HAMPTON, Va. (BP) — The Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) focused on how individuals and churches can respond to God’s call during literal and figurative storms of life at its 194th annual meeting Nov. 13-15 in Hampton, Va.
During evening worship Nov. 13 at the Hampton Roads Convention Center, BGAV Executive Director John Upton set the tone by interpreting the event’s theme, “God’s Call … Now What?” Upton invited attendees to consider the courage and excitement of the first disciples in Matthew 4:18-22, who left everything they knew to follow Jesus.
The Spirit-filled service featured praise and worship bands from Ivy Memorial Baptist Church and Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist Temple, both of Hampton. Messengers and guests watched a video and heard personal stories of BGAV’s volunteer response to the people of Liberty, Texas, following Hurricane Harvey and ongoing disaster relief efforts there.
Chuck Harrison of the Peninsula Baptist Association spoke about congregations ministering together across racial boundaries to work toward reconciliation. Freddy Villarreal of Freedom Life Church of Hampton concluded the service by challenging Virginia Baptists to rise up and respond to the serious storms the U.S. is experiencing.
Villarreal reflected on Mark 4, where Jesus calmed the storm with three things: His presence, His promise, and His power. “Ships sink because of the water inside them, not because of what’s outside,” he explained. “Are we putting more faith in what’s around us than in what’s inside?”
Attendees had the option of attending one of several breakout sessions. More than 100 pastors also attended the Virginia Baptist Pastors’ Conference, an interactive workshop focused on relational intelligence.
Highlights of the first business session, held Nov. 14, included signing a new partnership covenant between the BGAV and the McAfee School of Theology of Mercer University, and continuing a longstanding partnership between the BGAV and the Woman’s Missionary Union of Virginia. Began in the late 1880s, BGAV’s partnership with WMU was described as active and relevant.
Resolutions of appreciation were presented for Fred Anderson, who retired as executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society after 38 years of service, and for Ron Crawford, who retired as president of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.
The 2018 budget, presented by the executive board, was approved at $10 million, the same amount as the 2017 budget, and is in line with expected Cooperative Missions receipts. As in previous years, the budget divides allocations between BGAV ministries and partners — a category which will total $7,200,000 in 2018 — and world mission causes, totaling $2,800,000.
The BGAV offers three preset giving tracks to its churches, and it provides a fourth option for churches to customize their giving. The percentage divisions are as follows:
— The World Missions 1 track provides 66 percent for Virginia ministries and 34 percent for Southern Baptist Convention ministries.
— The World Missions 2 track provides 72 percent for BGAV ministries and 28 percent for a combination of Virginia, Southern Baptist Convention, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and other ministries.
— The World Missions 3 track provides 72 percent for Virginia ministries and 28 percent for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ministries.
John Upton, in his executive director’s report, explored how Virginia Baptists continue to respond to the challenges and storms of life. He cited specific examples of growth in the number of church planters and in the amount of resources sent to those in need, including Texas, Puerto Rico and Ghana.
Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, was the keynote speaker. In the first of two messages Nov. 14, Anderson focused on how God calls Christians to exhibit mercy and follow Jesus’ example by offering help and hope to all, regardless of who they are or where they are from.
Anderson revealed statistics that worldwide, Christians are increasing in number at a rate of 10,000 per hour. “It’s like we have a Pentecost every 60 minutes,” he said.
In his second message, he addressed ways to become the kind of leaders God wants His people to be. “You are the church of Jesus Christ, and Jesus has sent you to start the race,” Anderson said, “but He has also sent you to finish the race.”
Officers, board members
During the Nov. 14 business session, retired pastor George Fletcher was elected BGAV president. Richard Martin, a member of Huguenot Road Baptist Church in Richmond, was elected first vice president, and Brooke Holloway, associate pastor of youth and missions at Memorial Baptist Church in Arlington, was elected second vice president. Fred Anderson, a member of River Road Church-Baptist in Richmond, will serve as clerk for a 36th year.
Shirley Cobb, Lora Gravatt, Tamara McBride, Bryan Taliaferro, and Kevin James were all nominated to serve on the executive board. Kevin Meadows was approved to succeed Carl Johnson as board chair.
In additional business, the Religious Liberty Committee brought forward a resolution establishing and encouraging an increase in education about religious freedom. The resolution passed with a unanimous vote.
The meeting continued Nov. 15 with worship led by the Uptick Artists, a praise and worship band comprised of young leaders from throughout the BGAV. Participants concluded their gathering by sharing in a time of communion. Fletcher, in his first act as BGAV president, offered a benediction and adjourned, praying, “Lord, we know what you’ve called us to do; now give us courage to go and do it.”
The BGAV 195th annual meeting will be held Nov. 12-14, 2018 at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Glen Allen.