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Georgia Baptists adopt record CP budget in harmonious meeting

MACON, Ga. (BP)–The Georgia Baptist Convention, meeting Nov. 12-13 in the Macon Coliseum, elected Valdosta pastor Wayne Robertson as its new president and adopted a record Cooperative Program budget of $48.3 million for 2002. A total of 4,339 registered messengers conducted business in what would have to be classified as a harmonious meeting.

The presidential election included two candidates — Robertson and Preston Williams, a layman from First Baptist Church, Montezuma. Robertson received over 86 percent of the vote, winning 3,348 to 514.

Elected as vice presidents by receiving the largest number of votes in a seven candidate race were: first vice president — James “Boe” Stanley, missionary for Rehoboth Association (3,366 votes); second vice president — Charles Q. Carter, retired pastor of Jonesboro First Church (3,366); third vice president — Allen Hughes, associate pastor of Hebron Church in Dacula (3,046); and fourth vice president — Mary Cox, pastor’s wife from North Metro First Church in Lawrenceville (3,014).

The other candidates were: Drayton Sanders, layman from Dalton First Church; Sarah Withers, layperson from Morrow First Church; and Jenny Merrit, layperson from Shurlington Church in Macon.

Ed Cliburn of Thomaston was re-elected recording secretary of the Convention, a position he has held since 1996. Aubrey L. Hawkins of Roswell and Bob A. Baxter of Mableton were re-elected assistant secretaries.

In other business the Convention elected members to its various committees and boards and adopted resolutions concerning covenant marriage, video poker, foster and adoptive parenting, cloning and stem cell research.

A missions partnership between Georgia Baptists and Baptists in Moldova was approved which will begin in January of 2002. A similar partnership with Romania is still in negotiation but the details must be worked out concerning procedures before that partnership can be approved.

In response to questions raised by messengers from the floor about the financial well being of the Georgia Baptist Health Care System, Charles Carter, chairman of the Health Care System Board, reported that the Health Care System has been involved in an intensive process of re-evaluating its strategic plan. The Board has received permission from the GBC Executive Committee to make some dramatic changes in the direction of the health care ministry and the GBC leadership is being kept informed of their progress. Carter assured the messengers that Georgia Baptists will be informed of the new directions in the near future, but at this point in time confidentiality is required because of sensitive business dealings.

A special resolution of appreciation was presented to Susan Gunby for her many years of service with the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing [beginning in 1968]. Gunby was president of the College when it was an independent institution and has been named dean since the College became a part of Mercer University. Gunby was unable to attend the convention meeting because of her recovery from serious injuries sustained in a traffic accident.

Several Georgia Baptist staff members were honored for their years of service with the Convention. Richard Ferrell, campus minister at Emory University, has celebrated his 30th anniversary with the Convention. Plaques were also presented to Margie Sance, consultant with Georgia Woman’s Missionary Union, 20 years; Fran Waymack, executive assistant to the executive director of the Convention, 15 years, and David Roland, campus minister at Shorter College, 15 years.

Much of the convention’s program was devoted to inspiration. Entities and institutions of the Convention made reports about their successes within the past year and their challenges for the future. J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, delivered the missionary sermon; Robertson, pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, preached the doctrinal sermon; and David R. Smith, president of Brewton-Parker College, presented the education address. Messengers also heard sermons by GBC President Bill Ricketts, pastor of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens; and Junior Hill, evangelist from Hartselle, Ala.

Following his election as president, Wayne appeared in a press conference with his predecessor, Bill Ricketts. Ricketts said it had been a tremendous privilege to serve Georgia Baptists during the past two years and then noted, “I am glad to be handing over the gavel to my good friend, Wayne Robertson.”

In responding to a question about whether there was a conflict between lay and clergy leadership, Robertson said that issue was “meaningless.” He quoted statistics that showed that membership on all the Georgia Baptist Convention committees and boards when taken together was about evenly distributed 50/50 between laity and ministers.

Robertson went on to say, “I feel strongly about the integrity of our leadership. Any way the [GBC] staff could share with me a way I could help them, I would be willing to do so. I see the president’s position as largely a public relations job.”

Robertson has been pastor of Morningside Church in Valdosta for 15 years. The Hartwell native is married to the former Beth Brown of Commerce and they have two daughters, Miranda and Christi. He has been involved in denominational life on many levels, most recently serving as chairman of the GBC Executive Committee, 1998-2000.

Prior to the convention, a Crossover evangelistic effort was held in adjacent Rehoboth Association with significant results. More than 1,650 professions of faith were recorded and 476 people made rededications.

Next year’s Georgia Baptist Convention will be held Nov. 11-12 at the Cobb Galleria Convention Center in Marietta. The doctrinal sermon will be delivered by Ernie Pirkle, pastor of Bull Street Church in Savannah and the missionary sermon will be preached by Mike Minnix, pastor of Lilburn First Baptist Church. The 2003 convention will be held in Columbus.

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  • William Neal