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Relationships study group reported to Tenn. messengers

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–A near-record 2,155 messengers heard an executive board report of the formation of a reconciliation-oriented committee on church-laity-clergy relationships during the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s 123rd session, Nov. 11-12 at West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson.
Doug Sager, pastor of First Baptist Church Concord, Knoxville, was elected convention president in a 968-850 vote over Earl Wilson, also of Knoxville, a former pastor and retired Tennessee Baptist Foundation executive.
Sager was the announced candidate of Concerned Tennessee Baptists and other conservative groups and was endorsed by Pastors’ Conference President Morris Anderson of Pigeon Forge. Wilson, meanwhile, although not endorsed publicly, was favored by many moderates.
Hollie Miller, pastor of Sevier Heights Baptist Church, Knoxville, was elected first vice president in a runoff election by 17 votes over James Hutson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Rockwood, after an initial ballot with three nominees. Miller, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, was nominated by Jerry Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church, Nashville, and a leader in the state’s conservative movement. Hutson currently serves on TBC’s executive board.
Ken Clayton, pastor of Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory, was elected second vice president over Clay Austin, pastor of First Baptist Church, Blountville.
TBC President Herbert Higdon of Jackson reported to messengers he had appointed a 15-member “Relationships Focus Group.”
Gene Cotey, outgoing executive board president and a retired pastor from Murfreesboro, said the group would “focus on and explore ways and means to strengthen the ties and foster good relationships among the TBC churches, laity and clergy in order to pursue the mission of the convention.” Items to be addressed, he said, include diversity, commonality, alleviation of stress, effective communication and makeup of boards, committees and programs.
Cotey said the group should not be a “feel-good” committee, while stressing, “… we are the strongest we have been, and we need to build on that.”
The group will report its findings to the executive board next September and to the convention at its Nov. 10-11, 1998, annual meeting at Kingsport’s MeadowView Convention Center.
Messengers, comprising the second-largest registration, after 2,286 registered at Gatlinburg in 1992, approved a record Cooperative Program budget of $30,105,514, a $1.9 million increase, or 6.8 percent, over the current budget. The 1997-98 budget continues to allocate 37.5 percent for Southern Baptist Convention causes and 62.5 percent for TBC causes.
A three-year partnership missions plan with the Carioca Baptist Convention in Brazil was approved, and the current agreement with Canadian Baptists was extended for three more years.
Messengers also adopted a resolution opposing gambling and one opposing religious persecution.

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  • Wm. Fletcher Allen