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STATE MEETINGS: California, Utah-Idaho

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California Baptists celebrate being ‘Better Together’

By Terry Barone/California Southern Baptist Convention

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP) – Under the banner of “Better Together” messengers to the 81st meeting of California Southern Baptist Convention celebrated diversity and partnership, approved a 1 percent increase in gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention, heard a report from the CSBC Sexual Abuse Task Force and learned about a renewed partnership with the North American Mission Board.

Meeting at Bryte Church Oct. 25-26, California Southern Baptists displayed diversity from the opening gavel when CSBC President Victor Chayasirisobhon greeted messengers and guests in English, Spanish and Thai. Chayasirisobhon, who also serves as a pastor, director of missions and first vice president of the SBC, is of Chinese/Thai descent, born in Canada and reared in the United States.

Budget includes 1-point increase to SBC

In his first message to the California Southern Baptist Convention as executive director, Pete Ramirez used the church at Antioch which demonstrated five characteristics to help California Southern Baptists achieve the “Better Together” theme. 

Without discussion, messengers approved a 2023 proposed budget of $6.3 million which includes a Cooperative Program objective of $6 million, unchanged from the 2022 budget. The recommendation increases gifts to national and international Southern Baptist Convention ministires to 36 percent, up 1 percentage point. The increase could provide an additional $60,000 to the national Cooperative Program. As part of the “Better Together” theme, CSBC Executive Director Pete Ramirez said he wants to move the California convention’s percentage to 40 percent by 2027.

In the proposed budget, the allocations for The Baptist Foundation of California and California Baptist University were unchanged and remain at 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively. The 1 percent increase to the SBC was offset by a 1 percent decrease to CSBC Executive Board ministries from 62 percent to 61 percent.

Sexual Abuse Task Force report

A Sexual Abuse Task Force appointed by Chayasirisobhon in accordance with a motion passed by messengers at the 2021 annual meeting presented its report.

In the opening pages of the 17-page report the task force acknowledged, survivors of the past and present while seeking to “implement prevention actions to limit sexual abuse in our churches in the future.”

Flanked by SATF members, Chayasirisobhon set the stage by saying “Sexual abuse in the church is a fundamental theological issue – not merely a legal, psychological, economic or political reality.”

The report offered three areas of emphasis in developing and designing policies and procedures that meet the unique requirements of CSBC congregations. They are prevention, detection and restoration.

In all cases of abuse, Chayasirisobhon reminded those attending their first call in reporting abuse “is to the police, not your association office nor your Convention office, but to the police.”

He noted the California Legislature passed AB506, a law that sets new requirements for youth serving organizations (including churches) in three areas: screening, training, and policies. He said, “Comply with AB506. It’s the law.” He added, “It’s a good thing.”

He concluded the report saying, “The children and the youth are the most important part of our churches. Let’s do our best to keep them safe.”

Send Network California premiered

A panel of six introduced the new partnership between CSBC and NAMB while premiering CSBC as one of the newest state Baptist Convention to join the Send Network.

Shane Critser, the Send Regional West Coordinator for NAMB, said Send Network California means the state convention has “adopted the assessing and church planting process” of NAMB. He explained the change makes it easier for pastors, churches and planters to have one process for church planting, rather than having one for NAMB and another for the state Convention. “We are ‘Better Together,’” he said.

Critser emphasized that NAMB employees and church planters are missionaries serving in California. He said missions “runs on the rails of relationships. It’s not about systems, processes and money. It’s about relationships.”

Convention business

Messengers re-elected Chayasirisobhon and Sam Gray as president and vice president, respectively. Chayasirisobhon is pastor of First Baptist Church in Anaheim and director of missions for Orange County Southern Baptist Association. Gray serves as pastor of Prosperity Avenue Baptist Church in Tulare. Elected music director was Denise Nicholes, minister of worship, Soma Christian Fellowship, Clovis.

Beth Ketcheside and Deanna Villegas were elected recording and assistant recording secretaries, respectively. Both serve as executive assistants at CSBC.

Messengers approved three constitution and one bylaws amendment to delete references to “The Denominational Paper” and The California Southern Baptist,” which was the official CSBC newsjournal until it ceased publication in May 2020.

A motion for a special report on “all current SBC work among Tribal communities within California” to be presented at the 2023 annual meeting was referred to the Executive Board. The motion was made by Ethan “Red Eagle” Lawton, community pastor, New Heart Community Church, McKinleyville.

The results will “give us reasons to celebrate and rejoice with our fellow tribal brothers and sisters. And it will give everyone here a specific reminder to keep them in prayer and to possibly come alongside them and their efforts,” Lawton said.

If the results are minimal, he suggested it “may be time to re-evaluate this Convention’s level of effort toward ministering to tribal communities” which could give rise to beginning new work.

A resolution in appreciation of the host congregation and the City of West Sacramento was also approved.

All speakers used the Book of Acts for their sermons and spoke to the “Better Together” theme. Those addressing the annual meeting were Chayasirisobhon; Ramirez; Shawn Beaty, senior pastor of Clovis Hills Community Church in Clovis; and Bogdan Kipko, pastor of Forward Church in Irvine.

As the first California-born CSBC executive director, Ramirez paid homage to the previous two executive directors – Bill Agee and Fermin A. Whittaker – whom he said influenced him to be the leader he is today.

Messengers approved persons to serve on Convention Committees, CSBC Executive Board, BFC and CBU.

A total of 506 – 330 messengers from 236 California Churches and 176 guests – registered for the annual meeting.

The 2023 meeting is slated Oct. 24-25 at Clovis Hills Community Church in Clovis.

Read more here.

Utah, Idaho partner in advancing the Gospel

By Karen L. Willoughby/Baptist Press

LAYTON, Utah (BP) – Ten churches affiliated with the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention this year, nine of which came through the church planting process.

SBC Executive Committee Interim President Willie McLaurin is prayed for by Rob Lee, UISBC executive director, and Michael Pless, UISBC member of the SBC Executive Committee and pastor emeritus of Redeeming Life Church in Bountiful, Utah.

One of the church plants was from a church that last year affiliated with UISBC. Still more plants are nearing birth.

“There was a great spirit of excitement among the messengers and guests at this year’s annual meeting, with great attendances across all generations,” Executive Director Rob Lee told Baptist Press. “Many of the church planters as well as leadership from established churches were present. It was one of the largest [gatherings] in years.”

Church planting was one of several celebratory reports at the 58th annual meeting of the two-state convention, which took place Oct. 28 at Mountain View Baptist Church in Layton, Utah, where Charles Cutrera is pastor.

“Mike Palmer [pastor of Salmon Valley Baptist Church in Salmon and Lemhi River Cowboy Church in Tendoy] and Bobby Wood, [pastor of Redemption Church in South Ogden] lead Send Utah-Idaho in Church Planting work,” Lee said. “This means all our assessed church planters have access to NAMB resources regardless of region.”

Northwest Georgia and Suwanee Baptist Association in northern Florida have become partners with UISBC, ministering both through church planting and existing churches.

Jason McNair, state missionary for strengthening churches, reported on the many ways churches are reaching out in their communities and helping other UISBC churches. 

“UISBC helped fund ministries in local churches where they hosted several sports camps, Vacation Bible School ministries, outdoorsman ministry events, festival day events, and many other intentionally evangelistic activities across Idaho and Utah. These funds were provided by State Missions Offering dollars in partnership with NAMB, when the evangelism promotional criteria was met,” McNair said.

Utah-Idaho convention offers are (left to right) Jared Jenkins, Roger Naylor, Dave Carver and Timothy O’Day.

“A large portion of the summer work done in reaching the campus is through the NAMB GenSend Summer program,” Collegiate Ministries Director Ben Neiser told messengers in his report. “This year we had 28 students from all over the country come and spend eight weeks with us. They served in five different locations in Utah. All of those locations in college towns. Students were trained in evangelism and living life as missionaries.”

“Partnership in the Gospel” was the theme and Philippians 1:3-5 was the scripture for Utah-Idaho’s annual meeting. The 133 messengers present, from 49 of Utah and Idaho’s 191 churches, were joined by about 50 guests, including Willie McLaurin, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.

Messengers approved an $884,431 budget for 2023, including $794,431 in Cooperative Program giving from churches and $90,000 State Mission Offering, plus $635,000 from the North American Mission Board, with $510,000 available for church plant development and assistance, and $125,000 available for evangelism.

For the fourth year, Utah-Idaho will send 30 percent of church offerings to the SBC Executive Committee for disbursement among national and international ministries as approved by messengers to the SBC annual meeting last June in Anaheim, Calif. This is up from 21 percent in 2008, when messengers voted to increase the percentage incrementally to 30 percent. For the last six years, UISBC has ended each year above its anticipated Cooperative Program giving.

“Utah-Idaho feels it is an honor to participate in supporting missionary work across North America and around the world,” Lee said. “So many believers outside our two states have contributed – and continue to contribute – to our work here. 

“We rejoice that we have the honor of more than ever doing our part to get the Gospel to the end of the world,” the executive director continued. “It’s a sign of us maturing as a state convention.”

The 2022 officers were reelected to second one-year terms for 2023. President Jared Jenkins, executive pastor of Risen Life Church, Salt Lake City; First Vice President Roger Naylor, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Bonners Ferry, Idaho; Second Vice President Dave Carver, church planter of Waters Edge Fellowship in Burley, Idaho; and Recording Secretary Timothy O’Day, pastor of Christ Fellowship in Lehi, Utah.

A motion was made to require resolutions to be presented one month in advance of the annual meeting, for sufficient time to consider the merits of each. Four amendments were suggested; each was voted down. The resolution was passed as originally presented by the Constitution Committee.

“It was good for us to know business can still be done in one day,” Lee said. “We can disagree and still get along. Good comes out of healthy discussion that leads to a good result.”

The one resolution presented was in gratitude to Mountain View Baptist Church in Layton, north of Salt Lake City, “for being gracious and willing hosts of this year’s annual meeting.” Charles Cutrera has been senior pastor since 2021.

“One highlight at this year’s annual meeting was the presence of Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee,” Lee said. “He presented an SBC update and Cooperative Program record given for the past year along with a challenge on partnership.”

Lee followed McLaurin, saying, “By our partnering together in Utah and Idaho, we help churches do more ministry than they could do on their own, by themselves.”

The next UISBC Annual Meeting is set for Oct. 27, 2023, at Calvary Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

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