NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The evangelistic fervor of Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch reached a number of conventions this fall as many pledged to embrace his agenda of doubling the number of baptisms in 2005.
A passion for evangelism is spreading in additional ways, from the commitment of Arizona Baptists to reach those along their border with Mexico to the ambitious goal of Dakota Baptists to baptize one new member for every seven resident Southern Baptists.
Among the indicators of evangelistic fervor at various state Baptist conventions are:
— evangelistic witness to a Somali man who was a parking lot attendant. After faith-related chats with a series of three Minnesota-Wisconsin messengers exiting the lot, the native African told the third witness he wanted to “learn Christian.”
— the final phase of a three-year “Light Up Alaska” emphasis that will focus on evangelism in 2005.
— a simultaneous revival campaign in 2006 in Arkansas.
— a challenge to Hoosier Baptists to ask God to provide every Southern Baptist in the state an opportunity to lead at least one person to faith in Christ in 2005.
— an Iowa Baptist emphasis called “Year of the Harvest” to promote evangelism and increased baptisms.
— prayer among Georgia Baptists for a “tsunami” wave of revival next year as a series of evangelistic meetings are slated across the state next spring.
— the long-range goal by Kentucky Baptists to increase baptisms by more than 40 percent by 2010.
— New Mexico Baptists filling the front of the auditorium as a commitment to the evangelistic cause Welch is championing.
— Pennsylvania-South Jersey Baptists celebrating an 11.5 percent increase in the number of baptisms over the previous year.
— Michigan Baptists preparing for a two-year evangelistic emphasis named “What Now, Michigan?”
— Mississippi Baptists setting aside one day a month for prayer and fasting for revival.
— Oklahoma Baptists resolving to share the Good News of Jesus through a renewal of evangelism and missions.
— West Virginia Baptists making a missions and evangelism strategy the theme of their meeting.
— Southern Baptists of Texas Convention messengers launching the Year of the Double Harvest.
— The Northwest Baptist Convention committing to pray for Welch and do their part in reaching the SBC-wide goal of baptizing 1 million people in 2005.
Anxious to send more of undesignated receipts from local churches to worldwide Southern Baptist ministries, several state conventions tackled the issue of giving to the Cooperative Program:
–In Arizona, messengers encouraged churches to consider increasing their percentage of support by one percent, earmarking half for CP and half to the local Baptist association.
–Illinois Baptists will seek to increase missions potential through increased CP giving.
— Oklahoma Baptists called for a broader commitment to tithing among local Southern Baptists and increased giving to CP by their churches.
–Kansas-Nebraska Baptists increased the portion of CP receipts sent to the SBC by a quarter of a percent.
–Southern Baptists of Texas Convention participants again increased by one percent the portion of receipts forwarded to the SBC.
While several North Carolina Southern Baptists called for change in the current four giving plans to one which would increase CP giving, the state convention executive director and newspaper editor voiced opposition and the motion was defeated.
California Baptists anticipated that their 2005 budget would return to a more typical 70/30 division of CP receipts between state and national Southern Baptist ministries. Last year California Baptists reallocated 3 percent of the 30 percent typically sent to the SBC, temporarily shoring up state ministries. Trying to be “cautious,” messengers were told that the 2005 budget did not formally reflect the return to the earlier level forwarded to the SBC.
Most states raised their budgets for the coming year, with a percentage increase ranging from less than half a percent to an 11 percent increase for Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and 18 percent increase for Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. New England and Tennessee Baptists approved flat budgets while slight reductions were authorized in Illinois, Michigan and West Virginia. A note-burning celebration occurred in Colorado where a $2.6 million debt was retired, freeing up $240,000 each year for mission causes in the state.
The District of Columbia Baptist Convention reduced their budget again this year in order to avoid continued deficit spending. However, messengers set aside an originally proposed cap of $1.05 million sought by the executive board, and raised the total to $1,225,842. The DCBC no longer receives nearly half a million dollars from Southern Baptists and last year’s implementation of a $500 minimal contribution for member churches failed to generate enough income to overcome budget shortfalls. The North American Mission Board ceased funding ministry and personnel in 2002 due to unresolved theological differences with the only state convention that also relates to American Baptists and Progressive National Baptists. Reportedly, a third of DCBC member churches still do not contribute to the budget.
The increasing diversity of Southern Baptists is becoming more evident as state conventions elect officers with different ethnicities and either gender.
Among the states where this occurred:
— Oklahoma, where Marty Odom of Oklahoma City became the first woman to assume a state convention office.
— Texas, where the Baptist General Convention of Texas elected Hispanic leader Albert Reyes of San Antonio as president.
— Maryland/Delaware, where the annual meeting began with a worship service blending cultures and music from Hispanics, Koreans, African Americans and Anglos.
TAKING A STAND
Several of the conventions that met prior to the recent national election urged Southern Baptists in their states to vote in keeping with biblical values, including the Dakotas, Kansas-Nebraska, Minnesota-Wisconsin, New Mexico and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Resolutions in support of defining marriage as involving a man and a woman were approved this year in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Northwest, Ohio, Oklahoma, Baptist General Convention of Texas, Utah-Idaho and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.
Resolutions upholding the sanctity of life were passed in Arkansas, Northwest, Ohio, Oklahoma and Southern Baptists of Texas, while California Baptists encouraged sending a letter to Norma McCovery recognizing the reversal of her stance in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortion. In a few states — Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico and Southern Baptists of Texas — resolutions encouraged medical research that respects human life, often with specific reference to stem cell studies.
Opposition to gambling was addressed in Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
Both of the state conventions in Texas passed resolutions on education. The Baptists General Convention of Texas pledged to pray for children and staff in public schools while the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention resolved to “instruct parents to ensure the godly education” of children, “whether in public schools, private schools, home schools, or through the church’s education program….”
A motion in Florida was adopted to continue to cooperate with the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools in lieu of a proposed resolution that included a call to “help parents provide their children with Christian alternatives to government school education, either through home schooling or thoroughly Christian schools.” The maker of the motion told the convention he also affirmed Christians employed in the public school system and who “love the Lord and are trying to advance His Kingdom.”
Missouri Baptists, meanwhile, encouraged Baptists to consider the dangers of secularization in public schools, while Alabama Baptists affirmed Baptists’ support of education, specifically mentioning public schools.
Reference to the conservative resurgence within the SBC that began 25 years ago was praised in a resolution adopted at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, while the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention honored native Texan Joe Atchison for his part in accomplishing that theological reformation.
Florida Baptists authorized the state board of missions to conduct inquiries into churches that are not in compliance with the terms of cooperation, requiring an Annual Church Profile, commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message or another declaration of faith paralleling tenets of “our historic faith.”
Mississippi Baptists received a report from the chairman of a constitution and bylaws committee that was asked last year to consider adopting the current BF&M statement. Instead, the committee reaffirmed the MBC’s commitment to the Word of God as a standard of faith and practice, recognizing the BF&M can serve as a guide.
In Michigan, Southern Baptists added a constitutional amendment embracing the BF&M this year, having affirmed the doctrinal statement last year as a guideline for requesting assistance from the state convention.
Other moral and spiritual concerns surfaced in each of the Texas conventions. BGCT resolutions addressed inadequate public funding for the poor and needy as well as prison chaplaincy positions, while SBTC statements dealt with religious persecution in the Sudan, a commitment to holiness to reflect Christ in the culture and advancing presidential judicial nominees for a vote. South Carolina Baptists also addressed the court structure and favored citizens having a greater opportunity for input in the selection of judges.
Several states addressed some aspect of reorganization, including Arkansas, where a task force will work over the next year; California, where all but one of 11 recommendations passed dealt with governance; Illinois, where the governing board was reduced from 72 to 33 members; and the Baptist General Convention of Texas, where the 234-member board was reduced to 90 members drawn from “sectors” instead of associations. An effort to limit board members to those representing churches uniquely affiliated with BGCT failed. Messengers also approved constitutional changes intended to “streamline” the governing body, including a way to discontinue a relationship with a partnering ministry if deemed necessary.
Dakota Baptists received word on a strategic plan to develop pastoral and lay leadership. North Carolina Baptists approved resolutions leading to incorporation as a nonprofit entity, a status many had assumed was already in place. Michigan Baptists amended their constitution to state that officers must have been a member of the same participating church for one year and the church must give at least 5 percent of undesignated funds to the Cooperative Program.
By a 2-1 margin, Missouri Baptists rejected an effort to end the legal battle against five breakaway institutions that voted to make their boards self-perpetuating. In the first vote of approval, Tennessee Baptists gave their elected president a “voice and vote” on all standing committees of the convention, including the committee on committees and committee on boards.
BAPTIST WORLD ALLIANCE
Kentucky Baptists refused a call for a study on relating to the Baptist World Alliance; Alabama Baptists rejected an amendment that sought to redirect funds from the SBC Executive Committee to the BWA; and Georgia Baptists overwhelmingly rejected a motion to add a $30,000 allocation for BWA. In South Carolina, a resolution thanked the state WMU for not forwarding support to the BWA women’s department and asked that both the national auxiliary and South Carolina office “consider their relationship” with BWA and its women’s department.
Messengers to the Baptist General Association of Virginia approved a plan to seek membership in the Baptist World Alliance. One of the world missions funding tracks for BGAV churches increased support for the BWA from about $90,000 to about $150,000, largely by reducing funding for the SBC International Mission Board based in Richmond, Va.
Discussion of state Baptist colleges arose in a few states. Kentucky Baptists rejected a proposal allowing the four Baptist colleges to have non-Baptists serve in up to one-fourth of their trustee positions. Missouri Baptists considered giving $100,000 in reserves for the missions/evangelism endowment at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. However, when the proposed allocation was amended to include Hannibal-LaGrange College and Southwest Baptist University, the effort failed on a close vote of 486-464.
Tennessee Baptists were told of continuing discussion with Belmont University in drafting a new covenant agreement. Belmont proposed taking away the convention’s current ability to elect the school’s trustees while pledging to remain affiliated with the state convention.
In a later session, a Carson-Newman College student reported being taught by professors that the Bible has errors and contradictions. After the Tennessee college’s president disputed the allegation, a messenger asked if faculty would be willing to affirm the current Baptist Faith and Message Statement and was told the question had not been raised.
Tennessee pastor Bill Sherman asked fellow messengers to quit “our cotton-picking nitpicking” and was rebuffed by another pastor, Hollie Miller, who praised the student for raising the question. “To testify about the Word of God is not nitpicking,” Miller said.
An initial ruling referring a call for an investigation of charges to the state convention executive board’s education committee was strengthened by a later motion that was more specific. The theological teachings of all three state Baptist colleges, Belmont, Carson-Newman and Union University, will be studied by the committee and a report will be made to the executive board and next year’s annual meeting.
The dispute between the Baptist General Association of Virginia and Averett University over homosexuality and biblical authority led messengers to reduce the school’s allocation from $350,000 last year to $150,000 in 2005, keeping funds in escrow until there is resolution.
Information on state convention meetings in Hawaii, Nevada, New York and Wyoming was not available by Baptist Press’ deadline Dec. 3. This wrap-up was compiled by Tammi Reed Ledbetter from Baptist Press reports and state convention reports.