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Va. Baptists strengthen Baptist World Alliance ties

ROANOKE, Va. (BP)–Closer ties to the Baptist World Alliance and a resolution rejecting an “indiscriminate attitude toward abortion” were approved during the Baptist General Association of Virginia’s Nov. 11-12 annual meeting.
Otherwise, a 1998 budget of $15.2 million and the election of new officers highlighted a quiet meeting by 1,900 messengers at the Roanoke Civic Center.
Absent from the meeting were representatives from about 150 churches which last year formed a second Baptist state convention in Virginia. The Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia separated from the BGAV in 1996, charging the older convention is theologically liberal and is loosening its ties to the national Southern Baptist Convention.
About 1,460 congregations with some 540,000 members now affiliate with the 174-year-old BGAV.
BGAV officials acknowledged the schism has meant fewer funds to support state, national and international ministries, and has mandated cuts in the convention’s employed staff. But the financial loss is less than expected, they said.
While the new SBCV has collected more than $1 million — more than half of it forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention — contributions to the BGAV are only about $300,000 less than last year, said Nat Kellum, BGAV treasurer.
And, said BGAV officials, a plan adopted in October called “Mission Virginia,” which will expand ministries in the state, will energize BGAV churches to move beyond recent denominational disputes.
“How do we face the future?” BGAV Executive Director Reginald McDonough asked messengers at the annual meeting. “Do we do it by dropping our heads or looking for scapegoats?
“I don’t think so. I believe we do it by projecting a positive, aggressive, exciting plan of ministry that calls us to a higher plane of service. That’s why I am so excited about Mission Virginia … .
“I believe God has laid before us an exciting mission. And he will not call us to a mission that is beyond our resources. … It’s time we put our confusion, frustration and anger behind us and press on toward the high calling our God has laid before us.”
The $15.2 million budget for 1998 is $300,000 less than the current budget. Unchanged are a variety of channels for churches to support national and international ministries.
World Mission 1 funds ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention; World Mission 2, a combination of SBC and other ministries; and World Mission 3, the ministries of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Virginia ministries are funded by 62 percent of WM 1 contributions. In WM 2 and WM 3, Virginia ministries receive 68 percent of contributions.
Churches also may craft their own plans of distribution.
Elected as BGAV president was pastor Bill Wilson, who defeated another pastor, Cecil Chambers, 570 to 251. Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Waynesboro, was endorsed by the state’s network of moderate Baptists. Chambers, pastor of Branch’s Baptist Church, Richmond, also identified himself as a moderate.
Other officers are Joe Lewis, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Petersburg, first vice president, and Jim Pardue, pastor of Bon Air Baptist Church, Richmond, second vice president. Fred Anderson, executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, was elected to a 15th term as secretary.
Recommendations from a special committee studying BGAV ties with the Baptist World Alliance encouraged increased funding for the organization — a suggestion reflected in the 1998 budget, increasing the BWA percentage of the budget’s World Mission 2 track to 3 percent, from the current 2 percent, or roughly $22,000. Messengers also added BWA Sunday to the list of observances endorsed by the BGAV.
Support for the BWA — a fellowship of about 180 Baptist organizations worldwide — comes at a time when the Southern Baptist Convention is studying its ties to the group.
In September, the SBC’s Executive Committee named a study committee in response to what it said were “perceived changes in the mission, focus and doctrinal positions of the BWA.” A closed-door meeting in October between SBC and BWA officials was described as “candid,” “frank” and “honest.” Additional meetings are scheduled during 1998.
In resolutions, the BGAV committed to “pray for all those entrusted with the governance and leadership of this Commonwealth.” Virginia elected Republicans as governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general earlier this month in one of two off-year elections held in the country.
Messengers also “reaffirmed” a statement on abortion first passed by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1976. The resolution:
— claims the “practice of abortion for selfish, non-therapeutic reasons wantonly destroys fetal life, dulls our society’s moral sensitivity and leads to a cheapening of all human life.”
— reaffirms “the biblical sacredness and dignity of all human life, including fetal life.”
— rejects “any indiscriminate attitude toward abortion as contrary to the biblical view.”
— affirms “our conviction about the limited role of government in dealing with matters relating to abortion.”
— supports “the right of expectant mothers to the full range of medical services and personal counseling for the preservation of life and health.”
Homosexuality also drew BGAV attention, sparked by a nearby meeting of Honesty, a two-year-old support group for gay and lesbian Baptists. About 16 people attended the meeting at a Baptist church not far from the Roanoke Civic Center following an evening session of the BGAV.
“This group has no relation to the BGAV or its agencies,” said McDonough in response to a question during a BGAV business session. “We believe our churches ought to minister to and evangelize all people … but we do not think homosexual behavior is compatible with the Christian mission.”
McDonough also cited a 1993 BGAV resolution which affirms “the biblical teaching that homosexual behavior is sinful and unacceptable to Christians.”
Next year’s BGAV meeting will be Nov. 10-11 in Virginia Beach.

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  • Robert Dilday