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STATE MEETINGS: Arkansas, Indiana


Arkansas Baptists further define ‘cooperating’ church

By ABSC Staff

JONESBORO, Ark. – Arkansas Baptists gathered in Jonesboro Oct. 24-25 for the 170th Annual Meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) at Walnut Street Baptist Church.  

The theme for this year’s annual meeting, “Such as I Have,” was taken from Acts 3:6, “Then Peter said, silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (KJV)  

Messengers and guests heard a convention sermon by Rob Davis, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Harrison, as well as from new ABSC Executive Director Rex Horne, Brooklyn Tabernacle Pastor Jim Cymbala and outgoing ABSC President Larry D. White.


Officers elected this year include Laramie LeQuieu, pastor of Harvest Baptist Church in Paragould, as first vice president, Brad Lewter, pastor of Grand Avenue Baptist Church, as president, and Wade Totty, associational missionary of Liberty Baptist Association, as second vice president.

Messengers elected Brad Lewter, pastor of Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith, as president; Laramie LeQuieu, pastor of Harvest Baptist Church in Paragould, as first vice president; and Wade Totty, associational missionary of Liberty Baptist Association, as second vice president.  

Messengers also approved a change in the ABSC’s articles of information to further define “cooperating Baptist church” to include financial support of the Cooperative Program.   

A $21 million budget was adopted for the Convention, unchanged from last year. Of that, 45.84 percent will be forwarded to the SBC Executive Committee for national and international Southern Baptist ministry. That allocation is a slight increase over last year.

The ABSC Sexual Abuse Response and Resource Team Chairperson Christa Neal, who serves as Title IX coordinator for Ouachita Baptist University and program advisor for the Community and Family Services academic program, gave a brief update and encouraged Arkansas Baptist churches to implement strategies to protect, reportabuse and  assistthose in need.   

 “We want to be prepared to prevent abuse, to help you all respond appropriately, and to actively love those impacted by the evil of abuse,” Neal said.   

For more information and other resources, visit absc.org/pra. Video of the 2023 ABSC Annual Meeting can be found here.   

Next year’s ABSC annual meeting will be Oct. 22-23, 2024, at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.

Indiana adds ways to partner 

By Karen L. Willoughby 

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A first-ever collegiate ministries leaders’ gathering, two associational leaders’ retreats and new this year, six “Next Step Connectors” adds weight to the purpose for the recent annual gathering of Indiana Southern Baptists. 

“Partners in the Gospel” was the theme and Phil. 1:5 the Scripture reference for the 64th annual “Summit” of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana. It took place Oct. 26-27 at Northside Baptist Church in Indianapolis. 

“It was one of the best meetings we’ve had, with a sweet spirit of partnership,” Executive Director Ryan Strother told Baptist Press.  

A total of 285 people registered for the Summit, including 108 guests and 167 messengers from 91 of Indiana’s 424 churches and church-type missions. This included leaders from Indiana’s 25 congregations that worship in Spanish. Translation English-to-Spanish was provided for them in the main sessions. 

In addition to reports from SBC entity leaders, sermons from Strother and Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, other speakers were Greg Byman, SCBI president and pastor of St Jo Community Church in Fort Wayne, and Ricky Persons, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in North Vernon. 

With no other motions or resolutions, the business of the state convention was limited to the election of officers and approving the 2024 budget.  

Greg Byman was re-elected president; Steve Davidson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sellersburg, first vice-president; Toby Jenkins, pastor of First Baptist Church of Henryville, second vice-president; and Steve Taylor, pastor of Northeast Park Baptist Church in Evansville, recording secretary. 

Cooperative Program receipts were down 7.8 percent from the 2023 budget. The 2024 budget was reduced by $184,000 to compensate.  

“The SCBI relies on the Cooperative Program gifts of its churches,” Strother said in his report to messengers. “If your church cuts your CP giving, the SCBI is the most affected. … Your church is part of a massive family who might not always agree on every little thing but it is committed to your church’s success in Great Commission work.” 

Messengers approved a $3,091,020 budget for 2024, with $2,173,859 anticipated from churches. Of that amount, 36 percent – $652,158 – was earmarked for national and international SBC causes. 

“We want to see more people come to faith in Jesus throughout Indiana,” Strother said. “God is already at work in the associations’ churches and on campuses with Baptist collegiate ministries. Their impact increases with greater connection because they are actively strengthening others while they are being strengthened, as iron sharpens iron. 

“We really try to work hard at forging fruitful partnerships,” the executive director continued. “We want to bring them together because each of us is stronger when we are together.” 

Disaster Relief ministries have exceeded all expectations, from 30 active participants last year to “well over 200” this year, with still more training events scheduled before Christmas, and a brand-new kitchen trailer that can meet the needs of up to 500 people at a meal.  

Volunteers fed almost 300 people in 40 minutes during the annual meeting, the first time the unit and its volunteers had worked together, Disaster Relief Director Butch Porter told Baptist Press. 

More pastors and church leaders are needed across Indiana, the executive director said. Send Network Indiana is not only starting churches – including a Hispanic church in 2023 and soon a Swahili-language church as well as English-language churches – but is helping existing churches develop leaders for the future, using Pathway materials from the North American Mission Board. 

In total, 29 church planters are serving in Indiana and another nine in residencies, three of those Hispanic planters. 

New: a partnership between Indiana and Tokyo. An IMB couple on stateside assignment attending the Summit were prayed for by the father of a newly minted missionary’s family from Indiana who are soon to depart for Tokyo. 

“It was so neat to say, ‘Here is not only a sending church pastor but the father of a missionary family we’re sending out with our Cooperative Program giving,’” Strother said. “We plan to start with one short-term mission trip a year, which will provide opportunities for other trips by Indiana churches.”

Indiana churches were somewhat disconnected in the past, said Strother, who is starting his third year as the state convention’s executive director. The emphasis on partnership brought with it “a sweet spirit of fellowship” at this year’s annual Summit.  

“It really sets the tone for how we’re going to proceed as a convention together,” Strother said.  

The next annual Summit of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana is set for Oct. 21-22, 2024, at Highland Lakes Baptist Camp in Martinsville.

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