Illinois meeting spotlights missions, new projects
By Eric Reed/Illinois Baptist
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (BP) – Messengers gathered in Metro East welcomed 13 new churches to the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA), heard about additional plans to prevent sexual abuse and the hidden movement of offenders. Then the spotlight turned to missions with the theme “Each church a missionary.” While missions leaders shared testimonies in the auditorium, church volunteers filled “Buckets of Blessings” with goods for children’s ministries.
These actions marked the 116th IBSA Annual Meeting at Metro Community Church in Edwardsville Nov. 1-3. Along with receiving missions reports from IBSA and its affiliated financial development and children’s home ministries, and national missions partners, messengers approved a 2023 Cooperative Program budget of $6 million, down from $6.2 million last year. It also will maintain a 56.5/43.5 percent split in mission funds between IBSA and the national SBC.
Following two days of solid preaching at the Pastors Conference, the yearly event also brought messages from outgoing IBSA President Heath Tibbetts and a missions challenge from Church Planting Director Paul Westbrook.
Presiding over his third and final meeting as IBSA President, his term extended due to the departure of previous president Sammy Simmons, Heath Tibbetts, pastor of First Baptist Church of Machesney Park, told 392 messengers and guests that the next president would bring together an ad hoc group of committees already in existence to put extra teeth into enforcement of sexual abuse prevention guidelines.
“I felt what was important, instead of adding to our constitution, we could make use of the documents we already have,” Tibbetts said. IBSA staff produced additional plans for abuse prevention after the national SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force issued recommendations in May. IBSA’s plan expands previous guidelines with five new recommendations.
In addition, the actions will give extra force to the IBSA Credentials Committee. “It seemed best to clarify language to help the Credentials Committee to identify what is a ‘cooperating church,’” Tibbetts said. “This will identify the tools they will need to take action” if a church fails to act on credible claims of abuse.
“We were surprised and glad to find that there were already a number of trauma-informed counselors” as recommended by the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Task Force in June, IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams reported. “The most important thing is that we all be vigilant in our churches” with training and background checks. “Sadly, predators look to churches as vulnerable places where they might have contact with children and vulnerable adults.”
In his report on the overall work of the state association, Adams concluded that the rebound from the pandemic in many Illinois churches is ongoing and not fully complete. He explained the three-year refocus project of IBSA, which clarified the work of the association as a network of churches seeking to “deliver network value that inspires each church in health, growth, and mission.”
IBSA’s work has shifted from delivering programs to aiding churches in development of processes that strengthen their ministries for their settings.
“Is our cooperation as a network working?” Adams asked. “Well, it’s kind of like democracy. It’s messy and there are disagreements and it’s worth fighting for. In a similar way, autonomous congregations working together – that it hangs together is a miracle.”
Adams choked up as he said, “I believe God wants us to work together to reach the lost people around us.”
Newly elected officers include” President Michael Nave, pastor of Cornerstone Church, Marion; Vice President Carlton Binkley, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church, Decatur; Recording Secretary Charlene Moe, member of Chatham Baptist Church, Chatham; Assistant Recording Secretary Matt Philbrick, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ramsey.
Mission takes spotlight
“Let’s do something big together,” Paul Westbrook told messengers at Metro Community Church, his former church. Westbrook joined the IBSA church planting team in early 2022 after 31 years as planter and pastor in Edwardsville. He had been scheduled to bring the Annual Meeting sermon two years ago.
“I didn’t plant a church for the limelight,” he said. “I did it because I became increasingly convinced that people need Jesus.”
Before the home crowd, Westbrook used a large cardboard box to make his point. “I stepped out of the box I was stuck in, and I stepped into faith.” He related the journey that included a small start for the church planted by Oklahoma transplants, and sojourns of more than a decade meeting in four public schools as the church grew. He urged church leaders to “Multiply Illinois” by supporting church plants to reach the state’s nearly nine million lost people.
“Maybe you got stuck in a box, and you haven’t stepped out in faith,” he said. “Hebrews says without faith, it is impossible to please God. Not hard, but impossible.”
At the conclusion of the sermon, Westbrook destroyed the box and stood on top of the pieces as he prayed for a multiplying movement of church planting and evangelism in Illinois.
‘God’s Spirit is moving’ in Wyoming, messengers hear
By Karen L. Willoughby
RIVERTON, Wyoming (BP) – Messengers to the 39th annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Mission Network Nov. 3-4 responded to a challenge from the national SBC last June to provide support for churches, staff, and individuals who may deal with ethical or moral issues.
Messengers approved a motion to engage the Steinle Counseling Services as its Ethics and Compliance Consultant.
“Sexual abuse is the main component,” Executive Director Quin Williams told Baptist Press. “But, we wanted to include a larger scope of other ethical breaches, and certainly any morality breach would be an ethical breach.”
The ethics consulting firm will develop and implement multiple reporting channels; establish, implement, and maintain a third-party hotline; conduct training events; consult with pastors and church leaders; provide counseling for survivors; advise the state convention; and more.
“We were fortunate to find a local resource who is versed and capable in trauma-informed Christian counseling,” Williams continued.
The 94 messengers from 38 of Wyoming’s 96 churches and about 30 guests met at United Baptist Church in Riverton with a theme of “In Meekness of Wisdom,æ gleaned from James 3:13. They heard reports from representatives of SBC entities and from Wyoming leaders, passed a slightly reduced budget for 2023, and re-elected officers, in addition to discussion on the ethics motion, which passed unanimously.
“It was really a good meeting, very positive all the way through,” Williams said. “During a season of uncertainly among much of our SBC family, Wyoming Southern Baptists remain focused on our service to our Lord in each of our communities.
“On Friday we had a lunch in Pam Hans’ honor. Pam has served Wyoming Southern Baptists selflessly and consistently for 27 years. Our Network [in Wyoming] is much stronger because of her service to us.”
Office manager Hans plans to retire at the end of 2022. Williams announced at the annual meeting that he plans to retire at the end of 2023, completing five years as Wyoming’s state missionary.
Fred Creason, who is director of the state’s Center for Leadership Development (CLD) as well as the state convention’s Northeast Region missionary, gave a report on the CLD, now starting its 17th year. As of last spring, 122 people have graduated from the CLD. Of all those who have taken classes in Casper, Sheridan, Riverton or Zoom, 41 are on staff in a Wyoming Southern Baptist church and 14 more are on a church staff outside of Wyoming. Many others serve in a church volunteer role.
Beth Williams, interim executive director of Mountain Top Assembly on Casper Mountain, reported on the many improvements to the camp over the summer.
At least 790 campers and staff were present during the nine weeks of camp, 33 made professions of faith and many more made recommitments to follow Jesus in their daily lives. Income exceeded expenses, and almost $27,000 is available for next summer.
Among improvements touted were air conditioning in Robbins Auditorium, three refrigerators, liquid chlorinator, on-demand propane water heater, and a new area for games. All EPA-mandated deficiencies were corrected; the septic system will be installed as soon as the weather permits.
“God’s Spirit is moving across Wyoming,” Williams said in his report. “While there are inevitable challenges, there are also many victories that we can celebrate together. Having an active presence on the Wind River Reservation, seeing a struggling church beginning the replanting process with positive activity, and seeing potential planters show interest in long prayed for communities are all encouraging.”
Messengers approved a $968,090 combined budget for 2023, including $413,352 in Cooperative Program giving from churches and $250,000 from the North American Mission Board. The total is down from last year’s $1,012,500.
Wyoming anticipates sending $41,335 – 10 percent of churches’ CP giving – to the SBC Executive Committee for disbursement through a percentage approved by messengers to the SBC’s 2022 annual meeting. This will be the third year for a 10/90 percent split between national and Wyoming ministries.
“The Cooperative Program is the lifeblood of cooperative missions and ministries to Wyoming Southern Baptists,” Williams said. “CP connects each of our churches to the vast range of missions and ministries across our nation and around the world.”
The state convention officers all were re-elected to a second, one-year term: Dean Whittaker, pastor of United Baptist Church in Riverton, Wyoming, was elected president. Ed Tharp, pastor of Boyd Avenue Baptist Church in Casper, was elected first vice president. Dave Brown, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rock Springs, was elected second vice president. Cheri Mickelson was elected recording secretary, and Dawn Kinney was elected assistant recording secretary.
The next annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Mission Network is set for Nov. 9-10, 2023, at Boyd Avenue Baptist Church in Casper.