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W.Va. Baptists ‘all in,’ tackle opioid crisis

FAIRLEA, W.Va. (BP) — During their annual meeting, West Virginia Baptists were urged to be “all in” through seeking to grow as a convention united in generosity in response to the Gospel. Messengers also pledged to battle the state’s drug epidemic during the convention’s 47th annual meeting.

During the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists (WVCSB) annual meeting — held Nov. 2-3 at First Baptist Church of Fairlea, W.Va. — 173 messengers and 41 guests marked a continued increase in total attendance over previous WVCSB annual meetings.

All In

The theme “All In” is the convention’s emphasis for fall 2017 through fall 2018 and is drawn from 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised” (CSB).

Bill Henard, WVCSB executive director-treasurer, encouraged messengers to personify the theme.

“When we are all in for the mission of God, we can do more together than by ourselves,” Henard said. “Imagine what God could accomplish through this state convention of Southern Baptists if we worked together, committed to radical, sacrificial generosity as a way of life, and grew as a generous people in response to Christ’s generosity.

“We could tackle the growing drug epidemic in our midst, develop and send out leaders, plant and revitalize churches,” Henard said, “and tell all of West Virginia — from the cities to the hollows — the Good News of the Gospel.”

Henard and the state’s three strategists — Cleve Persinger, Danny Rumple, and Tim Turner — presented plans to “strengthen and send” West Virginia Southern Baptists leading up to the convention’s 50th anniversary in 2020. Multiple “Strengthen and Send Intensives” in West Virginia in 2018 will cover stewardship/generosity, mercy ministry, church planting and revitalization, small groups and Sunday school, gospel conversations, and the Sunday morning experience.

Featured speakers at the annual meeting were Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources; Will Basham, lead pastor of New Heights Church in Milton, W.Va.; Todd Hill, pastor of Grace Baptist in Parkersburg, W.Va.; and David Wheeler, professor of evangelism and student ministry at Liberty University.


Messengers approved a 2018 budget totaling $2,382,578, representing a decrease of $121,600 (4.9 percent) from the 2017 budget. Messengers allocated 41 percent to Southern Baptist Convention ministries and missions through the Cooperative Program, a 1 percentage point increase over 2017. Anticipated funding sources include $1,019,565 from the North American Mission Board and $59,992 from LifeWay.

Messengers approved two new congregations for affiliation, namely First Baptist Church in Winfield and Simpson Creek Baptist Church in Bridgeport. Simpson Creek pastor Michael Hopkins exclaimed to messengers, “Simpson Creek is all in!”

Messengers adopted a resolution to dedicate themselves to an “active, gospel involvement in the effort to rid West Virginia of drug abuse” by “seeking partnerships with civil, religious, and government groups and agencies to discover effective ways to solve the drug abuse problem in our state, including, but not limited to, the provision of spiritual counseling, the elimination of poverty, the strengthening of families, the restoration of hope, and the sharing of the gospel.”

The resolution further states “West Virginia has become the epicenter of opioid abuse, suffering from a rate of 33.5 drug overdoses per 100,000 people, compared to a national average of 13.4 deaths.”

Additionally, a resolution was adopted by WVCSB expressing gratitude to Greenbrier County, First Baptist Church of Fairlea, and the Alleghany Association.

Three convention officers were re-elected: president Todd Hill, pastor of Grace Baptist in Parkersburg; first vice president Paul Harris, pastor of Abundant Hope Church in Barboursville; and recording secretary Jim Messenger, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in West Union. Nathan Ertel, student pastor of Old Fields Baptist Church in Old Fields, was elected second vice president.

Music was led by the First Baptist Fairlea worship team, the Grassroots Church of Lewisburg worship team, the gospel trio 3:16 Crossroads, and Allegheny associational missionary Dennis Cherry.

Events for the wives of pastors and ministers preceded the annual meeting. A catered lunch featuring a question-and-answer session with Thom Rainer was held Nov. 3 for senior pastors.

The WVCSB 2018 annual meeting will be held Nov. 1-2 at Fairlawn Baptist Church in Parkersburg.

To listen to the sermons and see reports presented at the 2017 WVCSB annual meeting, visit wvcsb.org/47.

    About the Author

  • Cleve Persinger

    Cleve Persinger oversees partnerships and communications for the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists.

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