News Articles

Virginia Baptists celebrate 175 years

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (BP)–Messengers to this year’s Baptist General Association of Virginia marked 175 years of ministry in a quiet meeting that included the election of four officers without opposition and the adoption of a $15 million budget for 1999.
Meeting at the Pavilion Convention Center in Virginia Beach, the 1,772 messengers recalled the BGAV’s organization in 1823, while celebrating its continued involvement in mission and ministry.
Elected by acclamation as president was Gene Watson, a businessman from Farmville, Va., and member of Farmville Baptist Church.
Also elected were David Sapp, pastor of Derbyshire Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., as first vice president; Ellen Gwathmey, minister of visitation and outreach at River Road Baptist Church in Richmond, as second vice president; and Fred Anderson of Richmond, executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, as clerk.
The 1999 budget of $15,083,901 — which goes into effect Dec. 1 — is slightly less than the current $15.2 million budget. The reduced figure more accurately reflects the level of funding by the BGAV’s 1,470 affiliated congregations, said budget committee chair Ray Spence of Richmond.
As in previous years, the budget offers churches three options for channeling their contributions through the budget. A portion of each option funds ministries in Virginia, while a smaller part is distributed to national and international ministries. Those percentages are unchanged in the 1999 budget.
BGAV congregations also may craft their own giving plans, an option exercised by about 134 churches.
The prepackaged giving tracks include:
— World Missions 1, in which 62 percent funds Virginia ministries, 2 percent funds the state convention’s partnership missions program and 36 percent is distributed through the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program budget. About 280 churches give through WM 1.
— World Missions 2, in which 68 percent funds Virginia ministries, 2 percent funds partnership missions and 30 percent funds a variety of other ministries, including SBC causes. About 909 churches give through WM 2.
Funding for four new items was added to WM 2. The additions will fund ministry with the Quechua people of Peru, in partnership with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board; ministry with the Romany people of Southern Europe, in partnership with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; ministry in the Northeastern United States, in partnership with Baptists in Texas and Mississippi; and Ministering to Ministers, which provides assistance and counseling to fired ministers. Allocation for SBC ministries in WM 2 were reduced by 13.23 percent to support the new ministry items.
— World Missions 3, in which 68 percent funds Virginia ministries, 2 percent funds partnership missions and 30 percent is distributed through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. About 151 churches give through WM 3.
Seven resolutions were adopted with little discussion: one affirms the “biblical principles that undergird the sanctity of marriage”; another notes the 50th anniversary of student missions in Virginia; four recognize retiring members of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board staff; and one expresses appreciation for organizers of the annual meeting.
Two other resolutions submitted early in the meeting were not reported out by the resolutions committee. One addressed the crisis in Central America in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, which left as many as 11,000 people dead. A resolutions committee spokesperson said structures already were in place for Virginia Baptists to provide assistance in the region.
Another proposed resolution would have affirmed the Baptist Faith and Message statement and its recent amendment on family life. Steward McCarter of Suffolk, Va., who presented the resolution, asked messengers to bring it to the floor for consideration but the request failed by wide margin.
Messengers also “commended” to BGAV churches a statement on homosexuality presented by the convention’s Christian life committee. The statement affirms “the biblical teaching that homosexual behavior is sinful and unacceptable for Christians.” However, it also offers guidelines for expressing “Christ-like compassion for homosexual persons.”
Next year’s meeting will be held Nov. 9-10 in Richmond.

    About the Author

  • Robert Dilday