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SBTC approves $19.3 million budget, elects Swofford

AMARILLO, Texas (BP)–Messengers to the eighth Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting approved a $19.3 million budget for 2006 and elected Steve Swofford, pastor of First Baptist Church of Rockwall, as president.

The convention, in its first meeting in West Texas and hosted by The Church at Quail Creek in Amarillo, formerly San Jacinto Baptist Church, drew 910 registered messengers and guests for the Oct. 24-25 sessions.

The theme of the meeting was “Reaching Texas, Touching the World,” based on the Acts 1:8 charge to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the world.

Messengers also approved eight resolutions, including affirmations of traditional marriage and the sanctity of human life, the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools and the role and responsibility of parents in making “prayerful and informed decisions” about their children’s education.

The SBTC executive board honored Skeet Workman, an SBTC board member and a trustee of the International Mission Board, with the H. Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award “for sacrificial and extraordinary service” in Southern Baptists’ conservative theological resurgence.

The convention budget represents an increase of .28 percent, up from $19,245,933 in 2005. From 1999 to 2000, the budget grew 118 percent during a time of explosive growth. In the years 2004 and 2005, messengers approved annual budget increases of 18 percent.

The SBTC will continue sending 53 percent of Cooperative Program giving through the Southern Baptist Convention to fund SBC missions and education — the highest percentage of any state convention, said Joe Davis, SBTC chief financial officer. The remaining 47 percent will fund SBTC missions, the largest portion of which is for church planting.

Swofford, elected without opposition, succeeds two-term president Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Bryan.

Messengers re-elected first vice president Ed Ethridge, director of missions of North Texas Baptist Association, and elected to a first term as second vice president Marcos Ramos, pastor of First Baptist Church of Galena Park. Ramos succeeds Bill Sutton, pastor of First Baptist Church of McAllen.

Yolanda McPherson, wife of Fort Worth pastor B.C. McPherson of Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, was elected to a first term as recording secretary.

Workman, well known in Texas as a conservative activist, was praised for her consistent pro-life stand on local, state and national levels, “daring to do something that the establishment had not allowed,” said retired Houston Judge Paul Pressler, who presented the award named for him during the Oct. 25 session.

Recalling the first time he met Workman and her husband, Don, at a Baptist General Convention of Texas meeting in Lubbock 25 years ago, Pressler said, “They had the temerity to get up and propose some very wonderful resolutions to the convention and they were absolutely clobbered by the leadership.”

Workman’s service on an SBC calendar committee provided the tie-breaking vote to make the anniversary of Roe v. Wade a pro-life observance for Southern Baptists, Pressler recounted.

Workman was elected to the Christian Life Commission when the Southern Baptist entity’s leader was a founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League, opposed the death penalty and many other positions upheld by conservative Southern Baptists, Pressler said, referring to Foy Valentine.

After the next CLC director “lasted only a year,” Pressler said Workman and others like her brought in Richard Land to lead what became the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Workman told messengers, “There are many here who worked as hard as I did. I respect our men so much and the leadership they have given us as a national convention and state convention.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Workman added. “I can remember how hard it was, but when you do something that is worthwhile, it doesn’t matter. Thank you all so much.”

In the convention sermon prior to his election, Swofford, preaching from Romans 12:1-2, said Christian commitment is mostly about being available for God’s glory and cannot be reduced to doing things for God, studying about Him or even worshiping Him corporately, especially “if you’re at church every day and night you’re out of God’s will.”

Christians who are committed will naturally do for God, study and worship, he explained, noting Romans 11:36, which gives bringing glory to God as the motivation.

“To try to do verses 1 and 2 without verse 36 is like starting in the middle of the story,” Swofford said.

Of the eight SBTC resolutions, five dealt with social issues, one commended Southern Baptists for their work during the recent hurricanes while expressing sympathy to victims, and the remaining two noted appreciation to the host church and outgoing SBTC President Chris Osborne. They included:

—- “Same-sex marriage”: Messengers affirmed biblical marriage of one man and one woman, noted the possibility of life-change through Christ for homosexuals and stated support for the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 2, a proposed Texas constitutional amendment defining traditional marriage and precluding alternative definitions, including same-sex civil unions and so-called “gay marriages.”

— Sanctity of human life: Messengers stated opposition to “embryo-destructive stem cell research” and urged “all families that seek pregnancy through in vitro fertilization to consider the ethical and spiritual implications of storing their embryos indefinitely in a medical facility, or authorizing their destruction,” and “we encourage families to have fertilized only as many embryos as they are to willing to rear, or to give priority consideration to adoption or implantation of their embryos.”

— Intelligent Design: Messengers upheld the biblical view of God as creator while noting that naturalistic evolution leads to “a low view” of life. Furthermore, “we affirm President Bush for stating that he thinks Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools.”

— The Family Covenant: Messengers affirmed the biblical view of marital fidelity and resolved to support traditional marriage laws, encourage family fiscal responsibility, sexual abstinence programs for unmarried people, and “support programs and actions that help those who are raising children without the help of a spouse.”

— Educating children: Emphasizing parental responsibility, messengers urged parents and churches to “make prayerful and informed decisions” about education and to “monitor the entertainment and educational influences on children.” The resolution commends godly public school teachers and students “called to take a stand for Christ in secular schools as lights shining in the darkness.”

SBTC Hispanic Initiative director Mike Gonzales reported to messengers that the first students involved in the convention’s “Hispanic Education Superhighway” are attending their respective schools. The Hispanic Education Superhighway is an SBTC effort to expand theological education for Hispanics through a joint venture with Criswell College in Dallas, Jacksonville College in Jacksonville, Texas, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

With SBTC scholarships, three undergraduate students are enrolled at Jacksonville College and three more are doctoral candidates at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gonzales reported.

The SBTC Pastors’ Conference, which preceded the annual meeting, elected as president Steve Washburn, pastor of Austin-area First Baptist Church of Pflugerville; as vice president Tony Mathews, pastor of North Garland Baptist Fellowship in Garland; and as secretary-treasurer Jerry Payne, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Brownfield.

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  • Jerry Pierce