Ark. Baptists unanimous in opposing more casinos
Arkansas Baptists unanimously approved a resolution encouraging all voters to vote against Issue 4, which would expand casino gambling beyond Hot Springs and West Memphis.
Messengers at the 165th annual meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) further committed to restore and rehabilitate individuals involved in "problem gambling" and also provide a "safety net" for gamblers' families and communities if Issue 4 is approved.
Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council and chairman of the ABSC Resolutions Committee, said, "This is a really sorry piece of public policy," noting that it "violates a number of biblical principles" and supports "an industry that is predatory." He also highlighted numerous facts about how gambling negatively impacts society.
In another resolution, related to the one opposing Issue 4, messengers encouraged all believers to "engage the culture by being informed and proactive citizens, by voting in all elections, by praying for all those in authority and positions of influence, and by participating appropriately in civic matters."
During the Oct. 23-24 meeting at Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro, messengers approved a total of six resolutions, including resolutions focused on the holiness and integrity of ministry leaders; on Christ-like communication and the use of social media; and on appreciation and support for Arkansas Woman's Missionary Union (WMU).
During the 2018 annual meeting with the theme "Fulfill Your Calling," messengers also heard inspirational messages, participated in a commissioning service, conducted business and heard reports from ABSC ministry leaders.
This year's messenger count of 556 was nearly identical to the 549 total at the 2017 annual meeting in Russellville. Convention officials estimated that the overall number of messengers and guests in Jonesboro at about 1,100.
Greg Sykes, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Russellville, was elected to a second term as ABSC president after being nominated by Manley Beasley Jr., pastor of Hot Springs Baptist Church in Hot Springs.
Other officers elected were Jeff Paxton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dover, first vice president, and Stacey Reed, pastor of First Baptist Church in Batesville, second vice president.
Preaching, prayer, worship
Biblical messages were brought during the meeting by Sykes; Archie Mason, senior pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro; J.D. "Sonny" Tucker, ABSC executive director; and Ronnie Deal, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Greenwood.
Two periods of focused prayer were led by Bill Elliff, senior teaching and lead pastor of The Summit Church in North Little Rock, and David Cox, pastor of Mt. Carmel Missionary Church in Plumerville.
Worship times during the meeting were led by Robert Ramsey, worship pastor of First Baptist Church in Russellville; a worship team from Word Baptist Church in Jonesboro; and Jeff Stotts, lead worship pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro. Additionally, the Williams Baptist University choir performed while Master'Singers of church musicians from across Arkansas performed both instrumental and choral concerts.
Ministry, board reports
ABSC Executive Board (EB) teams and ministries shared various reports during the meeting, including testimonies about God's work through Arkansas, the nation and world.
Beasley, the board's president, gave its report Tuesday morning, Oct. 23. The EB-recommended 2019 budget of $21 million, with 45.22 percent going to the SBC Cooperative Program causes, was approved as part of a five-year formula for moving from 43.77 percent in 2016 to 45.82 percent in 2022. ABSC team goals for 2019 were also approved by messengers.
Nominations, business, panel
The convention's Nominating Committee report was approved, with no challenges and no discussion. The committee nominates people to serve on boards of ABSC entities and institutions.
Messengers voted unanimously to dedicate the 2018 convention Annual to the late Ben Elrod, past president of Ouachita Baptist University, and David Perry, retiring executive director of Arkansas Baptist Children's Homes and Family Ministries.
Sykes moderated a Tuesday morning panel discussion focusing on how pastors can cast a missions vision. Panelists were Jay Ham, equipping pastor-missions/outreach of First Baptist Church in Russellville; Mason; Wyman Richardson, pastor of Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock; and Sam Roberts, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuttgart.
In casting a missions vision, panelists discussed how to recruit missions leaders, how to train missions volunteers and how to create missions partnerships. Sykes concluded the panel discussion by saying, "Once you get a missions DNA going, it has a life and breath of its own, and you just have to get out of the way."
Tuesday evening began with worship and an emphasis on the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering presented by Greg Addison, ABSC associate executive director, who noted that this year's offering was the largest in history.
The Dixie Jackson offering is more than an offering, Addison said. It continues the work of its namesake by providing funding for all the cooperative mission work that Arkansas Baptists do together across the state and beyond.
Following Addison's presentation, Tucker preached a message based on Acts 1:8, which he said is the biblical basis for the Southern Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program.
"We are responsible for getting the Gospel to our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and ends of the earth, right now. Not at some point in the future -- right now," Tucker said.
To conclude the evening, pastors and ministers representing various ministries from across Arkansas participated in a commissioning service.
The group included ministers active in outreach to various people groups, including Hispanics; African Americans; international peoples; college students; children and youth; disaster survivors; and low-income, rural and urban individuals. These ministers shared testimonies about their ministries and then fanned out across the sanctuary for annual meeting attendees to immerse them in prayer.
A block party was held on the grounds of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro to demonstrate for church leaders how to conduct block parties in their communities.
Exhibits from numerous ABSC teams, entities and institutions, as well as several SBC affiliates, were set up in the gymnasium at the church.
A complimentary lunch was served by disaster relief volunteers on Tuesday and various lunches and dinners were held for specific groups during the annual meeting.
During an ABSC EB meeting Tuesday afternoon, Beasley was elected to serve a second term as president and Jonathan Curtain, pastor of First Baptist Church in Little Rock, was elected vice president.
The 2019 annual meeting will be Oct. 22-23 at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church in Little Rock.