BRN online conference celebrates growth, God’s ‘Kingdom vision’
By Shannon Baker/Baptist Resource Network
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (BP) – Nearly 150 registrants gathered online for the Baptist Resource Network (BRN) of Pennsylvania/South Jersey’s Nov. 5 “Kingdom Vision Virtual Mini-Conference,” which replaced what would have been the network’s 50th anniversary celebration and annual meeting.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, BRN’s Executive Board determined that it was necessary to cancel the BRN Annual Business Session and Annual Gathering for 2020, originally slated for Nov. 5-6. After careful consideration and consultation with legal counsel, it was determined that it was not possible to hold the planned annual meeting and comply with the orders issued by the governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Accordingly, the executive board voted to adopt the 2020 budget as approved by the 2019 messengers and to keep the messenger-approved officers from 2019 for another year. In lieu of the anniversary celebration, the BRN will celebrate its 50-year legacy all throughout 2021.
Additionally, Board members approved this alternative virtual mini-conference, which was presented on an interactive platform that mimicked actual in-person meetings – complete with a plenary stage, breakout stages, a virtual exhibit hall and other interactive elements on an easy-to-navigate web portal.
The approved budget from last year is $3,012,000 and allocates 30 percent of Cooperative Program (CP) receipts to SBC national and international missions and ministries. The remaining 70 percent will go toward Pennsylvania/South Jersey missions and ministries. The budget does not include any shared ministry expenses.
Officers continuing in their roles are: Chris “Buff” McNickle, pastor of Grace Falls Church in Absecon, N.J., president; John Weathersby, pastor of Transcend Church in Harrisburg, Pa., vice president; and Jennifer Musser, community engagement director at ChoiceOne Pregnancy and Sexual Health Resource Centers, and wife of Brian Musser, collegiate minister at Drexel University in Philadelphia, secretary.
The conference featured keynote presentations from Jeff Christopherson, co-founder and missiologist for Send Institute, and Barry Whitworth, BRN executive director, as well as breakouts on a variety of topics based on the theme, “Kingdom Vision,” from Revelation 7:9.
Whitworth said despite an 8.62 percent decrease in CP receipts during the fiscal year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the network still saw 6 percent growth in new churches.
BGAV 2020 virtual meeting celebrates ‘Deep Roots, Green Shoots’
By BGAV staff
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – The 2020 annual meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) was held entirely online Nov. 9-10. Nearly 1,100 registrants participated in events ranging from a pastors’ conference Monday afternoon to 10 breakout sessions on Tuesday.
A highlight of the meeting was Monday evening’s worship celebration, a two-hour video event centered on the theme, “Deep Roots, Green Shoots,” and focused on Isaiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
The worship celebration was preceded by a 15-minute prelude of music and worship videos submitted by BGAV churches, and it concluded with a postlude with videos from more churches.
Executive Director John Upton led the worship celebration alongside BGAV President Adam Tyler, as they highlighted the ongoing ministries of BGAV and its churches over the past year of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
“Many of us made some changes over the past year that we’ve realized we probably should have made anyway – with or without the pandemic,” Upton said. “We’ve been summoned to a new way of life – a new way of doing things.”
Renowned New Testament scholar N.T. Wright gave the keynote address from his study in Oxford, England, where he is a professor at the University of Oxford. Homing in on the Isaiah 43 passage, Wright shared insights about the new things God is doing amid the challenges and uncertainties of the church’s response to the pandemic.
Tuesday’s 10 breakout sessions covered timely topics focused on current issues in the church – from race relations to children and youth ministry to self-care for ministers. A virtual Mission Run 5K allowed participants to run or walk individually and raise support for the 2020 Missions Offering, proceeds from which will assist BGAV and ministry partners in purchasing building materials to repair and rebuild homes for families in need because of COVID-19.
Videos of the worship celebration and all breakout sessions are available at meeting.bgav.org. 
Since BGAV’s Constitution and By-laws have no provision for online voting, no official business was conducted. Instead, all matters were deferred to the next annual meeting in 2021.
Last year’s Cooperative Program budget of $9.1 million forwarded 28 percent ($2.548 million) for world mission causes which include both Virginia Baptist mission initiatives and Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries, 6 percent ($565,000) to ministry partners in Virginia, and 66 percent ($5.987 million) to Virginia missions and ministries.
In June, the BGAV executive board decided to hold an online-only meeting and also voted to keep all current officers and committee members in place. All agreed to serve an additional year.
Officers include Adam Tyler, president, Ronald Gravatt, first vice president; Carol Johnston, second vice president; and Herbert Ponder, clerk. Becky McKinney will continue to serve as chair of the executive board. Also in June, the executive board voted to continue the 2020 budget into next year.
The next BGAV Annual Meeting is scheduled for Nov. 15-17, 2021 in Hampton, Va.