W. Va. Baptists defend traditional marriage

CROSS LANES, W.Va. (BP) -- West Virginia Baptists adopted a resolution supporting traditional marriage and honored retiring executive director Terry Harper during the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists annual meeting in Cross Lanes.

Some 159 messengers also accepted three new churches into the convention during the Nov. 7 meeting.

Harper, who has led West Virginia Baptists for 13 years, retired at the close of the annual meeting and received tributes from the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, LifeWay Christian Resources and the WVCSB. During his tenure, the longest of any executive in WVCSB history, 65 churches have been added to the convention.

"Of course I would love to work a while longer," Harper said in announcing his retirement to the convention's Executive Board Sept. 6, "but in all honesty, I think that is not best. We feel that now is the time for you to find a younger leader who will take this convention forward to new heights into the future.

"Please continue to think big and think outside the box during this transition time and as you go forward," Harper counseled. "When you get a new executive director, give him the benefit of the doubt and give him your trust. Don't make him earn that or fight for it. If he accepts this job, he will do so because he believes God is calling him to come and lead this convention. He will need your support and help."

Harper told the Executive Board he has "sought to do my best to lead this convention in the way that I felt the Lord would have us to go. At times that has not been easy, especially during this time of great change within the SBC."

A 15-member search committee for Harper's replacement accepted resumes through Nov. 30.

Messengers adopted a 2015 budget of $2,632,276, a 2.4 percent decrease from the current year.

Included in the 2015 budget is approximately $1.4 million in anticipated Cooperative Program giving from West Virginia churches along with funds from the North American Mission Board and LifeWay.

The convention will continue to forward 39.5 percent of CP receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention's national and international missions and ministries. The budget does not include any shared expenses with the SBC.

The resolution supporting traditional marriage sparked some discussion as messengers sought appropriate wording to express the sinful nature of homosexuality.

Elected as the convention's 2014-15 officers were: president, John Freeman, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Chapmanville; first vice president, John Foster, associate pastor of Cross Lanes Baptist Church in Cross Lanes; second vice president, Ron McCoy, director of missions for the Upper Ohio Valley Baptist Association in Moundsville; and secretary, Jim Messenger, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in West Union.

Seth Polk and Jacob Atchley were each given "Caleb" Awards for their support of church plants.

Next year's annual meeting will be Nov. 6 at Westview Baptist Church in Martinsburg.

Based on reporting by Greg Wrigley of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists.
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