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Illinois Baptists affirm confessions of faith, CP

PEORIA, Ill. (BP)–A motion to affirm several Baptist statements of faith was approved overwhelming during the Illinois Baptist State Association’s Nov. 7-8 annual meeting in Peoria.

The adopted motion affirms the Baptist Faith and Message of 1925 and its three revisions in 1963, 1998 and 2000 as well as two earlier confessions of faith.

That action prompted the subsequent withdrawal of a first reading of a proposed IBSA constitutional change to incorporate the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message in place of the 1963 version in the convention’s constitution. Also withdrawn was a proposed resolution on unity that had drawn some criticism for being more polarizing than unifying.

In the first miscellaneous business session on Nov. 7, two ministers, a moderate and a conservative, brought a motion to the floor to affirm the six faith statements. Jim Donahue, pastor of Meadow Heights Baptist Church of Collinsville, made the motion, and Lanny Faulkner, director of missions for the Central Baptist Association based in Decatur, was right behind him to offer a second.

“We’re Baptists and we’re best when we stand together,” Faulkner told the annual meeting’s 599 messengers at the Hotel Pere Marquette, standing with Donahue at a microphone in the center of the hall.

“It’s time to put the fighting behind us. It’s time to win Illinois [for Christ],” Faulkner said in an impassioned plea. He said a recent battle with cancer has made him re-evaluate his priorities, and “I want to spend all of my time and energy in winning the lost of Illinois for Christ.”

Pat Stewart, pastor of First Baptist Church of St. Charles, who said he was not speaking either for or against the motion, urged caution. Although he appreciated the spirit of unity, he noted unity cannot exist outside of orthodoxy. “We are a confessional people. We need to be careful that in pursuing unity that we do not compromise truth in the process.”

However, Keith Stanford, a member of First Baptist Church of Springfield, describing the motion as a welcome surprise, said no single faith statement could claim superiority over others. Baptists can have disagreements but must still find their unity in Christ, he said. “I think this is a step toward that, and for this reason I want to be in favor it.”

The motion passed by a vast majority; only a few hands were raised in opposition.

That action led to the chairman of the IBSA constitution and bylaws committee, Gerald Steffy, announcing in the following session that the committee was pulling the first reading of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message off the table. The committee needed more time to study the matter in light of the messengers’ earlier action, Steffy said, and would decide whether to bring the recommendation back next year.

The committee recommended in March that last year’s revisions to the SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs be added to the IBSA constitution, replacing the 1963 version. A constitutional change takes two years and requires two-thirds approval. The committee’s first reading had been expected in Peoria; the second reading and vote would have taken place at the November 2002 IBSA annual meeting.

The following day, the chairman of the resolutions and Christian life committee, Ron Zamkus, said his committee supported withdrawing the unity resolution, which called on Illinois Baptists to move forward no matter how they voted next November on the most recent revisions to the Baptist Faith and Message. Zamkus said the resolution’s author, outgoing IBSA Vice President Pat Pajak, was in agreement.

Several messengers wanted to debate the resolution’s merits and drawbacks, but IBSA President Tim Lewis instructed them to discuss only whether they were for or against pulling it. Like the previous day’s motion on affirming six statements of faith, the motion garnered overwhelming support with only a handful in opposition.

With the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message off the table for now, Lewis told the Illinois Baptist after the annual meeting that he decided not to appoint a six-member planning committee to organize a Baptist Faith and Message forum. The IBSA’s board of directors in September approved funding for the forum, which Lewis conceived as a neutral venue to debate the pros and cons of the faith statement’s revisions before the vote in November 2002. Lewis said he had been ready to announce the names of six people who had agreed to serve on the panel.

Messengers also wrestled with a proposed resolution criticizing the actions of “other Southern Baptist entities” that have directed funding away from the Cooperative Program financial partnership in which local churches support the work of their state conventions and the national Southern Baptist Convention. Redirecting those dollars threatened the financial stability of the six Southern Baptist seminaries that receive Cooperative Program dollars and potentially placed hardships on their students, the resolution said.

The resolution was one of three new measures that the resolutions and Christian life committee considered in a meeting after the first night of the convention.

In convention deliberations over the resolution, some messengers said it is inappropriate for Illinois Baptists to criticize the actions of another autonomous group of Baptists. Others disagreed, pointing out that Illinois Baptists would surrender their own autonomous right to speak out on issues simply because another body had taken the first action.

Although the resolution did not name specific bodies, several messengers mentioned the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which approved major changes to its adopted budget last year that reduced funding to the six seminaries and two entities of the national SBC. The BGCT channeled those dollars to seminaries within its own state as well as other ministries.

Not only did Luther McEntire of Victory Baptist Church of DeKalb call the resolution “inflammatory and impugning on the rights of other Southern Baptists,” he did not believe it was accurate to imply the six seminaries were suffering financially.

Tom Rains, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Quincy and a trustee at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said other Southern Baptist bodies have stepped up to the plate to help the seminaries. “I can assure you,” he said, “that every seminary board of trustees looked at this” to evaluate the ramifications of the BGCT’s decision.

The full resolution received decisive support from messengers after an attempt to amend the resolution was solidly rejected to strike a paragraph that objects to other Southern Baptist organizations that have redirected their Cooperative Program dollars.

Messengers approved a IBSA budget of $9,167,000, up 5.43 percent over the current budget, including anticipated Cooperative Program giving from Illinois churches of $6,898,000. Of the CP Missions gifts, 42.25 percent will be allocated for SBC causes, a half-percent-of-CP Missions increase.

Messengers elected four new officers — three ministers and one layperson — representing different regions of the state. Larry Richmond, executive pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon and a former IBSA staff member, won a 15-vote runoff victory, 242-227, over Keith Stanford of First Baptist Church of Springfield and also a former IBSA staff member. A third nominee, Meadow Heights’ Jim Donahue, was eliminated on the first ballot. Messengers had to vote for the office of president twice because none of the three nominees received a majority vote, required by the constitution, in the first round.

Richmond was one of two pastors whose candidacies had been announced before the annual meeting.

Don Sharp, pastor of Faith Tabernacle Baptist of Chicago and a former IBSA president, was elected vice president by a 362-110 vote over Andre Dobson, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Alton, who was the other candidate announced prior to the annual meeting.

Elected in uncontested races respectively as recording secretary and assistant recording secretary were Lynn Martin, minister of music of Springfield Southern Baptist Church, and Jeanette Cloyd, a member of Como First Baptist Church of Sterling and president of the Illinois Woman’s Missionary Union.

The four new officers reflected a diverse picture of Illinois Baptists, which had been a concern some messengers had expressed about the makeup of the recently chosen search committee for the IBSA’s next executive director. The IBSA officers include Cloyd, a woman and a layperson, and Sharp, an African American. They also represent separate regions of the state: Richmond from the southwest, Martin from the central region, and Cloyd and Sharp from the north.

Concern over the makeup of the search committee for the IBSA’s next executive director was voiced by Don Johnson, pastor of Destiny Baptist Church of Rock Island, who, during a miscellaneous business session, described the committee as lacking solid geographical, gender and racial representation from across the state.

The 72-member IBSA board of directors, in a special meeting on Oct. 18, chose seven of its own members, all pastors, in a secret-ballot vote to serve on the search committee. The IBSA’s constitution calls for the search committee to be made up of board members.

Five of the seven were from southwestern Illinois; none of the women or minority board members were elected. A layman was selected as one of the two alternates; he will participate in the search process but cannot vote unless he replaces one of the seven.

Outgoing IBSA board President Tim Lewis, describing an article in the Illinois Baptist newspaper that reported on the makeup of the committee as a “somewhat unfortunate emphasis,” said the lack of diverse representation was not done in an “intentional, prejudicial fashion.”

“I’m very sensitive to what you are saying,” Lewis told Johnson. He said he had already spoken with newly elected IBSA President Larry Richmond, who said he was mindful of those concerns and would seek to expand involvement in some way.

“Is not the action of the board subject to this present body?” Michael Brown, pastor of First Baptist Church of Winthrop Harbor in the northeastern section of the state, asked.

Lewis said messengers to the annual meeting can give direction to the board but cannot instruct it to violate its own constitution. A change to the constitution takes two years and must receive two-thirds approval.

At its October special meeting, the board of directors did set conditions on which its members could be elected to the search committee, voting to limit the committee to no more than three members who were rotating off the board in November. Ballots were marked with asterisks beside the names of all board members who were completing their terms in November. As it turned out, only two of the seven were members whose terms had wrapped up.

Asked by the Illinois Baptist about setting similar parameters to ensure the inclusion of women, minorities or people from different geographic regions, Lewis said such a scenario could have been arranged but it would have been a logistical nightmare to execute. Further, by setting so many conditions, the board could have been perceived as trying to manipulate certain candidates for selection. The fairest method was to distribute ballots with every board member’s name and ask each board member to choose any seven.

The larger issue, Lewis said, is the full board has a limited pool of women and minority board members who could have been considered for the search committee.

In addition to the Cooperative Program resolution, Illinois Baptists:

— expressed appreciation to the association’s former executive director, Bob Wiley, who “passionately and lovingly served [the association] from 1996 until 2001.” The resolution noted that the association “saw significant statistical growth” in baptisms, church starts and missions giving and that Wiley “opened the eyes of [the association] to the great evangelistic needs in Illinois through prayer-walking our great state.” Wiley also was commended for the example of his personal involvement in partnership missions in Kazakhstan and Bulgaria.

— called for Illinois churches “to devote a special time of prayer for our nation in at least one Sunday service each month,” joining in a call to prayer issued by SBC President James Merritt and SBC Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman.

— encouraged elected officials, pastors and all Christians “to speak out against legalizing medical suicide.”

— encouraged churches to provide enrichment opportunities to strengthen traditional marriage “as ordained by God” and to provide “loving care, counseling and ministry to the divorced and their family.”

— affirmed and promised to pray for state law enforcement personnel who seem to receive “very little praise for a job well done.”

In the convention sermon, Richard Newcom, pastor of Whitelaw Avenue Baptist Church of Wood River, called for a return to passionate prayer. “The state convention that prays together,” Newcom said, “pulls together and has no party spirit.”

That prayer revival has to begin with pastors, Newcom said, urging them to form prayer groups with other pastors in their regions and to dedicate significant time to individual prayer. “God expects more from the man of God than a 15-minute quiet time,” he said.

“If we’re going to have praying churches, it’s caught from the example of praying pastors.” And that’s precisely why Satan wants to keep pastors so busy that they don’t devote time to prayer, Newcom said. “If your people knew how much time you actually spent on your knees each day, would you be ashamed?” In a time of potential doctrinal divisiveness, Newcom asked if prayer could be the catalyst to unite Illinois Baptists. “Could we be known as the state that, rather than fight it out, prayed it through?”

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 6-7 at First Baptist Church, O’Fallon.

    About the Author

  • Michael Leathers