JACKSON, Miss. (BP)–Messengers to the Mississippi Baptist Convention annual meeting, although turning away a proposed constitutional amendment to specifically exclude Cooperative Baptist Fellowship members from leadership positions, approved a bylaws amendment encouraging convention loyalty.
A total of 1,413 messengers registered for the Oct. 28-29 meeting at First Baptist Church in Jackson, up from the 1,319 messengers who attended the 2002 annual meeting there.
Messengers elected longtime Mississippi pastor Gene Henderson to serve as the new president.
Henderson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Brandon, was elected by acclamation after no other nominations were made. Henderson was nominated by Eddie Hamilton, director of missions for Metro Baptist Association in Jackson. Chip Henderson, the new president’s son and pastor of Pinelake Baptist Church in Brandon, seconded the nomination.
Gene Henderson will replace Frank Pollard, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Jackson, who was in his second consecutive one-year presidential term and thus ineligible for reelection.
Messengers defeated a constitutional amendment proposed during last year’s annual meeting by Ralph Henson, pastor of Arrowood Baptist Church in Meridian. The motion stated: “I move that the Mississippi Baptist Convention not allow anyone to be employed, elected, or appointed to positions with the Mississippi Baptist Convention if that person is currently serving in an employed, elected, or appointed position with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.” The CBF was founded in the early 1990s as a reaction against the Southern Baptist Convention’s embrace of conservative doctrines.
In accordance with the convention’s constitution, Henson’s motion was referred last year to the convention’s constitutional and bylaws committee for action at this year’s annual meeting.
Attorney Rick Courtney, chairman of the constitution and bylaws committee and a messenger from First Baptist Church in Madison, reported at this year’s meeting that the committee was unanimous in recommending messengers vote against the proposal. The convention obliged, by a vote of 572 (66 percent) against and 376 (34 percent) in favor. The constitution mandates a two-thirds majority for ratifying such amendments.
On Oct. 29, messengers revisited the issue and approved a broader amendment to the convention’s bylaws recommended by the constitutional and bylaws committee. The amendment that passed requires nominees to trusteeships and other positions within the convention to agree to “the highest level of fidelity and loyalty to the mission and purposes of the Convention….” The convention board had previously approved a similar policy to cover board employees.
In other elections, Thad Moore, pastor of Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church in Meridian, was elected by acclamation to serve as the new first vice president, while Archie Herrin, missions director for the Tri-County Baptist Association in Columbia, was reelected to a second consecutive term as second vice president. Herrin defeated Joe Young, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Parchman, by a vote of 653 (59 percent) to 268 (41 percent).
Gus Merritt, retired pastor of Clarke-Venable Baptist Church in Newton, was reelected by acclamation as recording secretary.
Messengers also approved a 2004 Mississippi Cooperative Program budget of $30,854,971, which is $737,816 (2.34 percent) less than the record 2003 budget of $31,592,787. Giving to the Mississippi Cooperative Program has not reached monthly goals in 2003 and likely will fall short of the full budget amount by the end of the year.
The Southern Baptist Convention portion of the 2004 budget will remain steady at 35 percent, or $10,799,240, for the ensuing year.
Mississippi Baptists also celebrated 24 new church starts supported by gifts to the Margaret Lackey State Mission Offering. Ed Deuschle, MBCB church planting director, introduced to messengers the pastors and leaders from those churches who had been invited to attend the annual meeting — many of them for the first time.
Resolutions by messengers included:
— encouraging giving by promoting the Cooperative Program and offerings church wide.
— support for the Federal Marriage Amendment proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.
— support and prayer for U.S. military personnel serving around the world during the war on terrorism.
— appreciation for the Mississippi Woman’s Missionary Union in observance of the organization’s 125th anniversary.
The convention’s 2004 annual meeting will be Oct. 26-27 at First Baptist, Jackson.
William H. Perkins Jr. is editor of The Baptist Record, newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.