WEST MONROE, La. (BP)–An awareness of the value of Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program was evident during the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Nov. 14-15 annual meeting at First Baptist Church in West Monroe.
“Perhaps no other state convention can celebrate the Cooperative Program like Louisiana Baptists,” a post-convention news release from the LBC communications office noted. “Hit by the twin hurricane sisters, Katrina and Rita, the Louisiana Baptist Convention is attempting to directly assist and coordinate national assistance to over 200 churches decimated by the storms.
“The speakers and 1,545 registered messengers at the convention … repeatedly acknowledged that the response to the hurricane-ravaged areas was made possible by the network of Southern Baptist churches faithfully giving to the Cooperative Program.”
LBC Executive Director David Hankins, in his first address during an annual meeting, included video testimonies of pastors whose ministries were significantly impacted by the storms. One pastor shared that as he stood in the middle of the rubble, he wondered if anyone cared. Then he looked up and saw the “Southern Baptist Cavalry” donned with their bright yellow disaster relief shirts who were already on the scene and lending a hand in the name of Jesus.
Encouraging messengers and their churches to further strengthen their participation in the Cooperative Program, Hankins noted that the state missions staff will be making stewardship a priority during 2006. “We will never solve the missions funding problem until we solve the stewardship problem,” he said.
Hankins concluded his challenge by calling for “80-20 churches” — churches that commit themselves to sending 20 percent of their tithes and offerings to ministries outside the local church, extended to the Cooperative Program, local associational support, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions, the Georgia Barnette Offering for State Missions and other ministries.
National leaders Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, and Robert E. Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board, also highlighted the Cooperative Program in their messages to the convention.
Chapman reported that Southern Baptists gave $12.5 million over budget to Cooperative Program causes during the past fiscal year. In September, the Executive Committee voted to allocate the overage to hurricane relief, along with the overage during the new fiscal year’s first quarter. The overage has been allocated in three initiatives: New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 50 percent; North American Mission Board disaster relief operations, 25 percent; and relief needs being channeled through the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama conventions, 25 percent.
“Were it not for the Cooperative Program,” Reccord told messengers, “there would be no way that the disaster relief responders could show up in 48 hours after the storms.”
A resolution of appreciation for the disaster relief help received by Louisianans was among seven adopted by the convention.
Messengers approved a $21 million 2006 budget — down from $22 million this year, a 4.5 percent reduction described as “a step of faith” by LBC communications director John Yeats.
“Some of congregations no longer exist. Some congregations in the track of the storms have damaged and/or flooded buildings and a pastor, but no people,” Yeats noted in a news release. “Some people from the devastated churches are dispersed throughout the nation. Many of the affected live in FEMA housing units at locations too far away to travel to their local churches.
“However, stories continue to be repeated about higher levels of per capita giving by Louisiana churches,” Yeats continued. “Leaders believe part of the reason for the increased giving is because the people who were victimized by the storms can see firsthand the power of the Cooperative Program through disaster relief ministries and the state convention’s coordination of the assistance to the churches.”
In the proposed budget, the Baptist Message newsjournal was slated to receive 2 percent of all state Cooperative Program funds in 2006, down from the 2.3 percent the paper has received this year. In turn, the allocation for state convention programs was set to increase from 43.5 percent to 43.7 percent.
The proposed change drew opposition and, in a ballot vote, a motion to restore the allocation percentage for the paper was approved 687-607.
The amended budget then was approved with little opposition, thus retaining the current allocation percentages into 2006: Southern Baptist Convention programs — 35.5 percent; Louisiana Baptist Convention programs — 43.5 percent; Louisiana College — 15.2 percent; Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home – 2.3 percent; Louisiana Baptist Message — 2.3 percent; and Louisiana Baptist Foundation — 1.2 percent.
In balloting for convention officers, Bill Robertson of Winnsboro was elected president by a 792-540 count, or a 59.5 to 40.5 percent margin, over Jerry Chaddick, an evangelist and member of New Hope Baptist Church in DeQuincy, who had been endorsed by the Louisiana Inerrancy Fellowship, which had successfully endorsed three presidential candidates since 1999, each of whom served two one-year terms.
Both announced nominees affirmed their view of biblical inerrancy and the recent shift in the state convention to a more conservative stance. However, Robertson stated concerns over some of the ways changes were implemented.
In later remarks to messengers, Robertson said he wants to see Louisiana Baptists remain true to Scripture. “But I also want us to practice Scripture,” he said.
Robertson urged Louisiana Baptists not to quarrel among themselves for three key reasons — because of the men they are, because of the mission they are on and because of the message they carry.
“We have the message Louisiana needs to hear,” the new president emphasized. “Jesus lives. Jesus forgives. And Jesus can meet your every need.
“Let’s not fall out along the way. Let’s join together and reach this state.”
For first vice president, messengers elected Wayne DuBose of Minden by an 805-473 count, or a 63-37 percent margin, over Alan Weishampel, pastor of East Ridge Baptist Church in Lake Charles, who also had been endorsed by the Louisiana Inerrancy Fellowship. Collin Wimberly, another fellowship-supported nominee, was elected second vice president by 347 to 286 count, or a 54.8-45.2 percent margin, over Paul Roney, pastor of Riverview Baptist Church in Alexandria.
In other business, messengers turned down a proposed change in operations of the Baptist Message, which has had its own board of trustees since 1965. The proposal would have placed the paper within the convention structure as part of the new communications team led by Yeats, former editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger. Yeats would have become editor of the paper as part of his communications duties.
The move required a two-thirds vote, but it drew only about half that number in a show-of-ballots vote.
The proposal was initiated by Hankins; Baptist Message trustees initially turned down the proposal but then approved it a few months later. Lynn Clayton, the paper’s editor for more than 27 years, has announced plans to retire at the end of the year. Messengers expressed their appreciation for Clayton, who is the longest-tenured editor at the same state paper in the SBC. Baptist Message trustees apparently now begin a new search for an editor.
Among the resolutions adopted by messengers was an appreciation for former SBC President Adrian Rogers, who died Nov. 15. The resolution cited the Tennessee pastor’s longtime ministry and impact for the Gospel and extended sympathy to his family.
Other resolutions cited the importance of a biblical worldview; Louisiana College’s centennial celebration; and confidence in and appreciation for the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation.
In a resolution regarding the Tall Timbers Conference Center, messengers opposed the department’s use of the power of eminent domain to confiscate the conference center’s chapel, director’s residence and entrance while failing to provide fair market for the property.
The convention won a court case and received a jury award of $1.49 million plus legal fees and interest for a total of $1.8 million. The state has appealed the case. The resolution calls for Louisiana Baptists to use their influence with state officials to drop the appeal and pay the jury judgment.
Louisiana College’s new president, Joe Aguillard, reported in his first address to the convention that enrollment figures and financial gifts to the college are up. The college was included in U.S. New and World Report as one of the top 25 percent best comprehensive colleges in the South.
The convention’s Bible studies were led by Tom Elliff, former SBC president and current senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations with the International Mission Board. Elliff exhorted the messengers to touch the world with soul winning, intercessory prayer and by finishing well.
The 2006 annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13-14 at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles.
Adapted from reporting by the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s communications team and the Baptist Message, the convention’s newsjournal.