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S.C. Baptists recommend relocating Confederate flag

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (BP)–South Carolina Baptists took strong stances on three of the state’s most controversial and divisive issues — the Confederate flag, the video poker ban and the proposed lottery — during their Nov. 9-10 annual meeting in Spartanburg.
Meeting at North Spartanburg First Baptist Church, the 1,200 messengers to the 179th annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention also elected Hartsville pastor Don Purvis as president, adopted a $28.85 million budget and approved a three-year missions partnership with Taiwan.
The convention urged the state’s General Assembly to address the Confederate flag issue; commended state officials and church leaders who worked to eliminate video poker; and expressed opposition to a state-operated lottery in South Carolina and Sunday alcohol sales.
Acknowledging that racial tensions are increasing across the state and that the followers of Christ are called upon to be peacemakers, messengers adopted a resolution that urged the General Assembly to consider relocating the Confederate Battle Flag that flies atop the State House to “a public place of heritage, honor and recognition.”
Host pastor Mike Hamlet, pastor Tony Beam of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, Fountain Inn, and Sam Isgett of the convention’s Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee all spoke in favor of the resolution.
“We [South Carolina Baptists] want to be a force to achieve racial harmony,” Hamlet said. The former convention president reasoned that nothing should stand in the way of reaching people of any race for Christ.
Pastor Todd Morris of West Springs Baptist Church, Pauline, maintained that it was a matter for the state legislature, not the church.
But Beam, outgoing president of the Pastors’ Conference, disagreed. “It is paramount to deal with this issue today,” Beam said. “It is more than a political issue; it is a moral issue.”
The resolution — the only one to evoke much discussion — was adopted on a near-unanimous vote.
While applauding those who worked to eliminate video poker, messengers encouraged South Carolina Baptists to be “intentional in their ministry to those whose lives are hurt or destroyed by video poker” and to “show concern and compassion for people left unemployed by the Supreme Court decision.” Messengers also called upon pastors and lay leaders to continue to “educate their congregations and the public on the destructive forces of legalized gambling.”
Messengers also pledged to work alongside other religious organizations and denominations to oppose a state-operated lottery and to “be tireless” in voting strategies to defeat the referendum on Nov. 7, 2000. An amendment was approved also expressing opposition to casino cruises.
Speaking out against Sunday alcohol sales, messengers adopted a resolution requesting counties to consider prohibiting them, and commending the counties that do not allow Sunday sales.
In recognition of the 75th anniversary of the Cooperative Program, messengers pledged to be faithful in their individual gifts to missions and to lead their churches toward increasing their missions giving. They also urged South Carolina Baptists to participate in the North American Mission Board’s “Celebrate Jesus 2000” emphasis by sharing the gospel with each home in their communities.
Beginning in 2001, the state convention approved entering a three-year missions partnership with Baptists in Taiwan. More than 600 South Carolina Baptists have participated in the convention’s current partnership with Romanian Baptists.
The convention also will begin working with the International Mission Board to involve about 150 volunteers annually in up to 10 projects to share Christ with Spanish-speaking people and unreached people groups.
More than 9,300 South Carolina Baptists have served as volunteers during the first three years of the state convention’s partnership with the West Virginia convention. Their efforts have resulted in 1,440 professions of faith, reported Jere Phillips, executive director for West Virginia Baptists.
The $28.85 million convention budget adopted by messengers represents an increase of $1.1 million, or nearly 4 percent, over the 1999 budget. Sixty percent of the $28.35 million in Cooperative Program receipts, or $17.01 million, will continue to be allocated for state missions and ministries, while 40 percent, or $11.34 million, will be forwarded to Southern Baptist Convention causes.
Budget chairman Ernest Carswell, pastor of First Church, Taylors, highlighted that South Carolina Baptists exceeded last year’s budget and sent a 13th check of more than $776,000 to the SBC. However, Carswell noted an “alarming trend” of a percentage decline in the past decade of more than 2 percent of church receipts given through the Cooperative Program, and he urged church leaders to work toward reversing the trend.
The newly adopted budget funds a full-time director of Christian life concerns. Created at last year’s convention, the part-time position is held by Joe Mack.
Don Purvis, pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church, Hartsville, for 31 years, was elected convention president by acclamation.
Other officers elected were Hal Lane, pastor of West Side Baptist Church, Greenwood, first vice president; Sonny Foraker, pastor of Westside Baptist Church, Simpsonville, second vice president; and Froline Thomas, administrative assistant, Greenville Baptist Association and member of Forest Hills Baptist Church, Greenville, recording secretary. Only the second vice president ballot had a second nominee.
A motion to create a committee to ascertain that the state’s Baptist colleges not teach evolution as fact — made by Joe Thomas, pastor of Austin Road Church, Honea Path — was referred to the executive board.
Messengers approved dedicating the 1999 Convention Annual in honor of the late Horace Sims Jr., a Greenwood pastor, convention parliamentarian and columnist of the Baptist Courier.
The 1999 E.A. McDowell Award, presented by the convention’s Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee, recognized Choice and Grace Watson for their work through the convention’s disaster relief ministries for the past 11 years. Watson is a former pastor in the state for 25 years and retired director of missions for North Spartan Baptist Association.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 14-15 in Columbia.

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  • Todd Deaton