Baptist state conventions remain pro-family, evangelistic
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Pro-family issues remain the most often cited concern in resolutions adopted at the 41 state Baptist convention meetings. Prayer for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and concern for military forces followed as the next most often mentioned in resolutions voiced by messengers to the annual gatherings.
Messengers in Kentucky, South Carolina and Wyoming expressed concern over threats to the sanctity of human life appearing in proposed federal health care legislation. The Wyoming resolution encouraged other believers "to seriously consider the terrible impact" that government-funded abortion would have on the nation and resolve to "prayerfully prepare to actively respond, as God would desire and lead, to this national wanton disregard for innocent and defenseless human life."
New Mexico Baptists spoke to a variety of life-related issues being considered by their state legislature, including abortion on demand, embryonic stem cell research, assisted suicide and euthanasia. Other resolutions were passed in Alaska, California, Mississippi and Oklahoma to uphold the sanctity of life and specifically oppose abortion, with Alaska Baptists advocating a legislative measure requiring a minimum of parental notification in regard to abortion.
GREAT COMMISSION RESURGENCE
Prayer for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force launched last June at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting was encouraged by the state conventions of Alabama, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia (Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia) and Texas (Southern Baptists of Texas Convention).
"We are not praying for a Great Commission resurgence because we think the churches or the ministries of our state/national conventions are bad, but because we want to be better," Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director David E. Hankins noted. "We are not suggesting the churches have lost their way but that we have not arrived at our destination."
Oklahoma Baptists' executive director, Anthony Jordan, said Southern Baptists are not going to have a Great Commission resurgence unless they get out of the pews and go tell someone about Jesus. "This is not a convention made up of denomination structures but of churches. The greatest day is when we hit the streets and meet people who are lost."
Messengers in Florida and Kentucky authorized creation of similar task forces to evaluate how their state conventions can more effectively fulfill the Great Commission, while Ohio messengers voted to create a committee to address anticipated recommendations of the SBC-level task force. Listening sessions featuring GCR task force members were held following sessions of state convention meetings in Illinois and Arkansas.
Southern Baptists in Colorado, the Dakotas, Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio and Wyoming voiced support of statewide evangelism strategies while Southern Baptists in Arizona, New Mexico and Virginia (SBCV) set aside time to learn about the launch of Southern Baptists' "God's Plan for Sharing" nationwide evangelistic emphasis in 2010. Evangelistic outreach was part of the convention-related programming in Florida, Georgia and Texas. Florida Baptists reported 160 professions of faith through sports outreach, block parties, food distribution and a Hispanic festival in the Pensacola Bay area. Georgia Baptists volunteers endured record rainfall at 87 ministry sites, with 22 professions of faith recorded.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas reported 1,917 professions of faith during a pre-convention evangelistic effort in Houston. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention reported 512 professions of faith during a citywide crusade and evangelistic rally on the closing night of their annual meeting.
A commitment to share the Gospel was reflected in the theme of Arkansas Baptists' three-year focus on "Reaching Generation Now," while both Alabama and California Baptists observed the 400th anniversary of Baptist heritage stemming from John Smyth and Thomas Helwys' creation of a Baptist church in Amsterdam. Maryland-Delaware Baptists endorsed participation in Southern Baptists' nationwide Embrace Baltimore evangelistic initiative.
North Carolina and Ohio Baptists passed resolutions encouraging church planting; Illinois Baptists made church-planting an emphasis of their annual meeting; and Northwest Baptists approved continuing church planting, evangelism and leadership training as part of their regional mission offering.
Dakota Baptists celebrated their 25th anniversary with appreciation for mid-century pioneers who were willing to listen to God's voice in organizing Southern Baptist missions in North and South Dakota, while also affirming the value of their partnership with the North American Mission Board.
Louisiana Baptists pled for God to have mercy on the United States and grant a national awakening of righteousness. Montana Baptists saturated Bozeman with prayer in a pre-convention prayerwalk. South Carolina Baptists urged churches "to repent of the failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership."
PRAYERFUL SUPPORT FOR FREEDOM
Prayer support and appreciation for the military remained at the forefront in Arkansas, Dakotas, Northwest, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia (SBCV) and South Carolina, the latter noting opposition to recent changes to the military code barring the practice of homosexuality. Meeting shortly after the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas (BGCT) messengers expressed grief over the terrorist murders and called for "just and lasting peace for all people," for national leaders and "for men and women in uniform," particularly Baptist military chaplains.
Oklahoma messengers upheld freedom of speech while Maryland-Delaware messengers stated their desire to see the protection of the freedom to speak the truth contained in the Bible in spite of threats posed by enactment of hate crimes legislation. South Carolina messengers specifically urged the bill's repeal.
COOPERATIVE PROGRAM SUPPORT
The state conventions of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio and Texas (SBTC) rallied around support of the Cooperative Program. At their meeting which featured an International Mission Board appointment service, Louisiana Baptists were asked to prayerfully consider increasing CP gifts and funding of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions "in order not to further delay the appointment of duly called and qualified missionary candidates and to support reaching the world for Christ" and fulfilling the Great Commission.
Noting their convention ranked first in CP giving, Alabama Baptists affirmed the importance of working as cooperative ministries to achieve a vision "for comprehensively and simultaneously reaching our state, nation and the world." Texas (SBTC) messengers described the Cooperative Program "as our unrestricted vehicle for funding missions."
Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists expressed disapproval of a rumored merger of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board.
OTHER MORAL ISSUES
Opposition to the spread of gambling was encouraged in New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Alabama, with Louisiana Baptists expressing concern for gambling parents' neglect of financial responsibility for their children. Prayer for elected officials was endorsed in the state conventions of Louisiana, Northwest (Oregon-Washington), Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia (SBCV).
Southern Baptists in New Mexico, Oklahoma and the Baptist General Convention of Texas advocated a traditional definition of marriage. Texas (BGCT) messengers affirmed the biblical sexual ethic of fidelity in marriage and celibacy of singleness and also affirmed the biblical image of marriage as a union before God between a man and a woman.
Arkansas Baptists reprimanded their state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for "a mockery of the rule of law" in permitting private clubs to sell alcoholic beverages in dry counties. In a resolution on the sufficiency of Scripture that affirmed "nothing as sin unless it is forbidden explicitly or implicitly" in the Bible, Texas (SBTC) messengers amended the statement to clarify that "the consumption of alcoholic beverages is intrinsically wrong."
Other SBTC resolutions encouraged a Gospel-centered ministry and discipleship in every area of Christian life.
Illinois and Northwest Baptists encouraged adoption and orphan care while Texas (BGCT) messengers encouraged lawmakers and public officials to cooperate in efforts to ensure adequate health care for all members of society. BGCT messengers also emphasized religious liberty and church-state separation and encouraged ministry to people struggling with substance abuse.
APPRECIATION FOR MINISTRY
Expressions of appreciation to the host church were offered in nearly every state meeting, with many also expressing gratitude for partnerships between states and, in the case of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention, for disaster relief efforts to aid their churches.
Some state conventions took the opportunity to express gratitude for particular ministries, including Indiana Baptists who noted the 50th anniversary of their state Woman's Missionary Union and Northwest Baptists favoring their new regional approach to ministry. Illinois Baptists encouraged cooperation between churches, integrity in ministry and expressed appreciation for Christian educators and the Illinois Baptist newspaper.
Minnesota-Wisconsin messengers thanked Executive Director Leo Endel for his leadership of the state convention during continuing financial challenges. Virginia (BGAV) messengers commended churches for continuing financial support in troubled economic times.
Kansas-Nebraska Baptists honored retiring executive director R. Rex (Peck) Lindsay, who is retiring after 40 years of service, and Tennessee Baptists honored Executive Director James Porch for more than 17 years of service in anticipation of his retirement next year.
Hawaii and South Carolina Baptists honored two SBC leaders set to retire in 2010, SBC Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman and International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin, while Northwest Baptists pledged prayer for the search committees of both entities as well as the North American Mission Board in seeking replacements.
REORGANIZATION AND POLICY CHANGES
Arizona Baptists heard of plans for a regularly scheduled re-evaluation and report on the convention's structure in time for next year's annual meeting. Virginia (SBCV) messengers approved the report of a team assigned to review the convention's past, examine its present and formulate a future vision.
Kentucky Baptists heard a proposed bylaw change for next year to reduce membership of the state mission board over the next five years. They also approved a constitutional amendment defining a cooperative church as a congregation of baptized believers who are in general agreement with any of the historic Baptist confessions of faith.
California Baptists approved a bylaws change to clarify a committee's task in credentialing newly affiliating churches. Dakota Baptists rejected an effort to open membership on state convention boards to non-Southern Baptists, while Kansas-Nebraska Baptists refused to abolish the resolutions committee. Oklahoma Baptists soundly defeated an effort to remove from the list of contributing churches congregations that do not contribute to the state convention's work during the prior year.
Maryland-Delaware Baptists removed a requirement that their attorney serve as an ex-officio member of the general mission board and the administrative committee.
Missouri Baptists expanded the executive board's authority to make decisions between annual meetings of the convention regarding the lawsuits against five breakaway entities, a battle that has continued for nearly a decade. A second giving plan is offered in the 2010 budget, giving churches an option of allocating 3 percent of budgeted funds to cover fees related to the lawsuits or directing those same funds to Missouri Baptist Children's Home and Christian higher education instead.
New England Baptists changed annual meeting guidelines to no longer require meeting in different regions, anticipating greater participation in a centralized location.
Tennessee Baptists voted down a motion to change the requirement that board nominees affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message in order to accommodate any version of BF&M. Two of three substitute nominees to Carson-Newman College were declared ineligible due to inadequate Cooperative Program support or failure to affirm the current BF&M statement.
Messengers to the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting adopted recommendations presented by the Future Focus Committee to register "Texas Baptists" as the convention's trademark while retaining their legal name, affirmed a simplified strategic realignment around evangelism/missions, Christian education/discipleship and advocacy/care. BGCT messengers also called for designated funds to be invested in nonspeculative accounts and created a committee for Cooperative Program promotion.
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.