SAVANNAH. Ga. (BP)–Approval of a new missions partnership with France; a presentation of hunger relief funds to North Korean officials; and a moving memorial service for the victims of last July’s LifeFlight helicopter accident, highlighted the 179th annual session of the Georgia Baptist Convention, meeting last week at the Savannah Civic Center. The much anticipated vote on the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Statement generated the only debate of the convention and resulted in a 2 to 1 vote in favor of the revised Baptist statement of faith.
A commitment to missions was prevalent throughout the meeting under the convention theme “Partners in the Harvest.” A record Cooperative Program budget of $47.3 million was unanimously approved. The 2001 CP budget represents a 6.5 percent increase over the 2000 budget. Allocations will be divided equally between Southern Baptist and Georgia Baptist causes after allocating 12 percent of the budget for “Shared Responsibilities.” Darrell Henry, chairman of the CP Budget Committee, pointed out that 53 percent of the total budget went directly to missions, with Christian education and evangelism receiving most of the rest of the money.
William H. (Bill) Ricketts, pastor of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, was re-elected by acclamation to the customary second year term as state president. Four persons were nominated for the four vice presidential spots and a ballot vote was taken to determine their order as first, second, third and fourth vice presidents. The new vice presidents are Mark Hearn, pastor of Calvary Temple Church in Savannah (1st v.p.); Charlie Cooper, pastor of Burkhalter Church in Savannah (2nd v.p.); Ethel Wynn, pastor’s wife from Hebron Church in Dacula (3rd v.p.); and Jim Dorriety, retired pastor and GBC staff member, now living in Warner Robins (4th v.p.). Ed Cliburn of Thomaston was re-elected to a seventh term as recording secretary and Aubrey L. Hawkins of Roswell and Bob Baxter of Mableton were both re-elected to serve as his assistants.
The convention reached an emotional peak on Tuesday afternoon as J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, fought back tears while recounting the ultimate sacrifice made by three members of the LifeFlight helicopter team who died in a July 24 crash. The memorial service included family and friends of Rene Chapman, Bart Bradshaw and Michael Elam.
In a moving ceremony featuring the presentation of flags representing the United States and France, officials from both countries signed a historic document that details the first missions partnership between France and one of the state conventions. Eric Puech, president of the French Federation of Baptists, signed the agreement along with IMB missionary to France, Michael Hester, J. Robert White, representing the Georgia Baptist Convention, and Dennis Barton, representing the International Mission Board. Puech noted that evangelical work in France might be slow, but that it was greatly needed in a country where evangelical Christians make up only one percent of the population.
Linda Johnson, specialist in the Convention’s Mission Volunteers Ministries, and other members of her staff, have already been involved in visits to France to set up partnership projects and the first Georgia Baptist volunteers are expected to be on the field next year.
In an unprecedented historical moment, two prominent government leaders from North Korea, Kim Myong Gil and Ri Nam Su, counselors with the Permanent Mission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations, received a check for $500,000 from the Georgia Baptist Convention for hunger relief. They expressed their appreciation to Georgia Baptists for the donations of food and money and called it “a great encouragement to our people.”
The Georgia gift is being coupled with two additional grants of $250,000 each from another state convention and the International Mission Board for a total financial gift of $1 million to buy food for the starving people of North Korea who have endured several years of famine. The Georgia gift reflected collections received in Baptist churches and associations throughout the state.
In addition to the check, J. Robert White presented the North Korean officials with a beautiful hand blown glass sculpture featuring a globe being held by giving and receiving hands. The inscription referenced the Love Gifts to North Korea from the Baptists of Georgia.
In another international presentation, a beautiful carving suitable for hanging was presented to the Georgia Baptist Convention from Baptists in Liberia, where Georgia Baptists had their first mission partnership. Emmanuel McCall, pastor of Christian Fellowship Church in College Park, and John Mark Carpenter, retired IMB missionary to Liberia, made the presentation to J. Robert White on behalf of the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary. The plaque was given in commemoration of ongoing Georgia Baptist gifts and involvement in helping the seminary rebound following the civil war in that west African nation.
In other business:
A slate of nominations from the Committee on Nominations was adopted without discussion. The complete list of new members elected to boards, committees, and commissions of Georgia Baptist related institutions and ministries can be found on page 6.
Resolutions were unanimously adopted regarding Baptist opposition to partial birth abortion, opposition to the use of tax monies for sex education, and opposition to raffles as a means to raise money for public schools. Another resolution called on local churches to take more seriously their responsibility to minister to the mentally challenged. (See the complete texts of these resolutions as printed on page 7.)
The Convention approved a recommendation to enlarge its Public Affairs Committee from the current 9 members to 15.
Next year’s Georgia Baptist Convention will be held at the Macon Coliseum on Nov. 12-13. The doctrinal sermon will be delivered by Wayne Robertson, pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta. The missionary sermon will be given by J. Robert White, GBC executive director.