limitations, the service will be live streamed. Check The Christian Index website (christianindex.org) closer to the date of the service for more information.

Hammond elected president

Messengers elected First Baptist Alpharetta pastor Thomas Hammond as president, succeeding outgoing two-year-term President Don Hattaway, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville. Serving alongside Hammond will be vice presidents Kevin Williams of First Baptist Villa Rica, Robby Foster of Northside Baptist in Valdosta, Brad Waters of First Baptist Hazlehurst, and Mark Sterling of Curtis Baptist in Augusta.

Hattaway delivered the President’s Sermon, drawn from the book of Jonah. He likened modern-day Georgia to ancient Nineveh and its penchant for perverted lifestyles.

Barry Snapp, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Rockmart, delivered the Missionary Sermon based on John 1 and titled “Bring Them to Jesus.” Snapp urged those present to take the Gospel to those in their communities.

61 new congregations added

GBC Executive Committee member and pastor of First Baptist Newnan Jimmy Patterson announced that Georgia Baptists welcomed 61 new congregations into their fellowship during the 2014-15 church year. Most noteworthy, though, was that 51 percent of the congregations are non-Anglo/non-white, the highest percentage of new congregations in GBC history.

Patterson also noted that, continuing the trend toward greater ethnic diversity, First Baptist Church of Iranians in Lanier Association was among those welcomed into the Georgia Baptist family. It is the first Iranian church plant in GBC history and is being sponsored by First Baptist Church of Cumming in cooperation with NAMB’s Send Atlanta emphasis. It is housed at First Alpharetta due to the larger concentration of Iranians.

The closing session featured a message from Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas.

Messengers approved a motion from pastor Jean Ward, president of the Georgia Baptist African-American Fellowship, for the state convention’s constitution to be amended to allot one seat on the GBC Executive Committee to the fellowship. Ward, as president of the group, would represent the fellowship on the committee.

The Order of Business Committee recommended the motion be referred to the Executive Committee who, in turn, would report to the 2016 meeting of the Convention.

1,404 messengers registered

A total of 1,404 messengers attended this year’s meeting at Roswell Street Baptist, up 148 from the 1,256 who attended the 2014 meeting at Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon.

A record-breaking 28,939 backpacks were collected by Georgia Baptists for underprivileged children in Appalachia. This year’s goal was 25,000.

Calvary Baptist Temple in Savannah will host the 195th annual meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention on Nov. 14 and 15, 2016.

The 2016 doctrinal sermon will be delivered by Jim Perdue, pastor of Second Baptist Church of Warner Robins. Alternate will be Jason Jones, pastor of Isabella Baptist Church in Sylvester.

The 2016 missionary sermon will be presented by Andy Childs, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Toccoa while alternate will be Jerry Dockery, pastor of Crabapple First Baptist Church in Alpharetta.

The following year the 2017 annual meeting will be held Nov. 13 and 17 at North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville.