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Penn-Jersey Baptists mark 40 years

PHILADELPHIA (BP)–Messengers to the 40th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey celebrated the theme “Prepare to Claim the Promise,” based on Deuteronomy 31:6, at Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

A total of 140 messengers and 97 guests represented 83 of the convention’s 399 churches during the Nov. 4-5 sessions.

The convention officers for the coming year, all elected by acclamation, are Kim Grueser, pastor of Pittsburgh Baptist Church, president; Louis Paradiso, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in York, Pa., first vice president; and Rony Guerra, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Hispania in Quakertown, Pa., second vice president.

North American Mission Board missionary Chris McNairy presented a Bible study, and Grueser, who became president when Peter Yanes resigned to become a missionary, delivered the president’s address. Yanes delivered the convention sermon.

Messengers were treated to a barbecue dinner courtesy of the host church, and during the evening session they received reports from convention teams focused on developing believers, multiplying churches, sending missionaries and reaching people.

Worship was led by a praise team from The Foundry in Wallingford, Pa., a church plant that uses creative means to reach college students and families. Special music was presented by the Haitian Evangelical Baptist Church in Philadelphia, and a special presentation highlighted the convention’s disaster relief workers’ experience in Haiti.

Messengers heard from two former executive directors, Ellis Bush and Wallace Williams, as well as from current Executive Director David Waltz, whose father, the late Joseph Waltz, also led the convention.

Waltz recognized Fernando Downs, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Lumberton, N.J., as having the longest tenure of pastors present at the meeting. Downs has served Southside for 36 years.

Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, led in a Bible study during the Friday morning session and delivered a charge to the new officers.

Messengers approved a 2011 budget of $3,683,949, a 5.02 percent increase over the current year. The budget includes $899,260 in anticipated Cooperative Program giving from Pennsylvania and New Jersey churches. The convention voted to increase giving to national and international missions and ministries from 25.2 percent to 25.3 percent of budget for the coming year.

Questions during the Executive Board report revolved around the changes at NAMB toward state conventions and funding. Waltz reported that he did not yet know how the changes would affect the Penn-Jersey convention.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 3-4 at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Harrisburg, Pa.
Based on a report by Fanny Grote of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey.

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