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Penn-Jersey Baptists focus on caring in city of brotherly love

PHILADELPHIA (BP)–Meeting for the first time in its history in Philadelphia and for the first time at an African American church, messengers to the 38th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey experienced a taste of the city’s famed “brotherly love.”

Nazarene Baptist Church, which hosted the meeting Nov. 7-8, and pastor K. Marshall Williams provided “exceptional” hospitality to the more than 400 people, including 210 messengers, who registered, said David Waltz, BCPSJ executive director. Friday night’s Missions Celebration drew more than 500 people. “Everyone was made to feel so at home,” he said.

The meeting’s theme, “Let Caring Ring,” was a reminder of Philadelphia’s importance in American history as a place that has “Let Freedom Ring.”

In the Friday morning session, William Scott, coordinator of Strategic Focus Cities Philadelphia, gave an update on the concerted efforts of Southern Baptists to reach the city. As a part of the effort, last summer Southern Baptist volunteers from more than 20 states led 50 block parties in the city, with 591 baptisms resulting from the outreach. A mega-rally is being planned for next summer.

Music, Bible study and sermons marked the convention worship times. A praise team, a choir composed of members of Hispanic churches in Quakertown and Doylestown, a choir from the International Baptist Church in Philadelphia, and the mass choir of Nazarene Baptist Church provided music. A mass choir composed of people across the convention sang in the Thursday evening service. On Friday evening, children’s choirs from Philadelphia’s Nazarene Baptist Church, First Ukranian Evangelical Baptist Church and International Bible Church sang. The “Body Talkers,” a mime and interpretative movement group from Piney Grove Baptist Church, also performed.

Bible study leaders and speakers included Gary Frost of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, who spoke on the caring model of Jesus; Cecil Seagle of Florida who talked about the difference in church work and the work of the church; and Peter Yanes of Philadelphia who shared “Satan’s 10 Beatitudes.”

In business sessions, messengers approved a $3,160,243 budget, which is a less than 1 percent increase over last year. The budget includes a .15 percent increase in contributions from the Penn-Jersey convention to the national Cooperative Program, totaling 24.5 percent. Anticipated Cooperative Program giving from the churches is $869,887.

Messengers elected Terry Douglas, pastor of Wrightstown Baptist Church in Peachbottom, president; Chris Walls, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Tyrone, first vice president; John Doerfler, a layman at Dallas Baptist Church in Dallas, second vice president; and Melba Boudreaux, Dallas Baptist Church, recording secretary. All were elected by acclamation.

Messengers approved resolutions in appreciation for the ministry of Bob Tallent, director of missions for South Jersey Baptist Association, who will retire in December; appreciation for the 22-year missions partnership between the Florida Baptist Convention and the Penn-Jersey convention which concludes this year and the ministry of Hal and Edythe Crane, who have served as coordinators for several years; and to the host church for their hospitality.

The “Hal E. Crane Church Planter Award” was given to four church planters: Aaron Harvie, Riverside Community Church, Greater Philadelphia Baptist Association; Kevin Giddings, Church at the Crossroads, Northwest Baptist Association; Moises Rosario, Mision Bautista Hispana and Iglesia Bautista Hispana, Greater Philadelphia; and Robert Chapman, Keystone Baptist Fellowship, Keystone Baptist Association. The award was begun in 2000 to recognize outstanding church planters. It is named for Hal Crane, who served as state missions director from 1979-89 and more recently as coordinator of the partnership between the Penn-Jersey and Florida Baptist conventions.

Two hundred ten messengers and 194 registered guests attended the annual meeting. The Penn-Jersey convention has 333 churches and missions and 46,622 members, according to 2001 reports.

The 2003 annual meeting will be Nov. 6-7 in State College, Pa.

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  • Joyce Martin