Hankins named as executive VP, Merrell senior adviser to EC

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Several top-level staff changes within the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee were announced by President Morris H. Chapman during the committee’s Sept. 22 sessions in Nashville, Tenn.

Chapman said David E. Hankins will become executive vice president of the Executive Committee; William A. (Bill) Merrell will become senior executive adviser to the Executive Committee; and D. August (Augie) Boto will carry the added title of general counsel.

Among various business items, the Executive Committee approved the expenditure of up to $150,000 for "The Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism" initiated by SBC President Bobby Welch.

The campaign, with a goal for Southern Baptist churches to "Witness, Win and Baptize ... ONE MILLION!" in one year, is in its inaugural phase with Welch’s 25-day national bus tour, which is at its midpoint. The one-year time frame for reaching 1 million baptisms will begin with the June 2005 SBC annual meeting in Nashville.

The tour’s itinerary across the western United States will begin Sept. 23 in Arkansas and end with stops via air travel Oct. 5-7 in Canada, Alaska and Hawaii.

The $150,000 in support of the Everyone Can initiative will be allocated from SBC reserve funds.

Chapman, in announcing the staff changes for Hankins, Merrell and Boto, acted according to prerogatives accorded the Executive Committee president under the bylaws.

Hankins, 54, joined the Executive Committee staff as vice president for convention policy in 1996 and was named vice president for Cooperative Program in 1998. As then-pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La., Hankins served on the Executive Committee from 1986-94, including two years as chairman.

Hankins is an M.Div. and Ph.D. graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He and his wife, Patty, have three grown sons.

The Executive Committee staffing has not included the position of executive vice president since 1998.

Merrell, 60, who is continuing to recover from a stroke last fall, has served as the Executive Committee’s vice president for convention relations since 1996. While his new position will be voluntary, he will continue to receive retirement and medical benefits through the Executive Committee.

Prior to joining the Executive Committee staff, Merrell had served as director of communications for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in 1995; director of missions for Oklahoma’s Comanche-Cotton Baptist Association from 1991-95; pastor of Country Estates Baptist Church in Midwest City, Okla., 1982-91; and, earlier, pastor of Texas churches in Richardson, Duncanville, Palmer, Houston, Waxahachie and Canyon. He is an M.Div. graduate of Southwestern Seminary and a D.Min. graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Boto, 53, joined the Executive Committee staff in 1998 as vice president for convention policy. His new title will be general counsel and vice president for convention policy. Boto holds a law degree from Baylor Law School and is a former county attorney and private attorney in Texas. He also served as a Texas representative on the Executive Committee from 1995-98.

Donald R. Magee, 59, also has been named to a new post –- director of finance -– within the Executive Committee. Magee joined the staff in 1998 as director of technology and was named director of technology/convention planning in 1999 and director of business systems/convention planning in 2002.

The Executive Committee is the SBC “ad interim,” since the SBC is in session for only two days a year. Two of the 80-plus-member committee’s responsibilities are recommending a Cooperative Program Allocation Budget for the convention’s entities and managing the annual meeting.

Also during the meeting:

-- A check for a $706,401 offering from students at various LifeWay Christian Resources summer camps -- for initiatives of the International Mission Board -- was presented by LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. to the SBC. The offering was collected from this summer's 83,000 participants in Centrifuge, M-Fuge, Crosspoint, Centri-Kid and Centri-Break camps, with an average offering of $8 per student. The offering alternates each year between IMB and North American Mission Board projects; last year, LifeWay campers gave $569,790 to be used in North American Mission Board outreach.

-- Resolutions of appreciation were presented to the retiring executive directors of three state Baptist conventions: Claude W. Cone, who will retire on March 1 of next year, after 20 years in the post with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico; J.B. Graham, who retires Nov. 5 after eight years with the Baptist Convention of New York; and L. Dean Doster, who will retire on Jan. 30, after more than seven years with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

In responding to five motions referred from the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis, the Executive Committee:

-- asked “the Task Force on Cooperation (representing the executive directors of the Baptists state conventions and the [SBC] Great Commission Council) to study the 50/50 division of Cooperative Program funds and forward their findings to the Executive Committee and other interested parties.” The request was in response to a motion that called for “a good faith estimate from the state conventions who are in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention as to when they will reach the original goal of a 50/50 split of Cooperative Program funds between the Southern Baptist Convention and the state conventions.”

-- declined to make the SBC Book of Reports free of charge to all registered messengers, “preferring rather to continue the current policy to provide the Book of Reports on a cost recovery basis while continuing to supply the daily SBC Bulletin free to all messengers.”

-- declined to recommend an amendment to the Executive Committee bylaws calling for “Robert’s Rules of Orders Newly Revised” to be stipulated, replacing “Robert’s Rules of Order (Latest Revised Edition).” The Executive Committee noted that “the current [bylaws] language, when taken together with the explanations in Roberts Rules of Order, is sufficient.”

-- declined to undertake a proposed study on “how single adults are being evangelized and ministered to” by SBC entities. The Executive Committee said it “encourages LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board to continue their respective ministries to single adults and make appropriate reports to the Convention.”

-- stated that it will continue a “concentrated effort to plan for those attending the annual meeting who are handicapped, and that the staff of the Executive Committee will enlist the assistance of people who are handicapped to participate with the Local Arrangements Committee for the host city when feasible.” The statement was in response to a motion calling a 10-member committee to be appointed of people “who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired, or physically disabled” to give input into “the location of their seating, or the placement of floor microphones, or other concerns that would make the annual meetings more accessible and more enjoyable for them and their families.”


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