Texas Baptists resolve to address needs of vulnerable children

Texas Baptists voted on several routine items of business during the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting—and endorsed an anything-but-routine initiative to address the state's foster care crisis. (BGCT Photo)

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WACO—During otherwise routine business sessions at their annual meeting, Texas Baptists endorsed a far-from-routine initiative to address the state’s foster care crisis.

Messengers to the 134th Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting also approved a call to study a possible Texas Churches Care emphasis and offering that would fund River Ministry missionaries’ efforts to meet the needs of migrant families along the Texas/Mexico border.

Most votes at the annual meeting concerned typical business items—the re-election of officers, adoption of a recommended budget and approval of a slate of trustees and directors to serve on various boards and committees.

However, messengers also approved a resolution urging Texas Baptists not to take a business-as-usual approach toward vulnerable children in Texas.

Resolution endorses Faith Fosters Texas

The resolution acknowledged “a quarter of a million Texas children may be in dangerous circumstances,” and it noted 66,382 confirmed victims of child abuse/neglect reported by Texas Child Protective Services.

So, Texas Baptists endorsed the Faith Fosters Texas initiative—a collaborative effort to meet the needs of vulnerable children by empowering churches to become involved in foster care and in ministry to foster families.

David Hardage (center), executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, introduces leaders of the Faith Fosters Texas initiative (left to right) David Ummel, director of Faith Fosters Texas; Matt Homeyer, assistant dean for external affairs, Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary; Jon Singletary, dean of the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University; Felicia Mason-Edwards, division administrator of faith-based Programs, Texas Department of Family & Protective Services; Trevor Woodruff, acting commissioner, Texas Department of Family & Protective Services; Eron Green, president and CEO, South Texas Children’s Home Ministries; Todd Roberson, president and CEO, Children At Heart Ministries; and Albert Reyes, president and CEO, Buckner International. (BGCT Photo)

Leaders of the BGCT, Buckner International, Children at Heart Ministries, STARRY, South Texas Children’s Home Ministries, Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and Truett Theological Seminary worked with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to develop the Faith Fosters Texas initiative.

Messengers resolved to encourage churches to be engaged in the initiative, and the resolution also encourages churches “to make prayer for suffering and struggling children in Texas a priority in their preaching, teaching, worship and service.”

In addition to encouraging individuals to pray about how they can respond personally to the foster care crisis in Texas, the resolution also urges “increasing financial support for all of the Texas Baptist institutions involved” in Faith Fosters Texas.

Messengers also approved a resolution expressing gratitude to Steve Vernon, who retires Jan. 2, 2020, after more than 11 years as associate executive director of the BGCT, and Jill Larsen, who resigned in July after 10 years as BGCT treasurer/chief financial officer to accept another position.

Other resolutions expressed appreciation to churches of Waco Regional Baptist Association and members of the Committee on Annual Meeting, along with appreciation to convention officers and BGCT Executive Board staff.

Study offering for River Ministry

Messengers approved one item of miscellaneous business that called for a study regarding the designation of a special day and an offering to help River Ministry missionaries care for migrant families along the Rio Grande.

Janice Trujillo from Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi made a motion calling for a study regarding a possible Texas Churches Care emphasis and offering that would fund River Ministry missionaries’ efforts to meet the needs of migrant families along the Texas/Mexico border. (BGCT Photo)

Janice Trujillo from Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi made the motion that “Texas Baptists’ River Ministry and the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas study, at their earliest discretion a ‘Texas Churches Care’ day. On this day, all churches across Texas will be encouraged to take an offering specifically for the missionaries and ministers of the River Ministry as they serve to meet the needs of migrant families along the border.”

In speaking to the motion, Trujillo emphasized the motion was not focused on the politics of immigration policy but on the needs of River Ministry missionaries who help churches along the Texas/Mexico border respond to ministry opportunities.

Those needs and opportunities cannot be anticipated when budgets are prepared and approved months before a surge of immigrants arrive in their area, she added.

Texas Baptists re-elected President Michael Evans (center), First Vice President Jason Burden (right) and Second Vice President Jason Atchley (left). (BGCT Photo)

Messengers to the annual meeting re-elected five BGCT officers by acclamation: Michael Evans, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield, as president; Jason Burden, pastor of First Baptist Church in Nederland as first vice president; Jason Atchley, pastor of Bacon Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock, as second vice president; Bernie Spooner, retired director of Sunday School/Discipleship with the BCCT and first dean of the Cook Graduate School of Leadership at Dallas Baptist University, as secretary of the corporation; and Doug Powell from First Baptist Church in Garland as registration secretary.

During the business session, messengers also adopted a $35,100,467 total Texas 2020 budget. The 2020 budget depends on $27.5 million in Texas Cooperative Program receipts from churches, compared to $28.35 million in the 2019 budget.

It projects slightly more than $5 million in investment income, up slightly from $4.9 million in the 2019 budget. It includes more than $2.5 million in additional anticipated revenue from conference and booth fees, product sales, the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board and other sources.

In other business, messengers:

  • Approved $1.15 million for Texas worldwide missions partnerships and initiatives in 2020. They include missions mobilization, River Ministry/Mexico missions, Texas Partnerships, Baptist World Alliance, intercultural international initiatives, Go Now Missions, Hispanic Education Task Force and chaplaincy.
  • Elected without any changes the slate of trustees, directors and others as presented by the BGCT Committee on Committees, Committee to Nominate Executive Board Directors and Committee on Nominations for Boards of Affiliated Ministries.
  • Adopted recommended changes in the relationship agreement between the Baptist Church Loan Corporation and the BGCT. The revised agreement will allow some out-of-state representation on the corporation’s board.

The Committee on Credentials reported 1,223 registered messengers and 520 recorded guests at the annual meeting.

The next BGCT annual meeting will be held Nov. 15-17, 2020, in Waco.

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