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SBC of Virginia elects African American president, increases CP

ROANOKE, Va. (BP) — The SBC of Virginia made history when messengers elected by acclamation Allen McFarland to serve as their next president. McFarland, senior pastor of Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Va., will be the convention’s first African American president.

“I was encouraged to see that God is calling us to be a good testimony through biblically addressing unrighteousness, abusiveness, racial, economic, and social unfairness,” said McFarland.

“Dr. Allen McFarland being elected as president unanimously thrilled my heart,” said Eric Thomas, outgoing president of the SBC of Virginia and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk. “His wisdom and leadership nourishes my soul as a friend and fellow pastor. I know he will be a gift of God to the churches in our convention.”

More than 1,100 people — 655 messengers and approximately 473 guests — attended the meeting (called Annual Homecoming) held at First Baptist Church in Roanoke Nov. 10-12 under the theme “Disciples Are Not Alone.”

Brian Autry, executive director of the SBC of Virginia, said, “We had a great crowd, adopted the largest ministry investment plan in our history, but the greatest takeaway is we are seeing that SBC of Virginia churches are a movement mobilizing to make disciples and plant churches across Virginia, among all communities, and around the world.”

The budget — called the Cooperative Ministry Investment Plan (MIP) — for 2020 was unanimously approved for $10 million — an increase of $200,000 over 2019. While $9,600,000 is to come from SBC of Virginia churches through Cooperative Program (CP) gifts, another $400,000 is expected to come through a combination of gifts from the SBC of Virginia Foundation, the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources. Fifty-one percent of CP gifts will be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention ($4,583,342) including 3.26 percent for CP resourcing ($312,960). The percentages are unchanged from 2019.

Messengers dropped off 3,435 backpacks loaded with the Gospel message, food, hygiene items and toys, which will be distributed by Appalachian churches and ethnic church plants to bring Gospel hope just in time for the holidays.

“Homecoming 2019 was exciting, encouraging, and empowering,” said Justin Hall, senior pastor of Cedar Bluff Baptist Church in Atkins. “It is evident that God is working through the churches of the SBCV. As a pastor of an SBCV church, it is encouraging to attend Homecoming and be reminded that we are not alone in striving for the sake of the Gospel.”

One day prior to Annual Homecoming, 20 SBC of Virginia churches were involved in an area-wide outreach event, Feed the Valley, to serve hunger needs in the Roanoke Valley. Volunteers gathered non-perishable and canned goods donated by the community for local food pantries and rescue mission. The event included two block parties that provided free food and entertainment for families and an opportunity to hear the Gospel.

One moment that many messengers said was memorable took place Monday night. Worship included dynamic music led by Christian artist Charles Billingsley and two worship choirs from Liberty University. The service was capped off with a sermon from H.B. Charles Jr.

“Our convention meeting has often been described as more of a Bible and missions conference than a business meeting,” Autry said. “And this year did not disappoint as we had powerful preaching, passionate worship, fellowship times, and a call to even greater cooperative partnership for the Gospel of Christ.”

Other keynote speakers included O.S. Hawkins, Ken Weathersby, Ken Whitten, Vance Pitman and Eric Thomas.

“Personally, I thought this year’s convention was one of the very best Homecomings I’ve attended since coming to Virginia more than thirteen years ago,” said Bryan Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Roanoke. “The atmosphere for worship on Sunday and Monday nights was truly dynamic, the attendance was strong, and every worship moment throughout the convention seemed to exalt the Lord and strengthen His Church. The messages brought by our guest speakers were challenging, comforting and convicting. The atmosphere throughout our campus was reminiscent of a family reunion. I hope that everyone who attended this year’s Homecoming went home encouraged and excited about their fellowship within the SBCV.”

Thomas, outgoing president, said, “Each message from God’s Word called the messengers of our convention of churches in the commonwealth to live for God’s fame, in community with one another, reaching those far from God with the Gospel and making disciples who make disciples.”

Of the six resolutions unanimously approved, one called for SBC of Virginia churches to love one another in racial and ethnic unity — something near and dear to Thomas.

“I am thrilled by the strong, unanimous affirmations of our convention to call out any form of racism and abuse as sin,” Thomas said. “I was personally overjoyed at the unity we had in our resolve to affirm the clear teaching of Scripture.”

Another resolution condemned all forms of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The other resolutions supported strategies for Sunday School and small groups, recognized the armed services of the United States of America, called to pray for elected leaders and government officials, and shared appreciation to First Baptist Church in Roanoke for hosting Annual Homecoming. These resolutions can be read in full at www.sbcv.org/resolutions.

McFarland added, “We have been commissioned to execute these specific resolutions to bring about healing within our churches and communities. With the challenges that we are facing, there is continuous prayer and work to be done in our churches. I am grateful to be a part of the leadership and assist in the task of fulfilling the Great Commission.”

In addition to McFarland elected as president, other officers unanimously elected include Monty Guice, senior pastor of Swift Creek Baptist Church in Midlothian, first vice president; Vernig Suarez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista del Camino in Norfolk, second vice president; and Jim Drake, senior pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Bluefield, secretary.

The 2020 Annual Homecoming is slated for November 8-10 at The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights. Keynote speakers will include Paul Chitwood, Danny Akin, A.B. Vines and Bruce Frank.

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  • Ishmael LaBiosa