News Articles

Penn./Jersey Baptists consider altering convention structure

Click here for a roundup of all state annual meeting reports.

LANCASTER, Pa. (BP)–A plan to reorganize the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey into a Baptist Resource Network to serve local churches in a more strategic fashion was presented to messengers during their Nov. 2-3 annual meeting in Lancaster, Pa. The plan will continue to be explored during the coming year.

David Waltz, the convention’s executive director, delivered a report from the task force charged with considering the implications of moving to a Baptist Resource Network concept. Under the concept, local churches would benefit by having easier access to services vital to accomplishing their ministry goals.

The task force concluded that the timing is conducive for the convention to alter its structure because it is in an overall position of strength, which is the best time to initiate change. Also, the task force’s review of a decade of statistical data indicated some areas of weakness, Waltz said.

The state convention area would be divided into four regions, and each would have a team consisting of current association and state staff funded by Cooperative Program giving. Each staff person would be assigned 15 churches under the new structure, which the task force said could be presented to messengers for implementation by November 2008.

“I’m so glad it is [God’s] work and not mine,” Waltz said in asking for prayer for the convention’s executive board and himself to have insight to do the right thing. “He’ll lead us in the challenging days ahead. I was really pleased that the executive board and the convention would be willing to risk considering the concept of the Baptist Resource Network. The next six to eight months are critical as we flesh out the details.”

Messengers elected Keith Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, as president; Diann Douglas, a member of Wrightsdale Baptist Church in Peach Bottom, Pa., first vice president; and Tommy Brown, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Somerset, Pa., second vice president.

Including an anticipated $967,783 in Cooperative Program giving from Pennsylvania and New Jersey churches in the coming year, messengers approved an overall 2007 budget of $3.4 million, up from $3.3 million during the current year. The convention will forward 24.9 percent of Cooperative Program funds for national and international SBC causes, up .1 percent, marking the 16th year of a percent-of-budget increase.

More than 200 messengers heard from several speakers as they celebrated the theme “Love One Another That All May Know,” based on John 13:34-35.

Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said Hurricane Katrina has provided the greatest opportunity to tell New Orleans about Jesus in the region’s history. He said the past year was the hardest of his life, but “what I found out is that God’s grace is always sufficient. Don’t worry about what the future holds. Rejoice in the Lord and be obedient.

“I would not take anything in the world for the miracles I have seen of the redeeming power of God,” Kelley said. “Do not be afraid. Just be faithful and God’s grace will always be sufficient.”

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, preached from Colossians 1:4-5.

“What do you want people to be saying about you?” Lance asked, noting that Christians should be known for a faith that grows, a love that shows and a hope that glows. He reminded messengers that the love of Christ should motivate them and others will know them by that love.

Jimmie Knox, pastor of Chambersburg Baptist Church in Pennsylvania, delivered the president’s address based on Psalm 137.

“How can I sing the song of Zion in a foreign land?” Knox asked, adding that he has heard stories from associational missionaries who have heard “the song of Zion” being sung across the two-state convention — songs about new attitudes toward world missions, participation in disaster relief, an increase in baptisms and new churches.

Ted Justice, pastor of Big Woods Bible Church in Lock Haven, Pa., delivered the convention sermon from Ephesians 4:12-16 on building one another up in Christ’s likeness.

“We want you to look good so Christ will look good to others,” Justice said. “We should build up believers so they look beautiful in Christ.”

In Christ, believers are blessed, holy and blameless, he said, because Jesus gives us humility, patience, joy and strength beyond all measure.

Benjamin Misin, pastor of LifeWay Baptist Church in Philadelphia, led the Bible study on John 13:34-35. He encouraged messengers to love one another because that is an unmistakable identifier of who they are as believers. Misin asked messengers whether Jesus’ personality pulsates in every word and in every action of their lives.

Edgardo Paz, pastor of Iglesia Evangelica Vida Abundante in Reading, Pa., taught about unity based on Philippians 2:1-4.

“Motivation for unity comes from within through Christ,” he said. “If you truly have Christ in you, you must have these characteristics: encouragement from being united with Christ; consolation in love; the Holy Spirit dwelling in us; compassion and humility.”

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 1-2 in central Pennsylvania.
Based on a report by Iris White.

    About the Author

  • Staff