News Articles

Hispanic Baptists clarify constitution, elect officers

ST. LOUIS (BP)–Ensuring the organization’s constitution and bylaws clearly reflect their vision, purpose and process, participants in the National Fellowship of Hispanic Southern Baptist Churches voted in their 15th annual meeting for 25 changes the executive secretary described as “minor.”

They stopped short, however, of clearly indicating support of the Baptist Faith and Message adopted by messengers at the 2000 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla.

The changes were proposed during the business session on the second day of the June 8-9 meeting at Fee Fee Baptist Church in St. Louis just prior to the June 11-12 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Most of the modifications are necessary because of differences in expression and words throughout the varied Hispanic communities represented by 23 distinct cultures, said the fellowship’s executive secretary, Julio Fuentes, minister of education at Northside Baptist Church in Hialeah, Fla.

The constitution committee’s motion to substitute support of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message for the current reference to the 1963 statement document was a further attempt at making sure everything in the constitution is correct, Fuentes said in an interview.

Herberto Becerra, the fellowship’s outgoing president who presided as moderator, explained the committee’s intent on including the BF&M motion. “It says we are in agreement with the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message; now we need to update it,” said Becerra, pastor of First Hispanic Baptist Church, Plantation, Fla. “If we vote on the new one, then we are up to date with the SBC.”

Speaking to clarify the motion, David Galvan, a trustee at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and a former second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told participants that missionaries of the SBC International Mission Board and North American Mission Board had been asked to sign the document. Galvan, in subsequent comments, spoke in favor of the motion to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

Offering an amendment to the motion, Raul Vasquez, director of the Language Missions Division at the Florida Baptist Convention, said he was in favor of leaving out any reference to any year.

After limited discussion, John Silva, a regional director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said any move to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message might exclude Texas and other state conventions from the fellowship.

The motion to amend the original motion passed handily with only a few dissenting votes from the nearly 80 participants.

“What has been approved is that we submit to the Baptist Faith and Message that is approved by the Southern Baptist Convention regardless [of any year],” Becerra said in an attempt to explain the proceedings.

Another question prompting some discussion concerned the constitution’s wording about who may serve as an elected officer of the fellowship. Fuentes said the wording already exists, but its intent may not be widely understood. He said the constitution already specifies that an SBC official, which he says means any SBC entity or state convention employee, may not serve as an elected official.

“We don’t want to reproduce the SBC,” Fuentes said in an interview. “We need the liberty and the opportunity to do something different from the denomination.”

Recognizing that the new slate of officers presented by the nominations committee included a state convention employee, Fuentes said more careful adherence to the policy would be applied to future elections.

Several of the constitutional changes will be voted on again next year after further review by the fellowship’s legal committee, Fuentes said.

Officers elected for 2002-2003 are: president, Augusto Valverde, pastor of Resurrection Baptist Church, Miami; first vice president, Moises Rodriguez, pastor of Primera Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas; second vice president, Richard Vara, pastor of Emmanuel Church, Edgewater, Colo.; secretary, Samuel Gonzales, NAMB church planter in Missouri; treasurer, Andres Panasiuk, a member of Blackshear Place Baptist Church, Gainesville, Ga.; and executive secretary, Fuentes.

In other motions and reports, the fellowship:

— voted to invite the National Hispanic Advisory Council to be an official auxiliary of their organization. The president is Raul Vasquez and other members are representatives of state conventions and SBC entities.

— voted to set aside the second Sunday in October annually as a National Day of Fellowship and to communicate the move to the SBC Executive Committee.

— heard a report from the vision and strategy committee on new statements to be considered for inclusion in the constitution:

“Vision: The fellowship shall be the organization that will unite to mobilize Baptists in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

“Mission: The fellowship exists to unite Hispanic people in an efficient fellowship that supports the churches in their fulfillment of their mission in the world.

“Objectives: 1) Promotion of unity among Hispanic churches; 2) To equip and mobilize a new generation of leaders; 3) Support the movement of missionaries both nationally and internationally; 4) Encourage the churches to encourage and start new congregations; 5) Promote the intentional formation of Christian families; 6) Assist the pastors in education, fellowship and orientation; and 7) Identify and promote ministers and others to be involved in the fellowship’s activities.

“Fundamentals: The local church, healthy doctrine, unity, fellowship, proclamation, Christian family, integrity, cultural identity, and freedom.”
Joni B. Hannigan worked with translator Eliseo Aldape and Julio Fuentes.

    About the Author

  • Joni B. Hannigan