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Vote to give Tenn. president, VPs more power falls short of majority

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP)–Messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention voted to keep the role officers have had since 1973 and elected a director of missions as their new president.

The 128th annual meeting of the TBC, Nov. 12-13 at First Baptist Church in Franklin, drew 1,651 registered messengers, considerably lower than the 2,191 who attended the last time the convention met there in 1999 and lower than the 2,081 who were registered at last year’s meeting at First Baptist Church, Concord, in Knoxville.

One factor that may have contributed to the lower attendance was a series of killer tornados that ripped through the state the weekend prior to the annual meeting.

The vote on expanding the role of convention officers, in the report of the President’s Study Committee, drew considerable attention and debate. Though the report received more popular votes (600-433, or 58-42 percent), it missed the two-thirds majority needed to change the TBC constitution by 88 votes.

The committee had proposed to increase the role of convention officers by giving the president and two vice presidents a voice and vote on the convention’s committee on boards and committee on committees during their one-year of service as officers. In addition, the president also would be granted a three-year term on the TBC executive board following his year as president.

The committee’s recommendations had been given to the TBC constitution and bylaws committee that formatted it as amendments to the convention’s current constitution and bylaws.

Hollie Miller, who formed the committee during his year as president, presented the report. He noted that “genuine give and take” occurred during deliberations of the committee that was comprised of former state convention presidents still residing in Tennessee and the two vice presidents, Roger S. Oldham and Hal Fletcher, who served during Miller’s term of office.

“There are some who feel strongly that the president should have appointive powers like other state conventions,” Miller said, adding that there were others who felt just as strongly that they should not.

An attempt to amend the report to give only the president a voice and vote on the committee on boards and committee on committees failed.

Ronnie Wilburn, director of missions for the Shelby Baptist Association, based in Memphis, was elected TBC president over Raymond “Buddy” Boston, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dyersburg. Wilburn received 625 votes or 55.8 percent of the vote while Boston received 496 votes or 44.2 percent. A total of 1,121 messengers voted.

Wilburn is believed to be the first director of missions elected as convention president. DOMs in the past have served as vice presidents.

Other officers elected included Terry Wilkerson, pastor of Round Lick Baptist Church in Lebanon, first vice president, and Tom McCoy, pastor of Thompson Station Baptist Church, Thompson Station, second vice president.

TBC messengers adopted a record budget of $37,191,907 for 2002-03, an increase of $257,903, or 0.7 percent.

The only increase in dollars went to the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes ($72,580). The amount for the Southern Baptist Convention also increased dollar-wise due to a former preferred item (church annuity plan) being placed in the budget. SBC missions and ministries will receive 37.5 percent of Cooperative Program funds while 62.5 percent will remain for TBC causes.

In a budget-related matter, messengers approved a recommendation from the TBC executive board that “the long-term goal is to allocate up to 5 percent of the total Cooperative Program budget to the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes using the formula of allocating the first 13 percent of future total Cooperative Program increases.” The recommendation passed with no discussion or debate.

Acting on recommendations from the TBC executive board that were presented by the board’s president, Raymond Boston, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dyersburg, messengers voted to extend two international partnerships.

A three-year partnership with The Baptist Mission of Portugal and the International Mission Board will extend from Jan 1, 2003, through Dec. 31, 2005.

Also extended was a three-year partnership with the Carioca Baptist Convention in Rio de Janeiro and the IMB, beginning Jan. 1, 2004 through Dec. 31, 2006.

Three resolutions were approved with limited discussion.

In addition to the traditional resolution of gratitude, messengers approved a “resolution of concern” to the SBC Annuity Board on the major increases in the annual cost of health insurance. The resolution encouraged the Annuity Board “to forward the rate quotes to churches, Baptist institutions, and their employees and ministers as quickly as possible in light of their budget planning.”

Another resolution concerning the lottery encouraged state legislators to “not overlook the voice and vote of the 658,543 Tennesseans who voted to keep Tennessee gambling free” and urged legislators “to give representation on any regulatory commission, agency, and committee to which is delegated authority for regulating a state-sponsored lottery or any other gaming enterprise in the state of Tennessee to the 43 percent of Tennesseans who voted against the amendment.”

Messengers were thanked by TBC Executive Director James Porch, Nashville pastor Paul Durham of the TBC executive board, and Dan Ireland, an Alabamian who helped in the TBC effort against the lottery, for their support, contributions, prayers and votes against the lottery.

A resolution on affirming the role of women in ministry was not brought out of the committee. When messenger Don Davidson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Smithville, asked why, chairman Mike Nolen, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dyer, responded the committee was unified in thinking the resolution did not need to be addressed.

The 2003 annual meeting will be Nov. 11-12 at West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson.

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