MARYVILLE, Ill. (BP)–Wendell Lang was installed as executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association during the Nov. 5-6 annual meeting hosted by First Baptist Church in Maryville.
A former president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and pastor of First Baptist Church in Pryor, Okla., Lang told Illinois Baptists there are 8.2 million reasons why he would leave his grandson and move to Illinois.
“We have 8.2 million lost people in this state,” he said. “That’s why I am here.”
Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Oklahoma convention, said at the installation service that Lang’s leadership abilities can be compared to those of Moses, Joshua and other great biblical leaders.
“Whenever God is ready to do something great with His people, God calls a great leader,” Jordan said. “I believe God has done this with Wendell.”
Lang has been serving as executive director since February.
Attendance at the two-day meeting included 512 messengers and 77 visitors. Fifteen churches were accepted as new members of the association.
Messengers elected Donald Sharp, pastor of Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church in Chicago, president; Fred Winters, pastor of First Baptist Church in Maryville, vice president; and Carole Seeley of First Baptist Church in Macon, recording secretary. All were the lone nominees for the positions.
Bill Eller, pastor of Freedom Fellowship in Belvidere and chairman of the association’s Board Size Study Committee, recommended that the IBSA board be reduced from 72 members to 33. Research from nonprofit agency consultants helped the committee determine that the current number has been too large to manage and was inefficient, he said.
Gary Mathis, director of missions for the Union Baptist Association, spoke in opposition to the plan, suggesting that a system that provides one representative from each association would better reflect the views of Illinois Baptists as a whole. After some discussion, messengers approved the motion to receive the report and to refer it to the Constitution and Bylaws Committee.
Messengers also debated a Constitution and Bylaws Committee report addressing the affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message.
Larry Shacklee, chairman of the committee, presented the first resolution, which pertained to the doctrines and confessions of faith of the churches of the IBSA. The section that caused much discussion reads as follows:
“We affirm that the Baptist Faith and Message adopted in 1925 and revised in 1963, 1998 and 2000 represents a consensus of Baptist beliefs for general instruction and guidance. These documents may be used by local churches and associations and contain statements of Christian convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, affirming historic Baptist beliefs.”
Pat Stewart, a messenger from First Baptist Church in St. Charles, asked that the resolution be sent back to the committee so that the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message might be adopted as the official statement of faith for Illinois Baptists. He said a stronger endorsement of the 2000 BF&M is important because it relates to current issues such as homosexuality and a woman’s role in marriage.
“This would clarify our current theological stance,” he said. “We need a single statement in order to establish a clear standard of what we believe.”
A motion to lay aside the matter for future consideration was defeated, and the original resolution passed overwhelmingly.
Messengers approved a 2004 budget of $5,642,732, a decrease of $48,317 from the previous year. Allocations of Cooperative Program receipts remain the same, with as 57.75 percent to the IBSA general fund and 42.25 percent to Southern Baptist international and national causes.
Larry Richmond, the association’s outgoing president, spoke about four things Jesus prayed for the disciples during His last days. Those four things, Richmond said, were for joy in their works, protection from the world, holiness and spiritual maturity and a unity akin to that which was found in the Father and the Son.
“Unity is massively important to God,” Richmond said. “We should not divide over whether or not the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is the sole statement of our faith. We should not divide over the number of officers or committee members. We need to be problem solvers, not cause problems.”
Richmond concluded by saying he has confidence in the IBSA because he has confidence in God.
“We’re on the doorstep of something great here in Illinois, and Wendell Lang is going to lead us there,” he said.
Kevin Cosby, pastor of St. Stephens Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., preaching the annual sermon, compared Christians to a colony for Christ much like the Romans were a colony.
“Paul says to the Christians at Philippi, ‘Now that you are saved, now that you are Christians, you are not a Roman colony, you are on display for heaven. You are a colony for heaven,'” Cosby said.
Lang, in his installment address, introduced Illinois Baptists’ partnership with the “New Hope, New York” initiative.
“In an economic downfall, it’s imperative that we invest in direct and indirect missions,” he said. “I encourage you to do direct missions. I believe so much in direct missions that I have challenged every one of our staff to participate in direct missions.”
Illinois also partners with Bulgaria. Vasil Vasilev, vice president of the Bulgarian Baptist Union, addressed the association and spoke of his appreciation of Illinois Baptists and the work being done in his country. This year, more than 90 people on 13 teams traveled from Illinois to Bulgaria for mission work.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 10-11 at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Tinley Park.
With reporting by Pamela Hammonds & Ron Wenzel.