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STATE MEETINGS: Arizona, West Virginia


Arizona Mission Network annual meeting focuses on international missions

By Elizabeth Young/AZMN

CHANDLER, Ariz. (BP) – With an annual meeting theme of “Open Your Eyes,” Arizona Southern Baptists were challenged by an International Mission Board missionary from their state to join God in His work and heard about a new Arizona partnership with the IMB’s Sub-Saharan Africa Affinity.

Elected to second terms as Arizona Mission Network officers are Fernando Amaro (center), president; Shawn Buckhanan (left), first vice president; and Paul Smith, second vice president.

The 232 messengers from 121 churches in the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists quickly dispensed with business, re-electing all three officers by acclamation and unanimously adopting a 2024 operating budget that reflects reduced Cooperative Program giving by AZMN churches in 2023.

The annual meeting, with a single afternoon worship and business session, was held at First Baptist Church Chandler Nov. 3.

Preaching from Psalm 67, Doug Derbyshire, IMB missionary to Thailand from Arizona, presented a missions challenge in the annual meeting’s closing message.

“Let us open our eyes to see that God has blessed us and promises us that He will bless us still, not just so we can have more stuff or have a little less aches,” he said. “He promises to bless us so that His name will be revered in all the earth, so that souls will be saved and His name will be praised.

“Let us join Him in the greatest work in the universe, to do all that we can to pray and to go and to send, so that we can have a part in this great work of seeing God’s name revered in every corner of the earth.”

AZMN Executive Director David Johnson pointed to the “Open Your Eyes” theme verse, John 4:35.

“I believe Jesus is saying to us, open your eyes and see that 59 percent of the world’s population has little or no access to the Gospel,” he said. “Open your eyes and see that there are 3,000 unreached, unengaged people groups in our world today. …

“Open your eyes to 8 million people that now live in our state. And if statistics are correct, 80 percent of those are unchurched. … That means about six and a half million people in our state are going to spend eternity without God if we don’t take the Gospel to them.”

Missions partnership

Johnson conducted a panel discussion with IMB representatives Chris Derry, Joel Brasher and Michael Ley about the Sub-Saharan Africa partnership. He noted that several missionaries from Arizona serve in the affinity.

2024 budget

Messengers approved a 2024 operating budget of $4,166,040, which includes $3,495,260 in anticipated Cooperative Program giving from churches. The Cooperative Program portion of the budget is a decrease of $151,740, or 4.16 percent, from the 2023 budget. The operating budget also includes an additional $128,000 in designated giving from churches, unchanged from 2023. Because of other sources of income, including individual donors and interest income, the operating budget is a $9,370 increase from the 2023 budget.

For the first time in 10 years, the percentage of Arizona’s Cooperative Program giving to the Southern Baptist Convention will not be increased in 2024. Arizona Southern Baptists’ Centennial Vision goal is to give 50 percent of Cooperative Program receipts to SBC national and international missions and ministries outside the state by 2028. Since the launch of the Centennial Vision, the AZMN’s total rise in giving to the SBC is 14 percentage points, and a 40-60 split between the SBC and Arizona, respectively, was reached this year.

With the 2024 budget, Cooperative Program funds remaining in Arizona will be distributed according to the 2023 formula: Arizona Mission Network, 46.9 percent; Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries, 7 percent; and the Arizona Campus of Gateway Seminary, 6.1 percent. When the value of campus expenses covered by the AZMN is included, Gateway receives an amount equal to ABCS. Included in the AZMN portion is 4.8 percent for Christian Challenge collegiate ministry.


Elected by acclamation to second one-year terms were President Fernando Amaro, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Resurrección in Scottsdale; First Vice President Shawn Buckhanan, pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sierra Vista; and Second Vice President Paul Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chandler and professor at Gateway Seminary – Arizona Campus.

Sexual abuse prevention and response report

At least year’s annual meeting, messengers voted to receive a report by a Sexual Abuse Response Team, but recommendations that included 12 standards for churches were referred to the AZMN Executive Team.

Earlier this year, Amaro appointed a Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response Implementation Team to continue the work. Johnson presented the team’s report, saying, “We really decided our best role as a network is to provide resources for churches that will be helpful to them in preventing and responding to sexual abuse.”

The 12 standards have been renamed “recommended practices” and are posted at azmn.org/sexual-abuse-prevention/ along with other resources, including links to the SBC Ministry Toolkit, online training providers and sample policies and procedures from Real Life Church in Yuma.

In addition, Johnson said, the AZMN will be partnering with Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries, which will offer in-person abuse prevention training for churches.

Centennial Vision report

In his annual Centennial Vision report, Johnson, who celebrated his 10th anniversary as AZMN executive director this year, presented statistics covering the past 10 years.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 14 at Cross Church in Surprise. In conjunction with the annual meeting, a Culture of Evangelism Gathering with the North American Mission Board evangelism team will be held at Cross Church Nov. 13.

Read the full story here.

Some names may have been changed for security purposes

West Virginia celebrates unity of purpose

By Karen L. Willoughby

LOGAN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists at its recent annual meeting increased its percentage giving to missions through the Cooperative Program by 1 percentage point over last year, rather than the half-point increase maintained over the previous four years.

They did so in response to a significant increase in Cooperative Program giving by the state convention’s 226 churches, which was just one of several upticks noticed by Executive Director Eric Ramsey.

“Without exception, our equipping events have seen significant growth, and in most cases, registration has exceeded capacity,” Ramsey told the 161 messengers from each of the state convention’s 10 Baptist associations present for the 53rd annual meeting. Also present: 46 guests.

“Folks, we are growing and learning our way into a new future,” Ramsey continued. “I deeply appreciate the increasing numbers of young pastors God is bringing to West Virginia, as well as the recent and growing interest among middle and high school students in pursuing pastoral ministry or missions.”

Communications/Partnerships Director Cleve Persinger added to the list of increases.

“Attendance is on the rise, salvation and calls to ministry are happening among students, baptisms are at levels we haven’t witnessed in recent years, generosity is increasing, and we’ve seen multiple events sell out before we can get the word out,” Persinger told messengers. “There is a strengthened sense of unity as we grow as a family on mission.”

Ramsey traces the increases to the “In + Through” theme of the 2023 annual meeting, which took place Nov. 2-3 at Chief Logan Lodge and Conference Center in Logan.

The theme was implemented last year as a three-year focus for the state convention organized in 1970. “In + Through is a three-year vision for WVCSB to increase cooperation among our churches and attempt great things for God as we transition from a mission field to a family on mission,” was printed on page two of its 2023 Book of Reports.

Worship for the annual meeting was led by Daniel Doss, a worship leader from Nashville, Tenn. Guest speakers for both the annual meeting and the pastors’ conference from out of state included Bart Barber, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; and Bill Henard, former WVCSB executive director, now pastor of First Baptist Church of Athens, Tenn.

Jeff Canterbury, pastor of first Baptist Church in Ceredo and chairman of the state convention’s finance committee; and Aaron Sligar, president of the state convention and until recently pastor of Living River Chapel in Sutton, were in-state speakers.

State convention business consisted of electing new officers, passing the 2024 budget, and approving – for the second year, in accordance with WVCSB’s constitution – a new sexual abuse policy and handbook.

The policy asks, “Why would survivors trust us to care for their souls if they are not sure if they can trust us to care for their wounds?”

Messengers also approved two resolutions: One limits the office of “pastor” to biological males who meet spiritual qualifications as stated in Article 6 of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

The second resolution expressed gratitude to the gathering’s host – Coalfields Baptist Association – state staff, and Chief Logan Lodge.

New officers: President Jason Spade, pastor of First Baptist Princeton in Princeton; First Vice-President Ryan Navy, pastor of River Valley Church in Catlettsburg, Kentucky; and Second Vice-President Jeff Canterbury, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ceredo, W.Va. Andrew Gordon, associate pastor of Winfield (W.Va.) Baptist Church, was re-elected recording secretary.

West Virginia’s 2024 budget of $1,561,230 represented a 7 percent increase – $106,558 – over last year’s budget, of which 43 percent – $565,893 is allocated for global SBC needs.

In all, $1,244,472 is anticipated in Cooperative Program giving from churches, trending 9 percent higher than last year, Ramsey said. Additional income includes up to $130,000 from the North American Mission Board.

From staff reports, the 2023 YEC – Youth Evangelism Conference drew 802 students from 62 West Virginia churches; 20 teens made a profession of faith in Jesus. The promotional and teaching materials for the event received one first-place and three second-place awards from the Baptist Communicators Association.

Youth camp was completely full – 25 churches and 225 youth – with a 40 percent increase over last year, reported Evangelism/Discipleship Director Tim Turner. Some students declared their intention to consider a call to vocational ministry, and 25 made a profession of faith in Jesus.

Disaster Relief Director Roy Polmanteer reported that at least 200 people have become DR volunteers since the ministry was re-established in 2022. West Virginia was asked to serve as Incident Command for the multi-state DR response to Vermont flooding in July. The response also included feeding, flood recovery, demobilization and close-out.

“There was at the annual meeting an unprecedented sense of unified purpose, mutual love and respect, and a purposeful determinization to live out the mission of making Jesus known in and through West Virginia,” Ramsey told Baptist Press. “What a privilege it is to be here at this time in our history, to witness firsthand the supernatural transition from living as a mission field to living as a family on mission.”

West Virginia’s next annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 7-8, 2024, at Simpson Creek Baptist Church in Bridgeport, W.Va.

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