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S.C. Baptists address legislative issues

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–South Carolina Baptist Convention messengers adopted a streamlined budget during their Nov. 10-11 annual meeting; weighed in on legislative issues ranging from health care reform to legalized gambling; and elected a president who says the denomination “is not going to be the way it used to be.”

Before the meeting adjourned at noon on its second day, 1,080 messengers had registered for the state convention’s 189th annual meeting. SCBC President Rudy Gray presided over business sessions and worship times inside the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center even as the blustery remains of Hurricane Ida drenched the capital city.

After considering and rejecting a motion from the floor to tap the SCBC’s contingency reserve fund in order to maintain the convention’s operating budget at last year’s levels, messengers approved a budget of $32,180,000 — a 6 percent reduction from a year ago.

The 2010 budget reflects a 5.67 percent across-the-board reduction for SCBC-affiliated institutions — three universities, Ministries for the Aging, Connie Maxwell Children’s Home, the Baptist Foundation and the Baptist Courier — as well as all state Cooperative Program ministries. Also, SCBC employees will not receive a cost-of-living wage increase.

Dennis Wilkins, chairman of the SCBC executive board’s budget, finance and audit committee, told messengers that the percentage of undesignated gifts from churches to be sent to the Southern Baptist Convention will remain at 40.44 percent.

He said if state CP gifts in 2010 exceed the budgeted amount, excess funds will be allocated as follows: International Mission Board, 55 percent; North American Mission Board, 25 percent; and mission scholarships for South Carolina participants in mission trips, 20 percent.

Wilkins said CP giving in South Carolina was down about 6 percent through August. “We do not foresee any turnaround in the economy,” he added.

Messengers adopted a slate of resolutions ranging from opposition to federal hate crimes legislation to a call for restoring the practice of church member discipline.

Regarding national health care reform, South Carolina Baptists called for U.S. senators and representatives to “exert every effort … to see that language is used that eliminates any vagueness in terminology and closes any possible loopholes that might be used later to approve public funds for abortion, intrusive family planning recommendations, and end-of-life counseling under the proposed health care reform.”

On homosexuality and military service, messengers approved a resolution supporting the current military code, which bars the practice of homosexuality in the military. The resolution calls on President Obama not to abandon the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

In a resolution on regenerate church membership and church member restoration, messengers urged SCBC churches “to repent of the failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership and any failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members.” The resolution further encourages the implementation of scriptural teachings on church discipline even if the result is a reduction in the number of church members reported in annual profiles.

On gambling in South Carolina, a resolution cited “recent economic chaos” that may contribute to a “vulnerability of false hope” and the expansion of gambling activities by nonprofit groups as fundraising events. The resolution calls on state legislators to vote against all bills that would expand or support new or existing gambling venues.

Regarding hate crimes legislation, South Carolina Baptists said such legislation “could effectively kill” freedom of speech by “criminalizing any verbal opposition to homosexuals and/or their lifestyle.” The resolution calls on Congress to repeal the recently passed legislation and on Americans “to avoid acts of hatred and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons.”

South Carolina Baptists issued a call to prayer for Gov. Mark Sanford with a goal of seeing his marriage and family restored. The resolution also calls “all leaders of our state and nation to a high standard of moral fidelity, especially with regard to their marriages and families.”

Messengers also expressed appreciation for Weldon Fallaw, retiring president of the South Carolina Baptist Foundation; Morris H. Chapman, retiring president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee; Jerry Rankin, retiring president of the International Mission Board; the city of Columbia; and the staff of the SCBC and its committees.

Fred Stone, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pickens, was elected president of the South Carolina convention in a contest that also included Kile Antone, pastor of First Baptist Church in Abbeville.

Dusty Bradshaw, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in North Charleston, was elected by acclamation as first vice president. Brad Atkins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Powdersville, was elected in a vote that also included Benjamin Smoak, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Neeses.

Linda Hite, a member of Red Bank Baptist Church in Lexington, was elected recording secretary, and Quinn Hooks, pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church in Effingham, was elected registration secretary, both by acclamation.

Stone said change is inevitable in the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

“Denominations are declining,” he said. “We can’t keep on doing what we’ve always done. It’s time for us to carefully evaluate what we are doing, find out what is working and what is not, and then make whatever changes are necessary to make our convention more effective in serving churches.

“I will encourage South Carolina Baptists to make whatever methodological changes need to be made, but emphasize that our theological convictions must never change: our biblical doctrines summarized in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, our commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission, and our ultimate purpose of glorifying God in everything we do,” Stone said.

“If we will remain biblically sound as we seek to be more culturally relevant and practically effective, I believe the SCBC will continue to be a leader among state conventions in the SBC.”

Stone, whose church gives approximately 14 percent of undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program, said he supports a united effort to fund convention work by encouraging churches to give generously through the Cooperative Program.

In the face of declining denominational involvement, Stone said “we must demonstrate reasons why individuals and churches should be involved in a denomination, as opposed to their doing ministry and missions on their own.”

“I think there are still good reasons for churches and individuals to support the SCBC and SBC,” Stone said, “but we must do a better job of explaining and providing answers. Our churches can accomplish so much more together than we can alone.”

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 16-17 in Columbia.
Butch Blume is managing editor of The Baptist Courier (www.baptistcourier.com), newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

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