Virginia Baptists approve scaled-back budget, hear Campolo’s appeal

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.

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ROANOKE, Va. (ABP)—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.

About the only fireworks during the meeting in Roanoke were provided by featured speaker Tony Campolo, who spoke out against California’s recently passed ban on same-sex marriage.

Messengers also 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 state association.

The 2009 budget of $13.8 million is $560,000 less than this year’s $14,360,000 total. Budget committee Chairman Tom McCann said officials project 2008 receipts will be lower than this year’s expected revenue.

“It’s not rational to propose a budget that is more than we’re actually receiving right now,” McCann said.

Bloomer elected president 

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 his 28th term as BGAV’s clerk.

The constitutional changes establish new financial criteria for affiliation, requiring a minimum annual contribution of $500 from every member church. Previously a contribution of any amount would qualify a church for membership and allow it two representatives, or messengers, 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 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.

Bidwell said that 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.

Tony Campolo: Welcome poor, Muslims, gays 

They also heard impassioned addresses from Campolo, the popular Baptist author, speaker and sociologist. He interpreted the meeting’s theme of “Who Is My Neighbor?” by appealing to Virginia Baptists to welcome the poor, Muslims and gays.

In his thematic addresses, Campolo said Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan changed “the whole concept of ‘neighbor.’”

“The Samaritans were those who were considered spiritually unclean, abominations in the eyes of God,” he said.

Some of today’s “Samaritans,” said Campolo, are the poor, Muslims and gays.

“The only description that’s given (in Scripture) of Judgment Day is how we respond to the needs of the poor and the oppressed,” he said, referring to Matthew 25. “Jesus said, ‘You can’t have a personal, transforming relationship with me (Christ) unless you have a personal relationship with the poor and oppressed.’”

Muslims, he added, also have not been treated like neighbors in the United States.

“And of course the big one right now—are gays and lesbians our neighbors?” he asked.

Campolo said that, while he is “a conservative on the issue” of homosexuality, he opposed California’s recently adopted Proposition 8. The amendment to the California Constitution upends a court ruling that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

“I believe that same-gender erotic behavior is contrary to the teaching of God,” he said. “You might ask, ‘If you believe that way, didn’t people like you and me win (with Proposition 8)?’ What did we win? …I’ll tell you what we won. 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.”


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