GETTYSBURG, Pa. (BP)–Messengers to the 37th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey increased giving to the Cooperative Program and celebrated a new partnership with Illinois Baptists.
The annual gathering featured spontaneous prayer, diverse worship, spirited discussion and a sermon from Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
With the theme “Worship the Lord in Holiness,” the Nov. 1-2 BCPSJ meeting was hosted by Memorial Baptist Church in Gettysburg.
Diann Douglas, president of the Penn-Jersey executive board reported on the new partnership with the Illinois Baptist State Association, which was represented at the Penn-Jersey meeting by Sandy Wisdom-Martin, IBSA director of missions involvement. Although many of the details of the partnership still are on the drawing board, BCPSJ Executive Director David Waltz and IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams outlined broad goals and timelines in an agreement signed by both men.
It calls for the partnership to begin Jan. 1, 2008, and to conclude Dec. 31, 2010, “unless deemed beneficial to extend beyond that point by both conventions,” the agreement states.
The partnership agreement states as its purpose: ” … to serve together in an effort to reach people for Christ and to disciple them through local churches…. Our mutual objectives will be to evangelize the lost, plant new churches, strengthen existing churches, train leaders and to minister to needs as they are encountered.”
Mentioned specifically in the partnership agreement: connecting affinity groups, such as emerging and next-generation leaders, urban leaders, ethnic leaders, church planters and bivocational staff. Training pastors and other ministry staff and a “sharing of expertise, state to state” also are part of the agreement.
In church starting goals, the partnership agreement states that both conventions wish to “evangelize all people groups [and to] plant new churches appropriate to their cultural context.”
Waltz updated messengers about the Baptist Resource Network pilot project in Philadelphia, which is testing a new approach of delivering support services to local churches. Several Penn-Jersey Baptists had questions on the pilot budget.
Bob Garber, pastor of Fredericksburg (Pa.) Baptist Church, voiced support for the BCPSJ staff and Waltz. Garber said he remembered when Waltz’s father, Joseph, served as the first BCPSJ executive director in 1970, noting that the collection of churches “was small enough to meet in an automobile…. Now we’re closer to a stretch limo.” BRN supporters have said that the new approach would equip the convention for additional growth.
Garber called for a 10-minute time of prayer for messengers to consider how they would vote on funding the Philadelphia project. Messengers later voted in the affirmative.
Messengers also approved the 2008 budget which anticipates $3.4 million in receipts from the convention’s churches. The budget represents a 2.5 percent increase in total budget, and reflects a .10 percent increase to the Cooperative Program. While retaining 75 percent of the budget for statewide ministries, the BCPSJ will give the remaining 25 percent for national and international missions and ministries of the SBC.
Messengers elected by acclamation to a second one-year term K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, as president. John Cope, pastor of Keystone Community Fellowship in North Wales, Pa., was elected first vice president; Kenton Hunt, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Williamsport, Pa., second vice president; and Doug Lesher, a member of Thompsontown (Pa.) Baptist Church, recording secretary.
SBC President Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., noted earthly warfare as an illustration as he preached about spiritual warfare. He said the French and Indian War revealed that underestimating the power of the enemy brings horrible consequences.
Some of Southern Baptists’ relevance, unity and effectiveness has been stolen by Satan, Page said. That’s why, when he speaks with media, Page said he encourages reporters to include in their stories positive aspects of the SBC instead of focusing exclusively on the negative.
Page said he wants to speak about what believers and Southern Baptists are “for”: the life-transforming message of Jesus Christ who redeems people and restores families and churches.
In delivering his presidential sermon, Williams said he was grateful for the opportunity to serve as BCPSJ president, expressing his enjoyment at traveling the convention area sharing “the sweetest name I know,” Jesus.
Pusey Losch, bivocational pastor of Mountain View Community Church in Richfield, Pa., preached the convention sermon. Wearing a cross necklace inherited from his grandfather, Losch said his grandfather “called him out of a peach tree to go visiting for a church plant.”
Referencing 1 Samuel 17:20, Losch discussed the circumstances of the boy, David, facing the defiant giant, Goliath. Losch challenged Penn-Jersey Baptists to keep “relational and spiritual checks.” He cautioned the audience to be sensitive and recognize when spiritual enemies try to cause division within congregations and associations.
“We must keep our eyes focused on the holiness of God,” Losch said.
Faustino Armendariz, one of the leaders in Penn-Jersey Baptists’ Hispanic ministries, led the first Bible study session on Thursday, exploring the topic of worship. He said only people who have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ can worship God in the way He has envisioned.
Later that day, Eric Mason, pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, led the group in Bible study, looking at the role of believers as worshipers. Mason said many Christians participate in the act of “doing” worship but do not consider it part of their character as believers. There is an “identity crisis” in the form of worship but not in the function, he said.
Referencing Haggai 2:1-9, Mason encouraged messengers to remain steadfast to God’s biblical principles.
Epiphany Fellowship’s teaching pastor, William “Duce” Branch, who records Christian rap under the name “The Ambassador,” followed Mason. Branch involved the crowd in a Hip Hop performance. He closed his three-song set with a rap composed especially for worship.
Branch explained there are millions of men and women in the Hip Hop culture who are not believers or have not been discipled. He said Epiphany Fellowship and other urban-culture Christians are striving to bring their neighbors to reconciliation through Jesus Christ.
Peter Hwang, pastor of International Bible Church in Darby, Pa., gave a historical look at the Korean church in relation to Southern Baptists.
Messengers passed several resolutions of appreciation for individuals and organizations. Among them:
— Glenna Hegenbart, BCPSJ executive assistant, for 13 years of service to the convention.
— A resolution of welcome was extended to Steve Shelton, director of missions for South Central Baptist Association.
Messengers approved a bylaw change that increased from three to five the number of members on the constitution and bylaws committee. The increased number of committee members allows improved continuity to the committee as members will serve three-year terms and rotate off in staggered succession.
Messengers also considered an amendment to the convention’s constitution that could change the financial component to the requirements for churches wishing to send messengers to each annual meeting. Whereas the current constitution states that a church must have “been a bona fide financial contributor to the Convention’s work during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting,” the proposed amendment adds the following verbiage: “One (1) additional messenger for each such church for every additional fifty (50) members or for each one thousand, seventeen hundred, fifty dollars ($1,750.00) contributed to the work of the Convention through the Cooperative Program during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting. The membership and contributions of a chapel shall not be counted in determining the number of eligible messengers of a sponsoring church.” The total number of messengers allowed from a single church remains at 10. Per the BCPSJ constitution, messengers at the 2009 annual meeting will vote on whether to ratify the proposed constitutional change.
The BCPSJ 2008 annual meeting will be Nov. 6-7 in Altoona, Pa.
Based on reporting by Fanny Grote of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey.