WRAP-UP: Va. Baptist assoc. launches mission service program

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (BP)--The Baptist General Association of Virginia adopted a $14.2 million budget to fund their ministries in 2007 –- a $100,000 increase over this year’s budget goal.

The 1,053 messengers attending the BGAV annual meeting in Virginia Beach also elected officers for the coming year, adopted four resolutions and commissioned the first group of Venturers, a new Virginia Baptist mission service program.

The new budget will go into effect Jan. 1, following action taken by the Virginia Baptist Mission Board’s executive committee to make the BGAV’s fiscal year coincide with the calendar year. Previously, the fiscal year was Dec. 1-Nov. 30. Contributions received this December will be applied to the 2006 budget, essentially giving the 2006 fiscal year 13 months.

Messengers modified three allocations in the proposed budget presented by the BGAV budget committee, increasing Bluefield College to $307,000 next year, from the $142,000 recommended by the committee, and providing the added Bluefield funds from cuts to Fork Union Military Academy, which was reduced by $100,000 to $10,000, and Hargrave Military Academy, reduced by $65,000 to $10,000.

The budget committee’s proposed reduction of Bluefield, which received $300,000 under the current budget, was due to a policy decision enacted by this year’s committee that any entity receiving 5 percent or less of its budget from the BGAV may not receive a BGAV allocation of more than 1 percent of the BGAV’s budget. That policy impacted not only Bluefield, but also Virginia Intermont College, Virginia Baptist Homes and Virginia Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services.

But Shelton Miles, pastor of First Baptist Church of Republican Grove in Nathalie, who offered the Bluefield amendment, said his recommendation should “prevail because of the relative needs of our partners and the proper alignment of our strategic priorities.”

“All our partners are equally loved but their needs are not equal,” Miles said. “Cooperative mission gifts are funding Fork Union’s operational surplus. Fork Union is a financially mature institution. They know how to raise money and they’re good at it. Hargrave also has an operational surplus. But Bluefield has an operational deficit.

“All three institutions are our children,” Miles continued. “But Hargrave and Fork Union are our adult children. Bluefield still needs our financial support, and none of our educational partners have more fully embraced Kingdom Advance [the BGAV’s overall mission thrust] than Bluefield.”

The amendment drew considerable opposition from messengers on a voice vote, but outgoing BGAV President Bert Browning, who presided during the budget discussion, ruled it had passed. The amended budget was adopted with little dissent.

Among the increases in the 2007 budget is funding for retirement support, up by $70,000, which provides funds for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board to match BGAV churches’ retirement contributions for their ministerial staff. GuideStone Financial Services of the Southern Baptist Convention -- the pension provider for most BGAV churches -- has funded that matching donation in the past. However, it has announced it will no longer do so after 2008, and state Baptist conventions will either provide it themselves or ask churches to cover all or part of it. The BGAV has chosen to pick up the matching amount.

As in previous years, the budget offers three pre-set tracks for international and national mission gifts and permits churches to craft their own plans. The World Mission 1 track sends 34 percent of its total to Southern Baptist Convention causes and 66 percent to Virginia causes; WM 2 sends 28 percent to a variety of SBC, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other causes and 72 percent to Virginia causes; and WM 3 sends 28 percent to the CBF and 72 percent to Virginia causes.

Boyce Brannock, a Staunton attorney and member of First Baptist Church in nearby Waynesboro, was elected president without opposition.

Also elected were Joe Lewis, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Petersburg, as first vice president, and Steve Pollard, pastor of Abingdon (Va.) Baptist Church, as second vice president. Fred Anderson, executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, was reelected to a 25th term as clerk.

Brannock, Lewis and Pollard were endorsed by Virginia Baptists Committed, the state’s network of moderates, whose slate of nominees for BGAV offices has been unopposed for nearly a decade. This year, for the first time since 1997, a candidate not on VBC’s slate was nominated -- Ken Barnes, pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Chesapeake, who was nominated for first vice president. Barnes lost to Lewis, 275-386 (41 percent to 58 percent).

Brannock’s election continues a longtime practice of alternating the presidency between ministers and laypersons, and a more recent pattern of elevating first vice presidents to the top spot. BGAV presidents are restricted to one-year terms.

Four resolutions were adopted with almost no opposition. In additional to the traditional expression of appreciation to the host city and meeting organizers, the resolutions plead for intervention in the conflict in Sudan, ask Virginia Baptists to be good stewards of the environment and offer thanks for the recent renovation of Cedar Crest Hotel at the BGAV’s Eagle Eyrie Baptist Conference Center.

The new Venturers program offers opportunities for persons age 18 and older to serve in mission settings around the nation and the world for six months to two years.

“We have received requests for long-term volunteer assistance [from our mission partners],” said Jerry Jones, team leader of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board’s glocal missions and evangelism team, which oversees Venturers in conjunction with Woman’s Missionary Union of Virginia. “We have heard and have taken their requests seriously. In the past few years, we have heard Virginia Baptists asking if there are opportunities for longer-term service. Thus, Venturers has been born in response to these requests.”

Terry Rains, coordinator of Venturers, introduced the individuals to be commissioned in the program -- Shelly Webb, serving in campus ministry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology near Boston; Paul Williams, serving as a campus ministry intern at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.; Megan Redd, serving in campus ministry at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.; and five people serving in the Philippines, who were represented by their pastor, Dan Carlton of Ruckersville, Va.

In other business, messengers:

-- approved a constitutional amendment that stipulates no person employed by an agency that receives funds from the BGAV, and no spouse or dependent children of that person, may serve as a member of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.

-- Welcomed messengers from First Baptist Church in Dalton, Ga., the second Georgia Baptist church to affiliate with the BGAV in the past two years. First Baptist Church in Rome, Ga., also is a BGAV member.

-- Heard sermons from Leith Anderson, senior pastor of Wooddale Church near Minneapolis, and James Flamming, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.


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