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Intelligent design among topics addressed at S.C. meeting

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–Messengers to the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s Nov. 15-16 annual meeting adopted a $32.15 million budget for 2006 and passed a resolution urging that public school students be exposed to alternatives to evolution, such as Intelligent Design.

The CP allocation budget is the same as last year’s SCBC budget and reflects a 60-40 split between state missions and ministries and Southern Baptist Convention causes, with $19 million remaining in South Carolina and $12.7 million being passed along for outreach through the SBC nationally and internationally.

Mike Moody, chairman of the budget and audit committee of the SCBC executive board, reported that Cooperative Program gifts received from churches are “on track” to meet the current budget. Moody expressed the ongoing concern of convention leaders about the decreasing percentage of CP gifts from churches, noting that the amount has dropped from 9.15 percent to 8.27 percent in the past decade.

As a part of the executive board report, Marshall Blalock, chairman of the Empowering Kingdom Growth evaluation and implementation task force, informed the nearly 1,075 registered messengers at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center that the proposed Great Commission Initiative, which had been approved by the board during its October meeting, was rescinded during a special called meeting of the board in Columbia two weeks prior to the annual meeting.

While Blalock reported that the initiative had been rescinded in recognition of reservations expressed by the state convention’s institutional leaders over the proposed drop in allocations, he said it was the task force’s prayer that the convention would be “restless until we fulfill the vision” set forth when it adopted EKG II in 2001. That vision, he recapped, called for 500 new churches, 100,000 people baptized and 250,000 missions volunteers by 2007.

“The reality for us is that we, as a convention, are not making progress,” said Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston. While the SCBC adopted the ambitious goals, the convention had not changed its budget or approved the necessary leadership steps, leaving it with “no workable plan to reach the vision that we’ve announced,” Blalock said.

During the board’s report, Cliff Satterwhite, SCBC director of disaster relief, expressed appreciation for the $1.7 million given by South Carolina Baptist churches to support disaster relief work along the Gulf Coast and in Florida following recent hurricanes and after the tsunami in South Asia. Gifts from churches to the Cooperative Program, Satterwhite emphasized, allowed the convention to send money for recovery projects and to staff a disaster relief command center at the convention building for more than 80 days to coordinate the work of South Carolina Baptist volunteers.

Don Wilton, pastor of the 6,700-member First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, for the past 12 years, was elected as president of the convention for 2006. Wilton received 334 votes while Don Brock, pastor of Gateway Baptist Church in Irmo, received 231 votes for the office.

Wilton, a frequent speaker at state conventions, pastors’ conferences and revivals, will deliver the convention sermon for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro next June. A native of South Africa, Wilton has been an associate professor of preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and also served as pastor of churches in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Other convention officers for 2006, all elected by acclamation, include Richard Porter, pastor of Branchville Baptist Church in Branchville, first vice president; Rodney Hord, pastor of Juniper Bay Baptist Church in Conway, second vice president; Frankie Lott, ministry assistant at Crowfield Baptist Church in Goose Creek, recording secretary; and Jeff Whaley, pastor of Return Baptist Church in Seneca, registration secretary.

Bylaw revisions further defining the phrase “cooperating Baptist churches in the state,” limiting trustee membership to instate churches, and declaring the Bible as the supreme authority for its activities and decisions, were among the eight changes adopted at the meeting.

Among the nine resolutions adopted by the messengers were statements expressing their support for a state constitutional amendment on marriage and the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools and their opposition to human embryonic research.

In asserting the urgency of voting for the proposed constitutional amendment on marriage in the 2006 general election, South Carolina Baptists not only committed themselves to pray for passage of legislation opposing legalization of same-sex unions, they also urged Christians “to strengthen their bonds of love and commitment to their children and to model biblical marriage in the home.”

Maintaining that the education of South Carolina public school students should expose them to alternatives to the theory of evolution, the messengers expressed support for the teaching of Intelligent Design, which attributes creation to a higher power.

They also called upon President Bush and Congress to uphold the existing ban on the use of tax dollars to support stem cell research that requires the destruction of human embryos, while encouraging the development of alternative treatments.

Commending South Carolina Baptists who have already been engaged in giving, going and helping those affected by recent hurricanes, the messengers resolved to encourage others to “be ready for, and responsive to, opportunities afforded by disaster relief ministry to share Jesus Christ … in the wake of these natural disasters.”

Messengers also expressed pride and support for the American military while eagerly anticipating the day when the troops can return home, and they encouraged all South Carolina Baptists to pray regularly for the president and to stand with him in opposing global terrorism.

In other approved resolutions, the messengers noted the 80th anniversary of the Cooperative Program and called on every church to “systematically increase” its CP giving; recommitted their churches to the SCBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis and to spiritual awakening in South Carolina; and affirmed that believers should possess, maintain and express a Christian world view in every area of life.

The convention’s 2006 annual meeting will be Nov. 14-15 at First Baptist Church in Taylors.
Adapting from reporting by Todd Deaton of the Baptist Courier, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

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