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Pastor attended 65 straight SBC meetings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–For 65 consecutive years, pastor Bill Dodson attended the annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention, and his streak only came to an end this year because a brief illness kept him from traveling.

“I thought it was my responsibility as a pastor and as somewhat of a leader in the state convention and association,” Dodson, pastor of Bell City Baptist Church in Farmington, Ky., said. “I went as a college sophomore and enjoyed it, and I’ve been going ever since.”

Dodson, 84, grew up in the Smokey Mountains and began preaching on the streets of Knoxville, Tenn., when he was saved at age 14, he told Baptist Press. It was as a student at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., that he was sent by his church as a messenger to his first SBC annual meeting in 1945.

A graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dodson’s 67 years as a pastor have included churches in five states and denominational service at the Annuity Board (now GuideStone Financial Resources).

While serving as pastor of First Baptist Church in Martin, Tenn., Dodson was an Annuity Board trustee and later served as chairman from 1979-81. He later took a position at the Annuity Board and established the Adopt an Annuitant (now Mission:Dignity) program in 1981, traveling the country raising funds for retired pastors and their widows.

“In 1987 we left Dallas and I went to First Baptist Church in Benton, Ky., and I was there five years and I retired in 1992,” Dodson said. “Two weeks later I went to Bell City Baptist Church in Graves County, Ky., and I’m still there after 18 years and three months.”

He credited his wife Janelle with serving alongside him faithfully.

“She has an earned Ph.D. and was a college professor from the early ’70s until she retired about seven or eight years ago,” he said.

Regarding his convention attendance, Dodson reiterated that he simply saw it as his duty.

“I’ve always felt that a pastor ought to be involved in the association, the state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. If you’re going to serve a church, they need to be represented in all of these areas,” he said. “I think we have so many pastors that have never attended the Southern Baptist Convention, but I’ve always gone and represented my church.”

Both rural and city pastors should be involved in the decisions the convention makes, Dodson said, adding that 70 percent of SBC churches average fewer than 100 people in Sunday School.

“I think even the rural pastors when they can, their churches ought to send them,” Dodson told BP. “Of course it’s getting so expensive now. It’s difficult for people to go. We plan to go to Phoenix [in 2011], but that’s about a $2,000 trip. I just think every pastor ought to be interested in what the convention is doing. You don’t have a voice if you don’t attend.”

Having lived through a significant portion of SBC history, Dodson expressed approval of the Conservative Resurgence.

“I believe the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, I believe it is God-inspired, and I believe in the integrity of the Bible and the inspiration of the Bible,” Dodson said. “I’ve never had a problem with that. I grew up in a little mountain church of 50 or 60 in Sunday School, and the theology I have today is the same I had at age 14 when I was converted. And I don’t plan to change.”

When asked his thoughts on the Great Commission Resurgence, Dodson replied, “If I had been there, I would have voted against it all the way. I believe that the Great Commission begins at home. You begin in your state, you begin in your nation and around the world.

“When I was with the Annuity Board, I traveled to 38 states. A lot of the money that I raised for the Annuity Board to help old preachers and widows came from the minority states across the Northwest and in the central United States. I traveled to 38 state conventions, and the money needs to be supplied to the pioneer conventions for them to reach people. That would be my take,” he said.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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