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S.C. Baptists adopt new 5-year emphasis

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–Messengers to the 188th annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention in Columbia Nov. 11-12 approved a $34 million operating budget, adopted a new spiritual emphasis and passed a slate of resolutions.

There were 1,000 registered messengers at the annual meeting, making it the least-attended meeting since 1953, when 818 messengers were present.

The 2009 operating budget reflects a $300,000 increase, or almost 1 percent, over the previous year, and a continuing allocation of 60 percent for South Carolina missions and ministry and 40 percent for Southern Baptist Convention national and international outreach. The budget includes the South Carolina Cooperative Program Advance Plan, which stipulates that any Cooperative Program monies collected beyond the budgeted goal be allocated 50 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention and 50 percent to state ministries.

Jim Austin, SCBC executive director-treasurer, introduced “Experience Kingdom Life,” which succeeds “Empowering Kingdom Growth” as the five-year emphasis for the state convention.

Austin said the Cooperative Program is the primary vehicle for the Experience Kingdom Life vision “… to urgently take the whole Gospel to the whole world that all might be whole.” He said the mission of the SCBC staff will be to “provide servant leadership with Kingdom partners.”

Rudy Gray, pastor of Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, was elected president. Gray has served the convention in various roles, including a five-year term on the executive board and as chair of the committee on committees and the resolutions committee.

A regular columnist for the Baptist Courier, Gray also has served as a trustee for the state newspaper. He is a graduate of Anderson College, holds degrees from Southern Wesleyan University, Luther Rice Seminary and Liberty University, and completed postgraduate studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. As president, Gray said he plans to highlight his personal passion for ministering to families and helping strengthen marriages.

“I think the operational word for helping South Carolina Baptists to ‘Experience Kingdom Life’ would be ‘faithfulness,'” Gray said. “When God’s people are faithful, they will experience Kingdom life.”

Gray and his wife Anne have been married 31 years. They have three adult daughters and two sons-in-law, all of whom are graduates of Anderson University.

In addition to Gray, messengers elected the following officers: first vice president, Terry Corder, pastor of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Jefferson; second vice president, Terry Pleasant, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Gaffney; recording secretary, Lynda Hopkins, a member of First Baptist Church in Hilton Head; and registration secretary, Dusty Bradshaw, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in North Charleston.

In a series of resolutions, messengers expressed appreciation to all South Carolina Baptists who have served through convention-related disaster relief groups and pledged to continue a policy of not charging for relief work.

They also voted to affirm the use of the word “Christmas,” resolving that “in the Christmas season we emphasize the birth of Jesus, the celebration of the incarnation, and the spirit of giving rather than receiving” in opposition to growing secularization of the holiday.

Messengers encouraged families to “recover … the lost act of family worship in their homes” and that pastors and LifeWay Christian Resources be encouraged to promote and publish family worship resources.

In the face of persecution of Christians in parts of the world, messengers expressed their opposition to religious persecution in any form and encouraged federal elected officials to elevate religious liberty concerns to the highest priority in foreign policy.

Messengers also resolved to “encourage our state legislators to pass a law that ensures efforts to sustain and protect life for infants born alive, especially those infants who survive an attempted abortion.”

In another resolution, messengers commended media outlets that promote positive or Christian family values, such as Sherwood Pictures, which produced “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof.” Messengers encouraged Christians to examine what media they allow in their homes.

Messengers also urged churches to “stress the importance of the proper use of the Lord’s Day” and asked parents to contact their state legislators and ask them to “sponsor or support legislation that would prohibit public school events from being held on Sunday.”

In other news, Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, was presented the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor awarded by the governor of South Carolina. In a statement read by Sen. Larry Martin, Gov. Mark Sanford recognized Page’s community service, national and international mission work, and leadership.

Also during the annual meeting, the executive board recognized retiring South Carolina Woman’s Missionary Union executive director-treasurer Evelyn Blount. Chairman Tom Swilley said the convention has enjoyed its partnership with WMU since Blount accepted the leadership role in 1985.

“We have experienced an unparalleled relationship thanks to her exceptional leadership,” Swilley said.

Swilley presented Blount with a sculpture to commemorate her service. Blount called her experience a “joyous journey” and her relationship with the SCBC a “true partnership.” Blount will retire at the end of this year, and Laurie Register, a Women on Mission associate, will assume the role of WMU executive director-treasurer in January.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 10-11 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
Adapted from reporting by the staff of the Baptist Courier, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

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