BGAV reduces budget; Tony Campolo tells messengers he opposed Calif. Prop. 8

ROANOKE, Va. (BP)--The Baptist General Association of Virginia, acknowledging an uncertain economic environment, approved a reduced budget for 2009 during a quiet annual meeting that drew about 1,200 people to the Roanoke Civic Center.

At the Nov. 11-12 meeting, messengers elected a retired public school administrator as president and adopted constitutional amendments that increase the amount of contributions necessary for churches to affiliate with the BGAV.

The meeting's theme was "Who's My Neighbor? Reaching Beyond the Church Doors" based on Luke 10:27, which says, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

Speakers included Tony Campolo, professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in Pennsylvania; David Coffey, president of the Baptist World Alliance; and J. Larry Holland, pastor of Franklin Heights Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, Va. Music was provided by Kate Campbell.

Campolo's remarks were notable for his criticism of the recently passed Proposition 8 in California which would amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Interpreting the meeting's theme "Who Is My Neighbor?" Campolo said, "The Samaritans were those who were considered spiritually unclean, abominations in the eyes of God." Some of today's "Samaritans," he said, are the poor, Muslims, illegal immigrants and gays.

Campolo called himself "a conservative on the issue" of homosexuality, but said he opposed Proposition 8. Describing homosexual behavior "contrary to the teaching of God," he nonetheless questioned what was gained in passing the ballot initiative.

"What did we win? ... I'll tell you what we won," he said. "We won tens of thousands of gays and lesbians parading up and down the streets of San Francisco and New York and L.A. screaming against the church, seeing the church as enemy.

"I don't know how we're going to reach these brothers and sisters," he said, "but I'm an evangelical and I'm going to win them to Christ.... And we're not going to win them to Christ if we keep sending them bad messages, and we've sent them a bad message. I think the decision in California was in agreement with how I believe, but sometimes you've got to consider the person before you bang them over the head with your principles."

Messengers approved a 2009 budget of $13.8 million, which is $560,000 less than this year's $14,360,000 total. Tom McCann, who chairs the BGAV's budget committee, said officials project 2008 receipts will be about $13.8 million.

The budget continues to offer BGAV churches three pre-set giving tracks:

-- The World Missions 1 track retains 66 percent for Virginia ministries and sends 34 percent to Southern Baptist Convention ministries. WM1 is used by 297 churches (21 percent) and accounts for 27.06 percent of total receipts, or $3,094,517.

-- World Missions 2 supports Virginia ministries at 72 percent, while 28 percent funds a combination of Virginia, SBC and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ministries. WM2 is used by 576 churches (41 percent) and accounts for 30 percent of total receipts, or $3,411,706.

-- World Missions 3 funds Virginia ministries at 72 percent and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship at 28 percent. WM3 is used by 104 churches (7 percent) and accounts for 11.61 percent of total receipts, or $1,327,616.

BGAV churches also may adopt a customized plan that allows them to select or delete any item in WM 1, 2 or 3 and adjust percentages to reflect their own priorities. About 18 percent (256) of BGAV churches customized their giving last year accounting for 31.51 percent of total BGAV receipts, or $3,603,720.

Jeff Bloomer, a member of Culpeper (Va.) Baptist Church, was elected president without opposition. Bloomer, who had been serving as first vice president, has been an administrator for more than 40 years in Virginia's public schools and colleges.

Tim Madison, pastor of Madison Heights (Va.) Baptist Church, was elected first vice president, and Richard Childress, pastor of Franklin (Va.) Baptist Church, second vice president. Fred Anderson, executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, was elected to a 28th term as clerk. All four officers were elected without opposition.

The constitutional changes establish new financial criteria for affiliation, requiring a minimum contribution of $500 from every church. Previously a contribution of any amount would qualify a church for membership and allow it one messenger at the annual meeting. The changes also increase the amounts necessary to receive additional messengers, up to a total of 15.

Dick Bidwell, the BGAV parliamentarian who presented the constitutional changes, said the increases are necessary because of the growing costs of providing services to affiliated churches. He noted that the BGAV supplements churches' ministerial pension plans at about $300 annually per minister. In addition, the Virginia Baptist Mission Board each year distributes about $360 in resources and other information to every church, he said.

The BGAV and the Southern Baptist Convention are autonomous bodies and the BGAV membership changes do not affect the membership requirements for a church to relate to the SBC.

Bidwell said 200 of the BGAV's 1,400 churches contributed less than $500 in 2007, and another 199 churches gave nothing.

"That's the rationale for this amendment," he said.

Next year's annual meeting will be Nov. 17-18 in Fredericksburg.


Robert Dilday is associate editor of the Religious Herald, newspaper of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.

Download Story