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SBTC celebrates 10th anniversary

HOUSTON (BP)–Hosted by Houston’s First Baptist Church, the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention returned, Nov. 10-11, to the city where the convention was launched 10 years ago.

“In 1998, conservative Southern Baptists living in Texas saw the need for a new state convention that would work in cooperation with and not in competition with the Southern Baptist Convention,” recalled SBTC President Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth.

“They saw the need for a convention that subscribed to the inerrant, infallible Scripture without caveat — heavy on missions and light on bureaucracy,” he added.

The 1,033 registered messengers and 546 guests celebrating the convention’s growth from 120 to 2,079 affiliated churches credited God’s provision in funding budgets that increased from $903,500 in 1999 to $20,935,548 in 2008. Messengers approved a budget of $24,548,566 for 2009 — an increase of nearly 14 percent.

“We come today to celebrate our heritage with praise to God after a decade of sovereign blessings and divine direction,” Pearle said. “We celebrate God’s goodness to us knowing we stand today not because of human ingenuity but because of the multitudinous blessings of Almighty God on our convention.”

Pearle recognized members of the 1998 search committee that “God led to an individual who has done an excellent job in formulating and bringing together this convention to its dynamic state today,” said Pearle, referring to SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards.

Richards and his wife June were honored with a globe for their decade of service, “since Jim has the world on his heart,” Pearle said.

Richards declared in his report that the SBTC “does not equivocate or vacillate. We stand firmly on the foundation of a confessional fellowship. Our vision remains unchanged.”

The SBTC is a contributing partner with many institutions, he noted. “They join us at the heart rather than the pocketbook,” he said, noting the 15 percent cap of the in-state budget going to institutions. “We’re serious about reaching Texas by keeping priorities where the churches want them,” he added, referring to an allocation of nearly 40 percent for missions and evangelism. During its first decade, SBTC has funded nearly 400 new church starts.

“While our core values — biblically based, Kingdom focused and missionally funded — have not, will not and cannot change, our expressions of ministry may very well change as we find new opportunities every year,” Richards said.

He reported on efforts to sustain the ministries of several dozen congregations destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Ike by offering ministerial supplements, and he appealed for churches to join in meeting interim needs.

“We are the Southern Baptists in Texas, not just Texas Baptists,” Richards insisted, commending as a sign of confidence in Southern Baptist work the messengers’ vote to allocate a 1 percent increase to 55 percent of undesignated receipts for SBC missions and ministries around the world.

The major recipient of that generosity was featured during the closing night as more than 100 Southern Baptist missionaries were appointed by the International Mission Board to serve in locations around the world.

Pearle was re-elected without opposition to a second term as president after being nominated as an “eloquent and able champion in the cause for truth” to lead the SBTC into its second decade.

“He is someone who has proven himself to be faithful to the SBTC, whether we’re talking about the truth of the Gospel, inerrancy of the Bible, uniqueness of our God over false religions such as Islam, or biblical principles we cherish as Baptists that define our faith and cooperative work together,” stated Bart Barber, a Farmersville pastor.

Abilene pastor Kevin Ueckert of Southside Baptist was elected first vice president over Don Harms, pastor of First Baptist Church in Porter. While both men were commended for the evangelistic focus of their ministries, Houston Judge Paul Pressler appealed for Ueckert’s election in order to tap a leader from both a younger age group and the West Texas region where “SBTC needs to expand.”

Second Vice President Jimmy Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist in Forney, was re-elected without opposition, as was recording secretary Gary May, pastor of First Baptist Church in Diana.

In addition to reports from Midwestern and Southwestern Baptist theological seminaries, the North American Mission Board, GuideStone Financial Resources, the Executive Committee of the SBC and the IMB, a testimony on the need for Christian universities was offered by Houston Baptist University President Robert Sloan.

Thanking God for the support of SBTC in the aftermath of $17 million in damages caused by Hurricane Ike to the HBU campus, Sloan said it is symbolic of their relationship. “The calling on my life — and I tried it once elsewhere — is seeing somewhere in America a great, comprehensive, national Christian university. By God’s grace, I’ll get to see that here,” he stated, noting the commitment of HBU faculty and trustees to provide an unapologetically Christian education.

The H. Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award was presented to Keet Lewis of Dallas, recognizing his service on SBC and SBTC committees, most recently as board chairman of Texas Life Connections, a network of pro-life ministries.

Ten resolutions were approved without dissent, categorized in a manner that chairman Malcolm Yarnell of Fort Worth compared to the concerns voiced in the letters of the Apostle Paul.

“In this important year, we believe it is necessary to call ourselves and all Christians back to these fundamental biblical and therefore Baptist doctrines — the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the centrality of Scripture, the primacy of the local church and a fully biblical definition of a new desire for a Great Commission resurgence,” Yarnell said before committee members introduced the resolutions.

A resolution on a Great Commission resurgence stated: “We covenant together earnestly to preach and teach ‘all things’ as Christ commanded in the Great Commission without minimizing or trivializing biblical doctrines such as the Lordship of Christ; the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture; the exclusivity of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; believers’ baptism by immersion; regenerate church membership; congregational church polity; the priesthood of the believers; church discipline and religious liberty.”

Noting the Gospel’s impact on all human life, the committee addressed the moral issues of religious liberty, sanctity of human life and the traditional and biblical view of marriage.

The resolution on marriage affirmed its definition as a lifelong covenant only between a man and a woman. Messengers called upon President-Elect Barack Obama, the Texas legislature and representatives to Congress to do all within their means to sponsor and support legislation or amendments that will offer protection and endorsement for that view.

“We humbly urge that all churches unashamedly and without reservation or hesitation teach and counsel the biblical precepts and principles of the covenant institution of marriage which was created and ordained of God from the beginning of man,” the resolution stated.

Thanksgiving for the SBTC upon its 10th anniversary, disaster relief efforts and for Houston’s First Baptist Church as host of the annual meeting were the subjects of the other resolutions.

Ten churches as diverse as the population of the greater Houston area welcomed convention visitors arriving early to survey neighborhoods and work at block parties.

With 183 people participating in the effort, 2,545 contacts were made in the neighborhoods spread across Houston and the outlying cities of Galena Park, Katy, Conroe and Tomball. They reported 1,017 new prospects for future ministry; 507 Gospel presentations; and 225 professions of faith in Jesus Christ.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 26-27 in the Lubbock Convention Center.
Tammmi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

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