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SBTC adopts $16.3 M budget; Bush sends anniversary greeting

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (BP)–Messengers to the sixth annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention adopted a $16.3 million budget for 2004 and marked the SBTC’s fifth anniversary, which included a surprise greeting from President Bush via fax.

The convention elected its officers unopposed, including Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church of Bryan, as president. David Galvan, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Garland, was elected to a second term as first vice president. Joining Osborne as new officers were Bill Sutton, pastor of First Baptist Church in McAllen, elected second vice president and Brenda Wills of First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, recording secretary.

Osborne, SBTC Pastors’ Conference president in 2003, succeeds George Harris, who retired last year as pastor of Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio.

In nominating Osborne, Gil Lane, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, said Osborne has many admirable credentials, “but it’s not his credentials that impress me; it’s his character.”

A total of 831 messengers registered for the Corpus Christi meeting, representing 338 of the SBTC’s 1,371 congregations.

The SBTC’s 2004 budget of $16,339,576 is an 18 percent increase, or $2.47 million, over 2003. The majority — 52 percent — will go to Southern Baptist Convention causes, such as the International and North American mission boards and the SBC’s six seminaries. The remaining 48 percent will fund church planting, missions and related ministry within Texas, reported Joe Davis, the SBTC’s chief financial officer.

No other Baptist state convention sends a higher percentage of receipts to Southern Baptist Convention ministries through the SBC’s Cooperative Program missions funding channel than the SBTC, Davis noted.

The 2004 budget is “aggressive,” Davis said — requiring $68,000 more per month in Cooperative Program receipts than in 2003 — and “[we] believe this budget continues our practice of being good stewards with your Cooperative Program gifts and we are anxious to see what God will do in 2004.”

Of the SBTC budget, 29.49 percent will go to missions and 9.29 percent for evangelism (formerly part of the missions category). The remainder includes 14.19 percent for minister/church relations; 13.78 percent for church ministry support; 11.57 percent for affiliated and fraternally related ministries; 10.93 percent for operational and financial services; and 10.75 percent for communications.

Gerald Smith, outgoing executive board chairman, reported to messengers that because of the “generous gifts of God’s people” the SBTC is building debt-free a 30,000-square-foot office on 3.8 acres in Grapevine, set for completion next April. Owning a building will save the convention about $200,000 a year, according to a feasibility study, Smith said.

Throughout the two-day gathering, which featured the theme “Victory in Jesus,” numerous platform guests noted the SBTC’s fifth anniversary. The convention has grown from 120 churches since its 1998 founding to more than 1,370.

During the Oct. 28 session, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards stepped to the podium and read a greeting from President Bush congratulating the convention on its five-year anniversary.

“I send greetings to those celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention,” the president wrote. “Faith plays an important role in the lives of many Americans and in the fabric of our country. Throughout our history, people of faith have helped shape our character and have contributed to the vitality of our Nation.

“By celebrating and sharing your faith, you help to sustain a spirit of compassion in our country. Your dedication to loving and serving others reflects the strength of America.

“Laura joins me in sending our best wishes for a memorable event. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless America.”

Richards remarked to the convention, “That was quite a surprise and I think Dr. [Richard] Land may have had his hand in that. We appreciate anyone who was responsible for notifying the president of our fifth anniversary celebration and we do thank the president of the United States for thinking of us at our time of celebration.”

In a video presentation, four people involved in the SBTC’s early leadership — Richards, Ronnie Yarber, the SBTC’s only employee when Richards came, Lettie Perry, a member of the committee that called Richards, and Stan Coffey, the SBTC’s first president — reflected on the convention’s first five years.

After working out of a borrowed church office, “several months later we secured about 1,000 square feet of office space and leased that and stopped using my cell phone as the official phone of the convention,” Richards recalled. “And as we progressed along, it was exciting to see what God was doing.”

Richards noted said an “emerging generation” of leaders needs to capture the vision of Southern Baptist missions, and he looks forward to “helping them see the value of it.”

Yarber, now interim evangelism director for the SBTC, recounted that the convention saw its greatest percentage of growth in 2000 and it became evident that its churches would be “people of the book.”

The video was followed by short presentations celebrating the SBTC’s relationships with the East Texas Baptist Family Ministry, Criswell College, Korean Baptist Fellowship of Texas, Texas Baptist Men and Houston Baptist University.

Richards also noted the SBTC’s Hispanic initiative, which aims to more effectively reach the Hispanic population, and the 20/20 Connection Initiative, which will invest in the leadership development of emerging Southern Baptist leaders.

Paul Pressler, a Houston judge and a key architect in the SBC’s conservative theological resurgence, presented the third Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award to Rudy Hernandez, the SBTC’s special assistant to the executive director for Hispanic ministries and former SBTC president.

Pressler told how Hernandez, at age 9, on the same day as he prayed to receive Christ also led a friend to faith in Christ. Hernandez, a member of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Grand Prairie, spoke of his love for the SBTC and his continuing battle with cancer.

“Thank you for this distinct honor,” Hernandez said. “If anybody deserves it, it’s the Hispanic people in the state of Texas who have been so gracious to me in allowing me to serve them in a very special way and a particular manner.”

The convention passed nine resolutions largely dealing with social-political issues:

— On the sanctity of human sexuality. The resolution describes sex as a gift from God, enjoyed between husband and wife in the bonds of marriage, and affirms the purity of the unmarried. The resolution further states that sex outside of marriage is sin, according to Scripture.

— The Federal Marriage Amendment. The resolution emphasizes biblical teachings of marriage between a man and woman and encourages support for the Federal Marriage Amendment (H.J. Resolution 56) as well as prayer for those voting on it.

— Gratitude for Gov. (Rick) Perry. The resolution thanks the Texas governor for supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, an Unborn Victims of Violence Act, the Woman’s Right to Know Act and other family friendly legislation.

— U.S. Supreme Court decision on Texas sodomy law. The resolution speaks of the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual acts as sin and that God’s desire is for redemption and reconciliation. The resolution further states disagreement over the Supreme Court’s ruling that Texas law prohibiting homosexual sodomy was not legally valid.

— The sanctity of human life. The resolution states that the Bible affirms the sanctity of human life and affirms Congress for passing a ban on partial-birth abortion. The resolution also affirms President Bush’s stated intention to sign the bill.

— On Christian citizenship. The resolution acknowledges the history of Baptists in helping obtain civic liberty and encourages participation in the 2004 elections.

— Church and state relations. The resolution recognizes the balance of the “Establishment Clause” and “Free Exercise Clause” of the First Amendment and vows to resist attempts, within proper biblical restraints, to foster aggressive secularization of society.

— On mission giving. The resolution emphasizes the Great Commission responsibility of each believer, affirms the Cooperative Program missions funding channel of Southern Baptists and asks Texas Baptists to prayerfully consider increasing gifts to Southern Baptist causes.

— Gratitude for George Harris. The resolution recognizes the service of outgoing SBTC President George Harris, who was elected in 2001.

In other business, messengers approved a recommendation for Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin as the site for the 2006 annual meeting. Next year’s meeting will be Oct. 25-26 at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, followed by San Jacinto Baptist Church in Amarillo in 2005.

The SBTC Pastors’ Conference, which preceded the annual meeting, elected Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, as president; Alan Burkhalter, pastor of Chaparral Hills Baptist Church in Amarillo, first vice president; and Dale Norris, pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church in Mabank, second vice president.

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  • Jerry Pierce