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STATE MEETINGS: Mississippi, Ohio, Northwest

EDITORS’ NOTE: This story has been updated to correct an error Baptist Press made in reporting the budget information of the Mississippi Baptist Mission Board.

Mississippi Baptists rally to local, global needs

By Karen L. Willoughby

JACKSON, Miss. (BP) – The executive board of the Mississippi Baptist Mission Board at its August meeting indefinitely postponed the state convention’s 185th annual meeting as a result of the COVID pandemic.

Until this year, only during the Civil War – 1862 and 1863 – had the state convention not met for its annual meeting.

“We have not had it and at this point I am not sure that we will,” said Shawn Parker Dec. 21.

Less than three months after Parker’s Jan. 12 arrival as the executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, COVID came to the state, followed two months later by a string of tornadoes in southern Mississippi that killed several, followed in late summer by several hurricanes and tropical storms that pummeled the state.

“My objective when I became executive director was to spend the year connecting with churches and pastors. and hearing their thoughts and concerns about Mississippi Baptist life,” Parker said. “Unfortunately I’ve been able to do very little of that.”

Mississippi Baptists weren’t limited to virus- and weather-related challenges in 2020. In May, the Mississippi Baptist Record ceased publication of its print edition as a direct result of the pandemic, the executive director said. An online edition is available at no cost through an app called “Baptist Record.”

In June, the state convention joined with other Mississippians who asked the state government to remove the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag. That happened by the end of the month.

In October, after reviewing the state convention finances, the Executive Board voted to give $1 million to international missions. The convention had underspent its budget as a result of the cancellation of programs and travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Parker explained.

In May the Executive Board decreased the 2020 budget of $31,073,945 budget by $2,563,599 (8.25 percent), but kept unchanged the 38 percent allocated for global SBC Cooperative Program causes. The revised budget remains in effect until the 2021 annual meeting in mid-November, the executive director said.

“We reduced the budget anticipating the impact of COVID, but as the year went on, CP giving has remained very strong,” Parker said. “As of the end of November, we are only about $5,000 below our budget expectations for 2020.”

Attendance at Mississippi’s Southern Baptist churches has steadily increased in 2020, and “our giving to missions through the Cooperative Program has been remarkable,” Parker said.

“Mississippi Baptists are extremely missions-minded and though most of our churches are small in number, the impact of those small churches has been overwhelming when it comes to ministry,” Parker continued. “I am honored to serve as the executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention and am looking forward to the future.”

Ohio presses forward with interim leadership

By Karen L. Willoughby

DUBLIN, Ohio – The Nov. 16-17 annual meeting of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio drew 186 attendees from the convention’s 745 churches to Dublin Baptist Church.

“I wasn’t able to attend,” Bruce Smith said. Assistant executive director for 16 years, Smith was named at the meeting as the state convention’s interim executive director. Smith was under COVID quarantine when the annual meeting took place, but brought a video message.

“It is not time to stop,” Smith said. “It is time to begin dreaming of stronger partnerships of Ohio Baptists with one another and with points around the world.”

The business of passing the budget, electing officers and approving resolutions was punctuated by stirring worship and encouraging preaching, including that from Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board.

The newly elected officers include President Reginald Hayes, pastor of United Faith International Church in Columbus; First Vice President Ray Umphrey, pastor of Briggs Road Baptist Church in Columbus; Second Vice President J.D. Davis, pastor of Dublin Baptist Church in Dublin; Historian Darin Avery, associational mission strategist for Cleveland Hope Association and pastor of Bridge Church in Perry; Recording Secretary Faye Rodgers, member of Northside Baptist Church in Newark; and Assistant Recording Secretary Mary Leigh Snowden, Mission Council Member at Clough Pike Baptist Church in Cincinnati.

Messengers passed a $4,587,094 budget, with $4,416,154 coming from Ohio’s Southern Baptist churches. The allocation for national Cooperative Program ministries is to remain at 50 percent for 2021.

Resolutions expressed appreciation to the host church, retiring Executive Director Jack Kwok, and Disaster Relief Chaplaincy Director Nick Freeman and addressed Critical Race Theory.

During Kwok’s 24-year tenure at the helm of Southern Baptist work in Ohio, 607 churches were planted, with a net gain of at least 200 churches since he arrived in 1996, according to the resolution, which also stated, “[W]e the messengers of the 67th Annual Celebration of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio express our sincere gratitude for his twenty-four years of faithful ministry and leadership to Mission Ohio.”

The full statements of the resolutions can be read in the Dec. 20 issue of the Ohio Baptist Messenger, available online here.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio’s fiscal year that closed Nov. 30 ended at 101 percent of projected Cooperative Program receipts from churches, Smith said.

“Funding from some of our national partners reduced or ended in 2020,” Smith announced in his video message. “That is alright because we should end dependence on those outside sources. The challenge: With 50 percent of receipts of Ohio churches going to missions beyond Ohio, a $100,000 cut in outside income requires $200,000 in new income to replace the loss because half of what comes in is sent to worldwide missions.

“That’s not a bad thing. We want to continue to be partners in worldwide missions. We just have to plan to stay good partners in our Cooperative Program gifts.”

NWBC adopts reduced budget, plans to relocate offices

By Cameron Crabtree

VANCOUVER, Wash. (BP) – Messengers to the Northwest Baptist Convention’s annual meeting welcomed 10 churches into the three-state network, adopted a $4,680,000 budget for 2021, approved a $120,000 goal for next year’s Northwest Impact mission offering and elected new members to the NWBC Executive Board and Northwest Baptist Foundation.

An exception to the NWBC business and financial plan that allows the convention to acquire a one-time, short-term debt of up to $5 million to relocate the Northwest Baptist Center in Vancouver, Wash., to a new facility also received approval.

Convened virtually Nov. 10, the 257 registered messengers also reelected the current officers to additional one-year terms: Barry Campbell, Highland Baptist Church, Redmond, Ore., president; Dan Panter, McKenzie Road Baptist Church, Olympia, Wash., first vice president; Dean Kelly, Tucker Road Baptist Church, Hood River, Ore., second vice president.

The president chairs the NWBC executive board and serves along with fellow officers on the board’s executive committee.

The annual fall gathering – using “Hope” from Romans 15:13 as its theme – also registered more than 60 Northwest Baptists as online guests. Earlier this year, the executive board voted to hold the meeting mostly virtually in order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Members of the board, however, met in person during the evening meeting that was streamed from Pathway Church in Gresham, Ore., to online participants.

The 2021 budget is reduced from the 2020 budget of $5,315,000. It reflects a conservative approach in financial forecasting due to two key factors: remaining uncertainty about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect Northwest Baptist churches in the next year, along with a significant reduction in partnership funds from North American Mission Board (NAMB) for 2021 and no funds from LifeWay Christian Resources.

The spending plan anticipates $2,845,000 in Cooperative Program gifts from Northwest Baptist churches and more than $1,131,500 from NAMB. Other revenue sources in the budget include $120,000 from the Northwest Impact Missions Offering, more than $262,000 in restricted funds and $301,208 from other sources such as endowment and investments.

Twenty percent of the anticipated budget, or $569,000, is allocated for SBC Cooperative Program causes.

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