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Virginia Baptists meet to ‘Renew’

ROANOKE, Va., (BP) — The Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) held its 196th annual meeting Nov. 11-13 at Bonsack Baptist Church, recognizing leaders, spending time together in worship and conducting annual business.

During the Wednesday business session of the annual meeting, messengers approved the 2020 Cooperative Missions budget of $9.1 million without discussion.

This figure represents the same budgeted amount as in 2019, with some slight changes in allocations, notably 9.25 percent formerly allocated towards Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond will be allocated for theological education in Virginia in 2020.

Within his budget report, BGAV treasurer David Washburn also noted four other categories of revenue that are outside Cooperative Missions: designated gifts, camp and conference center registration, programs and other. Those ministry resources total just over $7.1 million. With an additional $4.2 million in estimated revenue from giving to special offerings, anticipated revenue is $20.5 million — a decrease of $500,000 from 2019.


Adam Tyler, a lifelong Virginia Baptist, long-time BGAV church pastor, and current BGAV first vice president, was nominated and elected to serve next year as president.

Ronald Gravatt was elected as first vice president. Additionally, messengers elected Carol Johnston as second vice president, and Herbert Ponder was reelected to serve as clerk. The body also approved new Mission Council members.

Becky McKinney was approved as chair of the Executive Board. Boyce Brannock, Kevin Meadows, Rachel Pierce and Herbert Ponder all were nominated and elected to serve on the Executive Board.

Seminary partnership

Northern Seminary and the BGAV announced a new partnership to train the next generation of church leaders.

As the BGAV’s seminary partner for distance education, Northern will deliver accessible theological education to students in Virginia via interactive live-streaming classes and local intensive gatherings. Students can complete degrees while still serving their local context or deployed overseas.

The partnership “will offer excellent new opportunities for current and future ministers across the Commonwealth as they seek to complete their seminary education,” said John V. Upton Jr., BGAV executive director. “The ability to pursue an MDiv while continuing to serve a local congregation means that our pastors and other staff ministers can get the education they want and need while living and serving in their communities.”

William Shiell, president of Northern Seminary, said, “We are thrilled to partner with the BGAV to train church leaders in context. Our biblical, personal, and missional curriculum is designed for the called Christian to grow in their faith and engage their communities. Our goal is to transform a generation of women and men who want to share the gospel as educated servant leaders of Jesus Christ and his church.”


Virginia Baptists recognized and honored William J. (Jeff) Cranford II and Stephen Richerson with resolutions of appreciation for their leadership and service.

Cranford retired from the BGAV March 1, 2019, after serving 20 years as the central region field strategist and compensation planning specialist. He has served in Baptist life in Virginia since 1995, serving as director of missions in the Central Virginia Baptist Association before joining the BGAV in 1999. Previously, Cranford had served 23 years in pastoral leadership in North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia.
BGAV Executive Director, John Upton, expressed appreciation and administered certificates of gratitude for standing committee chairs, including Patti Spragg, Credentials Committee; Laura Gravatt, Tellers Committee; Tommy McDearis, Scholarships and Ministerial Education Funds Committee; Scott Curtis, Program Committee; Mat Brown and Shawn White, Christian Life Committee; Nancy Stanton McDaniel, Committee on Memorials; Tim Madison, Committee on Boards and Committees; Rick Lohr, Religious Liberty Committee; and Reggie Warren, Committee on Resolutions.

Upton then expressed gratitude for two outgoing members of the Executive Board — Michael Cheuk and Michael Jordan — for their service the past years.

Richard Martin, outgoing BGAV president, signed his name in a commemorative Bible signed by all past BGAV presidents. Upton then prayed for and commissioned the new officers.

Worship and speakers

The meeting featured a worship time with music led by BGAV’s Uptick Artists. Nancy Stanton McDaniel then presided over a time of memorial and reflection, remembering those BGAV pastors and friends who have passed away in the past year.

During the Tuesday morning session of the 196th Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV), John Upton continued the meeting’s theme, “Renew,” in his executive director’s report. He thanked God for all he has done in this past year and for the exciting places he is leading BGAV in the future. Upton highlighted BGAV’s continued involvement in theological education, plans for the future of BGAV, and the ending of the “More Than Nets” missions partnership.

Upton also invited Katie McKown to the pulpit to spotlight BGAV’s partnership with the John Leland Center for Theological Education. McKown recently began a new position as Leland’s associate director of the School of Ministry, and she shared how the Leland Center is excited to connect with and to resource people who are “eager for training and eager to reach communities for Christ.”

Scot McKnight, the keynote speaker for the week, brought his final message. McKnight shared an interactive and lively reading of the letter of Philemon. Through the interpretive reading, he parsed out the Kingdom spirit of reconciliation found in Paul’s words and encouraged those to mirror that spirit in a divisive culture.

“As children of God, we are called to a peace and a unity that transcends while recognizing that we are not always going to agree,” he said. He finished by noting that in heaven, all will be reconciled together before joining in singing God’s praises.

Following McKnight, Upton shared some closing remarks, thanking the speakers, pastors, Uptick Artist band, staff, and volunteers for their service during the week. He encouraged those present to go out in a spirit of renewal and reconciliation back to their communities.

New BGAV President, Adam Tyler, prayed the final benediction and adjourned the meeting.

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  • BGAV Staff