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Southern Baptists of Texas celebrate doubling of churches, nearly tripled CP

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–One thousand and four messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention met in Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth Oct. 29-30, celebrating a year in which the number of affiliated churches more than doubled and Cooperative Program giving is projected to nearly triple.

In the new convention’s fourth annual meeting, with a theme of “To God Be the Glory,” messengers reiterated their support of biblical inerrancy and passed a budget that gives priority to evangelism and missions.

In one of 10 resolutions approved unanimously, messengers declared: “We praise God for His blessings, dedicate ourselves to work even more effectively to proclaim His gospel and invite all other Baptists in Texas who believe that ‘all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy’ to cooperate with us as we seek to bring the lost to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and to promote righteousness in our state.”

Just as SBTC membership grew over the last year, participation in the state convention rose from 600 to 1001 registered messengers, with total attendance increasing from 1,200 to 2,000, including 476 registered guests. The registration secretary reported 338 of the 928 member churches were represented at this year’s convention.

Messengers unanimously approved the SBTC’s 2002 proposed $8.9 million budget, up from $4.3 million in 2001, committing once again to designate 51 percent for distribution through the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program.

The in-state budget of $4,241,820 represents a figure that has doubled each year of the convention’s existence, with new church starts as the largest line item. Missions and evangelism continue to command the largest percentage of the in-state budget at 34.92 percent, with church ministry support constituting 19.07 percent, minister/church relations at 13.87 percent, operational and financial services at 13.54 percent, communications at 12.52 percent and administration at 6.08 percent.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Ken Hemphill welcomed messengers to Fort Worth, thanking them for a 192 percent increase in gifts directed to the school.

This year’s SBTC budget was met at mid-year, and more than $1 million in surplus receipts will go to the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, six Southern Baptist seminaries and the operating budget of the Executive Committee.

“The SBTC has risen to the challenge to support our Southern Baptist Convention’s needs,” said SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards. “And when another state convention adopted a non-Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program budget by reducing or defunding SBC ministries, the SBTC created The Partners Plan.”

The budget adopted by the Baptist General Convention of Texas last year called for the redirection of $5.3 million, significantly reducing funding for the SBC seminaries, defunding the ERLC and giving a token amount to the SBC Executive Committee. The money diverted from SBC entities was earmarked for three Texas seminaries, Hispanic ministries, human-welfare needs and moral concerns.

As their first act of business, messengers approved a statement on the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible written by Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington. “I simply wanted to introduce a resolution on biblical inerrancy that I don’t have to read now, but want to make sure it’s accepted here. By the way,” he added, “this is the same motion that was rejected by the executive board of the BGCT.”

SBTC President Ruben Hernandez thanked McKissic for the statement and said, “You’re in friendly territory.” Messenger Bill Sutton, pastor of First Baptist Church of McAllen, moved the suspension of the rules in order to act immediately on the resolution, receiving numerous shouts of “second” to his motion.

Asked to speak for the resolution, McKissic said, “I want to reiterate the position of the documents as I understand them of the SBTC and to give testimony to Baptists in the state of Texas regarding our beliefs that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.” The text of the resolution stated, “We believe in the divine inspiration of the whole Bible and the inerrancy of the original manuscripts,” adding that the BGCT executive board had rejected his effort to present the motion for consideration at their 2001 convention.

“I bring this motion today because I want to be absolutely convinced that I’m in a room with Baptists that can affirm that if God breathed the Scriptures, they have to be without error,” McKissic passionately declared to the applause of convention-goers who cheered and waved their ballots when it was time to vote. “I just need to know there are some Baptists who will take a stand on this issue,” he shouted.

Asking if any messenger wished to speak against it, Hernandez joined the audience in laughter at such a thought. “All right. That’s beautiful.” After messengers voted, he added, “Unanimous. Let it go on record.”

The SBTC adopted 10 resolutions that addressed moral decline and Christian holiness; urged passage in the Texas legislature of the Defense of Marriage Act along with other efforts to encourage the family; opposed public funding of stem cell research; urged caution by affiliated churches in their associations with groups whose actions harm the cause of Christ or discredit biblical principles. Three resolutions expressed appreciation for SBTC staff and churches providing assistance for the meeting; for the blessing of God on SBTC growth; and the leadership of SBTC President Hernandez.

Another resolution described the war on terrorism as meeting all the criteria of a “just war” while pledging prayer for President George Bush, congressional leaders, friends and families of victims of the Sept. 11th attack, military and civil servants, as well as the enemies of America.

A resolution on evangelism and church planting recounted that faith in Jesus Christ alone as revealed in the Bible is the means of salvation and noted every Christian’s obligation to share such truth motivated by love. Messengers encouraged the efforts of the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and SBTC to evangelize and start new churches among non-Christians of all faiths.

Prior to the presentation of a resolution on Baptist Press, resolutions committee chairman Paul Pressler stated, “This is one resolution I never thought I’d be able to support, but I’m delighted I can.” The resolution described the role of the SBC national news service as being “to inform and equip Southern Baptists for life, work and ministry through timely and accurate reporting about key events and persons in Baptist life as well as those outside of Baptist life who have potential for impacting SBC ministries.”

Messengers commended BP reporters and editors for presenting “pertinent articles that are thorough, accurate, balanced and void of inflammatory terms and prejudicial slants,” allowing people in churches the opportunity to evaluate important issues. “Conclusions drawn from fair and truthful Baptist Press reports which describe events and associations by Baptists are the responsibility of those Baptists and not of Baptist Press,” the resolution stated. Messengers endorsed a free press and affirmed editors and reporters of both Baptist Press and the Southern Baptist Texan published by SBTC.

The complete texts of all resolutions are available at the SBTC website at www.sbtexas.com.

Hernandez announced he would not seek a second term as president. Instead, convention messengers learned Hernandez will work for the SBTC as a special assistant to the executive director for Hispanic ministry. Effective Nov. 1, the consultant position includes developing strategies for reaching the Hispanic population in Texas and providing assistance to SBTC Hispanic congregations in evangelism, church planting and leadership development.

Hernandez also will work to establish a training center for pastors and lay leadership, explore educational opportunities for Hispanic ministerial students, serve as a liaison to the SBC and other Baptist ministries that relate to Hispanic work, and oversee the preparation of materials for Hispanic churches.

Native Texans Paige and Dorothy Patterson were named the recipients of the 2001 Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award in recognition of a lifetime of service to principles held dear to the hearts of Texas Baptists.

Richards said the SBTC executive board voted to name the award after Paul Pressler of Houston because he “personifies the desire of grassroots Southern Baptists to see doctrinal fidelity in our institutions and evangelistic fervor in our missions. Texas Baptists owe him an eternal debt of gratitude.”

Pressler, presenting the 2001 award to the Pattersons, described them as “honorable and worthy recipients of the award,” noting the strengths of both in their theological and scholastic endeavors and their practical natures.

“I’d like to thank you for doing this for my wife as well as for me, because ministry is a team effort,” Patterson said upon receiving the award, adding that to be associated with Paul Pressler’s name was an honor to his soul.

“[We] accept this award today only as an opportunity to say thank you to the people who are the real heroes,” Patterson added, referring to convention messengers whom he described as the true architects of the “success story” of the conservative resurgence.

“I will never, as long I shall live, forget the people that I met at the Los Angeles convention years ago who had driven there in Volkswagen beetles, who didn’t have enough money for hotel rooms, ate one meal a day at Burger King, and who came to vote for truth and the Word of God. Those are the real heroes.”

Messengers elected new officers for 2002, including George Harris, pastor of Castle Hills First Baptist Church, San Antonio, as president; Steve Swofford, pastor of First Baptist Church, Rockwall, as second vice president; and Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church, Fort Worth, as recording secretary. Gregg Simmons, pastor of First Baptist Church, Borger, Texas, was re-elected first vice president.

Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, was selected to preach at the 2002 SBTC meeting in Houston to be held Oct. 28-29 at the Astro Arena.

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  • Melissa Deming & Tammi Reed Ledbetter