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WRAP-UP: Ga. welcomes new churches

AUGUSTA, Ga. (BP)–Messengers to the 186th annual meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention adopted a new Cooperative Program budget, welcomed 62 new churches and missions, and approved the distribution of funds previously allocated to Mercer University.

Messengers also celebrated the 15th anniversary of J. Robert White as executive director of the convention.

The meeting at the James Brown Arena in Augusta Nov. 12-13 attracted 1,455 messengers. In his opening message, Wayne Hamrick, president of the convention, underscored the theme “Back to the Basics in Revivals, Evangelism, Discipleship and Missions through the Cooperative Program.”

Bucky Kennedy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Vidalia, was elected president of the convention without opposition. Kennedy is a graduate of Brewton-Parker College and Georgia Southern University. He has also completed two years of study at Mid-America Seminary in Memphis, Tenn.

At the press conference following his election, Kennedy vowed to use his influence to help the convention transition to the next generation.

“We must diversify to the next generation but maintain our biblical integrity,” Kennedy said. “I also want to engage our younger pastors in the work of our denomination. We must live a life that doesn’t look like this world. We have solidified our belief in inerrancy, but we haven’t solidified our belief in sufficiency.”

Elected to the four vice presidential posts were: first VP, Wayne Bray, pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Douglasville; second VP, Jim Reynolds, associational missionary in the Floyd Baptist Association; third VP, Bob Richardson, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Waycross; and fourth VP, Royce Hulett, pastor of Oakland Baptist Church in Hazelhurst.

While some of the old-line state conventions have had to reduce their budgets for next year, Georgia Baptists adopted the largest budget ever, although the increase was modest.

The 2008 Cooperative Program budget of $52.3 million was presented by budget committee chairman Bucky Kennedy and unanimously approved by convention messengers. The current year’s budget is $52 million. The GBC is a leading contributor in percentage gifts and first among all other states in dollar contributions to Southern Baptist Convention causes.

Danny Cochran, pastor of Holly Creek Baptist Church in Chatsworth, presented the New Church/Missions Committee report and recommended that messengers receive 62 new churches and missions seeking to affiliate with the convention.

Sid Hopkins, associational missionary in the Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association, called for a point of order and reported that five additional churches or missions from his association should have been included in the recommendation. The convention voted to welcome the 62 churches and missions presented by the committee and honor Hopkins’ request as expeditiously as possible via the approval of the Executive Committee.

Fred Evers, representing the Ad Hoc Committee appointed to recommend the distribution of funds previously allocated to Mercer University, announced that his committee proposed that $2,412,946 of the funds be divided between Brewton-Parker College, Shorter College and Truett-McConnell College and that the remaining $1 million be divided between the State Mission Budget and the Empowering Kingdom Growth Challenge Budget for New State Missions Ministry Projects. The convention messengers adopted the proposal without a dissenting vote.

Administration Committee member Jerry Speer, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Columbus, noted that last year the convention voted to move the site of the annual meetings from arenas to churches. He indicated that invitations had been received to have the convention at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro in 2008 and First Baptist Church in Woodstock in 2009.

Speer also noted that if the two invitations were accepted, Standing Rule 9, which specifies “the annual convention shall be held ‘every other year’ at a central meeting location,” would be violated.

Ray Coleman, a Smyrna associational missionary, expressed his concern that those in South Georgia would incur greater expenses in their travel if the guideline was not going to be honored.

White assured Coleman of his love for South Georgia and indicated that convention leadership would be looking for good alternate locations — which require availability of adequate housing and restaurants — for potential convention sites.

Tim Burnham, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lindale, offered a recommendation that Brewton-Parker be permitted to enlarge their number of trustees from 25 to 30 to equal the number allowed to other GBC colleges. Convention messengers approved the motion unanimously.

Convention attorney Tom Duvall, reporting on the work of the Task Force on the status of GBC institutions, indicated that the committee had received full cooperation from all entities in the effort to secure sole membership and that their task should be completed in the near future.

In an additional GBC Executive Committee report by Chairman Mike Everson, messengers were informed that no immediate action would be taken regarding First Baptist Church in Decatur calling a woman as senior pastor. Instead the convention would observe what action, if any, the Atlanta Baptist Association would take and then revisit the issue at their March meeting.

Churches which call women pastors are in violation of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, which was adopted by messengers to Georgia Baptist Convention that year. But church autonomy is part of the lively discussion in determining a congregation’s relationship to the local association and state convention and whether the BF&M is a guide or a binding statement.

The convention approved two resolutions, one expressing appreciation for those who worked to make the annual meeting a success, and a resolution about blogging which cited “divisive and destructive rhetoric.” Georgia Baptists said they oppose “blogging when it is used to cause division and disharmony among the members of our Southern Baptist family,” and they said “all personal attacks should cease immediately.”

Jerry Peele, pastor of First Baptist Church in Eastman, preached the missionary message, using Psalm 67 to challenge messengers not to doubt but to believe the Gospel and with a certainty about the truth of God’s Word take the message of salvation to the entire world.

Bill Harrell, pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, preached the doctrinal message and challenged the messengers to rise out of the “malaise” that seems to characterize today’s church and live lives of holiness.

Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, brought the closing inspirational message entitled “Field of Souls” based on Psalm 126. He urged messengers to become passionate about inviting people to church and declared, “I’d rather be ignorance on fire than intellect on ice.”

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 10-11 at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro.
J. Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

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