Louisiana Baptists discuss cooperation at annual meeting
By Scott Barkley/Baptist Press
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) – At their annual meeting Nov. 15, Louisiana Baptists voted to expand the definition of a cooperating church on the state level while rejecting another measure that would have allowed congregations to “negatively designate” gifts through the Cooperative Program.
Messengers elected President Reggie Bridges, senior pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, to a second term and passed a 2023 budget of $17,578,009, a decrease of $48,127 from 2022’s gathering. As was the case last year, 36.74 percent of those gifts will go toward Southern Baptist ministries while 63.26 percent will be earmarked for Louisiana Baptist Convention causes.
The one-day annual meeting attended by 613 registered messengers and 34 registered guests at Calvary Baptist Church was under the theme of “Dwell” from Philippians 4:8. It was preceded by the Pastors Conference on Nov. 14.
In his address, LBC Executive Director Steve Horn encouraged Louisiana Baptists to dream big for Gospel impact amid conflicts within the culture, the SBC and lingering effects of COVID.
“Crisis always has a way of chasing us,” he said. “… However, it’s time to dream again.”
That doesn’t mean returning to normal, but “a New Testament normal” Horn said, noting that new believers were added daily to the early church and as such encouraged Louisiana Baptists to be active daily on behalf of the Gospel.
The day’s meeting was bookended by two votes – one over the definition of a “cooperating” Baptist church that morning and the other later in the day related to negative designation of a church’s financial gifts.
The recommendation brought by the LBC Executive Board to Article VI, Section 5 of the convention’s Articles of Incorporation amended the definition of an LBC cooperating church. In a third point stating such a church “contributes to the work of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program” messengers approved the addition of “or the work of Louisiana Baptists through contributions to the Louisiana Baptist Convention for its use in state programs and agencies.”
Horn, speaking as a messenger from Calvary Baptist Church, spoke in favor of the motion on the “need for clarification” on the amendment.
“This article change is not redefining the Cooperative Program,” he said, adding that the Cooperative Program stems from the Southern Baptist Convention and not the LBC. As such, a state convention has no power to redefine it.
“We are merely seeking to keep engaged churches that have already made the decision and asked us not to send their gift through us to the Southern Baptist Convention,” Horn said.
He added that the measure was not “anti” the SBC or Cooperative Program “in any kind of way.”
“If I was pastor of a church today, I’d be urging our church and our people to continue to give through the Cooperative Program,” Horn said.
Toward the end of the day, the topic arose again with a motion to allow LBC churches to “negatively designate” Cooperative Program gifts.
Horn, speaking against the motion, clarified the difference between it and the earlier amendment to the state convention’s Articles of Incorporation, a move he supported.
“At … that moment we were not changing the definition of the Cooperative Program,” he said. “That’s very fundamental for what we’re voting on [now].”
The motion to negatively designate, Horn added, if passed presented “a number of rather significant problems” and logistically could either require existing state staff to be trained in accounting practices or be replaced by accountants.
“Bottom line, we don’t get to make up the definition of what the Cooperative Program is,” he said. “If it’s not the Cooperative Program, I’m not going to call it the Cooperative Program.”
In his report, Horn announced that the formation of the Louisiana Baptist Convention Sexual Abuse Response Council. Made up of one member from each LBC mission service team, the group is tasked with staying up to date on the SBC’s sexual abuse reform process while preparing a resource for Louisiana Baptist churches “regarding best practices on how to prevent sexual abuse and caring for the survivors in the event of sexual abuse.”
Horn also reported that Louisiana Baptists had planted 18 churches in 2022, resulting in 14 people groups speaking 12 languages represented among LBC churches each Sunday.
Messengers approved five resolutions covering various subjects. Resolution 1, celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe v Wade, received a motion to amend and insert language that would protect “pre-born life from the moment of fertilization by the same laws which protect born persons.”
Initially ruled out of order by the chair of the Committee on Resolutions due to the amendment not having the “same spirit” as the resolution, messengers spoke both for and against overruling the chair’s decision.
“How I understand it, this would ultimately do down the path that [would] criminalize the mothers who get abortions,” said David Goza, senior pastor of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
The vote to overturn the ruling of the Resolutions chair failed, and Resolution 1 passed.
SBTC messengers conduct business, pursue God’s presence
By Gary Ledbetter/Southern Baptist TEXAN
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (BP) – The 25th annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Nov. 14-15 drew 1,031 messengers and guests. Following the theme “Pursuing Presence,” convention president Todd Kaunitz led messengers to emphasize prayer in the life of local churches.
Kaunitz preached to the convention Monday night from Jeremiah 29:11 and encouraged listeners to seek God’s presence, saying “… a spiritual awakening is a byproduct of a church revived, and without a revived church, there is no spiritual awakening in the culture.”
Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee
A committee appointed by the convention president brought four recommendations intended to resource affiliated churches in preventing, responding to, and reporting sexual abuse. The Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee arose from a motion approved at the 2021 annual meeting.
The committee recommended:
- That the SBTC contract with a consultant(s) and/or organization(s) to aid the convention and its member churches regarding matters of sexual abuse;
- Development of a church resource guide for (a) assisting churches in training their congregations for sexual abuse prevention, (b) ministering to sexual abuse survivors and their families, (c) protocols for sexual abusers and accused sexual abusers in the church, and (d) appropriate reporting of suspected sexual abuse in accordance with state law;
- Cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Ministry Check” effort;
- That the SBTC strengthen its internal policies and practices regarding reporting sexual abuse, accessibility of resources to affiliated churches, and informing staff of available resources and services.
Implementation of the recommendations will be overseen by the SBTC Executive Board and the SBTC staff.
Messengers approved a $27.8 million budget for 2023. This represents a 4.8 percent increase over the 2022 budget. SBTC Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis reported that receipts were $408,275 over budget through September 2022. The 2023 budget continues to allocate 45 percent for in-state ministry and 55 percent to Southern Baptist causes in North America and around the world.
A motion was approved intended to clarify Article IV, Section 1, of the SBTC Constitution regarding “Affiliation Qualifications.” The motion clarifies that the phrase, “The office of pastor [shall] be limited to men,” will be interpreted by the convention to refer “not only to the titles of senior pastor or lead pastor, but to any role designated by the noun, ‘pastor….’” Regarding already affiliated churches, the interpretation will be applied beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
The convention’s Executive Board awarded the Leaders Legacy Award, for individuals who have distinguished themselves in service to Christ through the SBTC, to John Greene – who has served at Harmony Hill Baptist Church in Lufkin for five decades.
Messengers approved five resolutions dealing with gratitude for the host city and convention president, expressing opposition to gambling, affirming a biblical view of gender, and celebrating the overturn of Roe v. Wade in the June Dobbs v. Jackson case, which returned abortion to individual states for regulation.
Kaunitz was elected by acclamation for a second term as president. He was joined by Eddie Lopez, en Español pastor for FBC Forney, who was elected by acclamation as vice president. Sharonda Cooper, a member of Emmaus Church in Georgetown, was elected convention secretary.
The 2023 SBTC annual meeting will be held Nov. 13-14 at Cross City Church in Euless.
—Jane Rodgers contributed to this report.