Baptist Briefs: State conventions roundup

Baptist Briefs

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Tennessee Baptists approve Africa mission. Messengers to the 134th annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention approved a new missions partnership with West Africa and adopted a $39 million budget. Executive Director James Porch presented West Africa as a new missions partnership region for Tennessee Baptists. Tennessee Baptists recently ended a 10-year partnership with Baptists in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and currently has an ongoing partnership in Malta. Roger Haun, associate regional leader for West Africa, International Mission Board, Richmond, Va., invited Tennessee Baptists to "return to the place where you pioneered partnership missions 25 years ago." Haun referred to the project adopted by the Tennessee Baptist Convention with Burkina Faso—now Upper Volta—the first missions partnership between a state convention and an overseas area. Messengers also approved a $39 million budget, an increase of $500,000 or 1.3 percent over the current budget.

Illinois Baptists increase CP giving. Messengers to the annual meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association voted to increase Cooperative Program giving for the second year in a row. The increase was included in the $9.1 million budget, a 2.2 percent increase over the current budget. The 2009 Cooperative Program budget of $6.85 million increases the percentage forwarded for national and international missions from 43 percent to 43.25 percent.

California Baptists affirm Proposition 8. Messengers to the California Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution affirming the passage of Proposition 8—an amendment to the state constitution that restricts marriage to the union of a man and a woman. The resolution expressed gratitude to the coalition that “spearheaded the effort to restore and protect biblical, traditional marriage in California and throughout our nation.” The resolution also stated the convention “strongly encourages its churches and their members to pray for, promote and uphold the biblical model of marriage.” Proposition 8 passed 52 to 48 percent on Election Day, reversing a California Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. Opponents have filed suit with the same court, seeking to have the proposition invalidated.

American Baptist missions faces budget shortfall. The board of American Baptists' National Ministries met recently to consider cuts to cover a $1 million gap between the organization's income and expenses. National Ministries Executive Director Aidsand Wright-Riggins attributed a continuing decline in mission giving to “job losses, home foreclosures and a decline in personal-investment wealth” resulting from a bad national economy. Michaele Birdsall, National Ministries' treasurer and CFO, said the organization is “not in financial crisis” but cautioned that continuing to rely on unrestricted reserve funds to balance the budget is “unsustainable.” Leaders hope to develop a plan to bring expenses in line with income within three to five years without tapping reserve funds. National Ministries has responsibility for the evangelism, social-justice, discipleship and mission work of the American Baptist Churches USA. The organization works with more than 1,300 mission partners who minister as chaplains and pastoral counselors, refugee sponsors, directors of Christian centers, volunteers and church planters across the United States and Puerto Rico.

S.C. Baptists adopt multiple resolutions. Messengers to the 188th annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention in Columbia Nov. 11-12 approved a $34 million operating budget, adopted a new five-year spiritual emphasis called “Experience Kingdom Life” and passed a slate of resolutions. The 2009 operating budget reflects a $300,000 increase, about 1 percent, over the previous year, and a continuing allocation of 60 percent for South Carolina missions and ministry and 40 percent for Southern Baptist Convention national and international outreach. Resolutions decried the secularization of Christmas, called for renewed emphasis on family worship in homes, expressed concern for persecuted Christians worldwide, affirmed the work of disaster relief volunteers and called on state legislators to “pass a law that ensures efforts to sustain and protect life for infants born alive, especially those infants who survive an attempted abortion.” There were 1,000 registered messengers at the annual meeting, making it the least-attended meeting since 1953, when 818 messengers were present.

Florida Baptists narrowly elect president. Messengers to the Florida Baptist State Convention elected a president by a dozen votes during their 147th annual meeting at First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland. John Cross, 45, pastor of South Biscayne Church in North Port, was elected president of the Florida Baptist State Convention with 357 votes over 345 cast for Richard Powell, pastor of McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers. The election marked the first contested election for president in the state convention since 1999.

Blizzard cuts short Dakota convention. A blizzard shortened business at the 25th annual meeting of the Dakota Baptist Convention. Weather warnings kept attendance at the annual meeting down to about 75, about 40 fewer than last year, and news of worse weather to come led to the decision to trim the gathering by about five hours. “We wanted to get everyone home safely,” said Jim Hamilton, executive director of the Dakota Baptist Convention. “Under our blizzard conditions, I’m happy with the attendance.”

Oklahoma Baptists elect Native American president. Emerson Falls, pastor of Glorieta Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and a member of the Sac and Fox and Choctaw tribes, was elected as the first Native American president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma at the convention’s annual meeting. Messengers chose Falls over Doug Melton, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, by a narrow 243-203 vote. Anthony Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said Falls “represents not only the ethnic diversity of Oklahoma Baptists but also the continued openness of our people to give every person regardless of ethnicity a place at the leadership table.”

IMB trustees hear cautionary financial report. The potential effects of investment losses, a weakened dollar and flattened giving to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering could have a significant impact on the International Mission Board’s work next year, trustees learned at their recent meeting in Houston. Economic pressures forced board members to approve a budget for 2009 that includes no room to exceed the total number of missionaries currently under appointment.The $319.8 million budget approved by trustees marks a $15 million increase over 2008 expenditures, $10 million of which will be used to offset the rising cost of support for missionaries already on the field. Southern Baptists gave a record $150.4 million to the Lottie Moon offering in 2007; the goal for 2008 is $170 million.

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W. Virginia Baptists support marriage amendment. Messengers to the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists passed a resolution at their annual meeting calling on church members to support an amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The resolution called on members to “affirm the historic, legal, and reasonable definition of marriage by supporting and promoting an amendment to the state constitution.” The resolution said changing the definition of marriage has “devastating moral, spiritual, economic, and social effects on the whole society.” Messengers resolved to “strongly encourage Christians throughout West Virginia to engage in the civic process in defense of marriage and in support of the government's leadership in defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Chick-fil-A founder honored. Baptist layman Truett Cathy, founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, was named the 2008 winner of the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership. Cathy, 87, has led his company to donate more than $100 million since 1967, when the first Chick-fil-A opened in Atlanta, with an emphasis on educational scholarships and foster care. Cathy, a longtime member of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., has based his business on Christian principles. His 1,400 Chick-fil-A restaurants, including the mall sites, all close on Sundays, even though fast-food restaurants traditionally do 20 percent of their business on that day. Cathy will donate the cash award that accompanied the Simon Prize to two Union City, Ga., organizations—Christian City, a foster care facility, and Southwest Christian Care, an organization that provides respite care.

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