HARRISBURG, Pa. (BP) — Pennsylvania/South Jersey Baptists marked at their annual meeting 45 years of service and the retirement of several long-term employees, including Executive Director-Treasurer David Waltz.
The 330 messengers and guests were the largest number of attendees at a Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey (BRN) annual meeting in eight years. Just over 100 of the BRN’s 321 churches were represented.
Waltz, completing 23 years as the BRN’s top executive, announced his retirement effective March 2016. He has served longer than any other active state executive within the Southern Baptist Convention, according to the BRN, and his tenure is longer than all previous BRN executive directors combined.
Stan Smith, BRN associate executive director and state director of missions, will transition to executive director on an interim basis upon Waltz’s retirement. Smith is expected to serve until the BRN can select a new leader.
Retiring at the end of 2015 are Doug Pilot, who has spent nearly 40 years in Pennsylvania in positions including a church planting catalyst and a youth pastor; Iva Fox, marking nearly 30 years of employment at the BRN office; and Karlene Campbell, who has led Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in Pennsylvania/South Jersey for about 20 years.
Other major developments at the Nov. 4-5 meeting at the Red Lion Hotel in Harrisburg included an increase in Cooperative Program giving, the election of officers, and several recognitions for Waltz and other retirees.
Messengers approved a $2,852,693 budget, about the same as the 2015 allocation, based on an anticipated $866,693 in Cooperative Program gifts from BRN churches. The BRN will forward 26 percent of Cooperative Program gifts to national and international SBC causes, an increase of 0.3 percent over the current allocation.
Brian King, pastor of Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia, was elected to his second term as BRN president. Other officers elected are first vice president Kevin Roberts, second vice president George Tynes, recording secretary Ryan Knepp, assistant recording secretary Antoinette Buie, historian Fred Boehlke and parliamentarian Jeff Slagle.
King, in his remarks to messengers, noted the diversity inherent across Pennsylvania and South Jersey, and the importance of unity to the BRN’s success in advancing the Gospel.
“The apostle Paul encouraged the Ephesian church to be diligent to work at oneness,” he said. “Oneness comes because multiple people with different backgrounds have decided, ‘We are going to be one.’ Oneness is a choice.”
The BRN’s strategic development across cultural lines is noted as one of the hallmarks of Waltz’s leadership. More than 52 percent of the BRN’s cooperating churches are predominantly African American or ethnic.
In Waltz’s final address as executive director, he challenged the BRN to continue to champion diversity through a strategic emphasis on church planting encompassing ethnic populations, while recognizing the strong representation of churches from rural communities.
“Predominately African American churches comprise 30 percent of our cooperating churches. Another 22 percent are language groups,” Waltz said. “What a blessing that they have been willing to come and be part of our family.”
Unity in diversity is at the heart of all the BRN hopes to accomplish and reflects well on the cooperative, inclusive spirit Jesus displayed in His ministry and calls churches to demonstrate, Waltz said.
“In Christ, we can be one,” he said. “That is no small thing. Thank you for being part of us. We are a better people because of you.”
Messengers passed individual resolutions in appreciation of the ministry of Waltz and his wife Janice, as well as that of retirees Pilot and his wife Jeanne, Campbell and her husband Craig, and Fox.
“Well done thou good and faithful servant” closed each resolution.
The annual meeting theme, “Fostering Spiritual Transformation: Together,” was based on Nehemiah 4:6 and encouraged churches to continue to partner in reaching the more than 16 million people who live within the BRN’s coverage area.
Messengers scheduled the 2016 BRN meeting for Nov. 3-4 at the Antiochian Village and Conference Center in Bolivar, Pa.