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SBC president, state Baptist leaders meet to address health of denomination

DULUTH, Ga. (BP)–Baptist state convention presidents were called together March 19 to discuss the health of the Southern Baptist Convention with the president of the SBC. The meeting, held at the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth, Ga., drew 26 of the state convention presidents.

The convocation was the brainchild of Georgia Baptist Convention president Bucky Kennedy as a forum to determine how the national convention could position itself for revival and a “Great Commission resurgence” in the days ahead.

“I want us to build stronger relationship within our denomination and bring the younger generation along as we work and witness together,” Hunt said. “We are indebted to the generation that championed the cause of the conservative resurgence. They were in a struggle against the odds, paid a price for the victory, but won the battle over the Bible. We must not ignore the generation that brought us to the dance, but we want to engage the present generation and bring them into the heart of our convention’s operations.”

“When the conservative resurgence was launched in 1979 at the Houston convention with the election of Adrian Rogers, many of the messengers left with determination to fight for the integrity and authenticity of the Bible,” Hunt added. “It would be wonderful if we could leave the convention in Louisville this year with a commitment to fight for a Great Commission resurgence.

“The resurgence that started 30 years ago made our seminaries safe for our young men and women to attend,” Hunt continued. “If the conservative resurgence was a hill to die on, the Great Commission resurgence is a hill to die on as well. In fact we have missionaries willing to die for the privilege of proclaiming the Gospel in difficult places.”

Kennedy said state convention presidents would love to see a new enthusiasm for the Gospel mission across the SBC.

“Those presidents of the various state conventions are very much aware of where we are as a denomination,” Kennedy said. “They long to see a spiritual awakening in our convention and nation. They also have a desire to see us engage in an aggressive church planting movement.”

The state presidents were “in one accord,” Hunt said.

“I did not hear any kind of disagreement expressed. The presidents from both of the Texas conventions were present and sat together,” he noted. “To me that was symbolic of the kind of harmony and togetherness we can experience as a denomination.”

The Cooperative Program, the SBC’s unified budget, also became a part of the discussion during the presidential powwow. While a strong commitment to the Cooperative Program was apparent among the men at the Duluth gathering, they also agreed the Cooperative Program should not be a requirement of fellowship or a litmus test for serving in the denomination.

Hunt asked: “How do we measure faithfulness to the Convention? Is giving 10 percent to the CP worthy of a badge of honor? Is giving less than 10 percent to the CP deserving of a badge of dishonor? I think we need to celebrate those churches that are growing and headed in the right direction.

“A church that is declining in numbers and giving, but committed to giving 10 percent of its undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program, is headed in the wrong direction and will be giving less even though their percentage of giving is strong,” Hunt observed. “But a church that gives only 3 percent, but is growing in numbers and giving — buying land, constructing buildings and adding staff — will consistently be increasing their dollar amount to the CP.”

At the same time, giving 10 percent of all undesignated gifts to the Cooperative Program “should not necessarily be the ceiling,” Kennedy added.

One state convention president said to Hunt: “I didn’t vote for you for president of our convention, but I can easily support you now, because I know what you are doing to advance the cause of Christ around the world.”
J. Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

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