WRAP-UP: SBTC passes alcohol abst. policy

ARLINGTON, Texas (BP)--Messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention approved a 2008 budget of $21.5 million, adopted an alcohol abstinence policy for its staff and elected officials, and passed resolutions ranging from regenerate church membership and Christian civility to support for a covenant marriage law in Texas.

Also, the SBTC's Crossover Arlington evangelistic effort preceding the annual meeting recorded nearly 200 people who committed their lives to Christ. Crossover participants conducted door-to-door surveys in Arlington neighborhoods Nov. 10, but most of the commitments to Christ occurred during the two-night presentations of Team Impact, a Christian strength feat team, held at Lamar Baptist Church in Arlington.

With the theme, "Bearing Much Fruit," the annual meeting drew 769 messengers and 341 registered visitors to the Arlington Convention Center. Officials estimated that more than 500 additional guests did not register.

Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, was elected president; Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Baptist Church in Houston, was re-elected first vice president; Jimmy Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Forney, was elected second vice president; and Gary May, pastor of First Baptist Church in Diana, was elected recording secretary, all by acclamation.

The convention's budget of $21,539,132 represents an increase of $1.46 million or 7.27 percent over 2007. The SBTC continues to lead Baptist state conventions in the percentage of undesignated receipts, 54 percent, forwarded to national and international missions and ministries.

Messengers approved a change in the SBTC bylaws concerning the term "drunkenness," as it appears in several instances, to "the use of alcohol as a beverage." The change stipulates that drinking is unacceptable for SBTC staff and members elected to the SBTC executive board, committees and offices.

They also rejected a proposal to permit affiliation by Southern Baptist churches outside the state of Texas.

"Our rationale in thinking through this is that we want to be co-laborers and good partners with the SBC and other state conventions, but to accept churches outside of Texas would endanger that goodwill relationship," Executive Board Chairman Joe Stewart of Littlefield said.

Messengers passed without discussion a regenerate church membership resolution similar to one proposed at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June that failed. The resolution urged churches "to renew their commitment to regenerate church membership by acknowledging the necessity of spiritual regeneration and Christ's lordship for all members of local churches."

A Baptist Faith & Message resolution affirmed the confession as an "instrument of doctrinal accountability" for all Southern Baptist entities to employ as the minimal theological standard, while also noting the appropriateness of entities adopting and enforcing "additional theological standards" as part of the unique responsibility of trustee boards.

Messenger Mike Nelson asked for clarification as to whether the resolution referred to the most recent revision in 2000 or an earlier version from 1963 or 1925.

"I believe that any doctrinal statement that someone's going to take ought to be brought back before this convention and voted upon," Nelson said. "I'm concerned an entity our Cooperative Program dollars paid for might adopt a doctrinal stance we don't agree with."

The chairman of the resolutions committee said the resolution refers to the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message. With only three opposing votes, the resolution passed overwhelmingly.

A resolution on Christian civility said the "application of Christian decorum and decency often lags behind the development of new forms of technology and communication."

"As we state our biblical convictions without reservation and our personal convictions without hesitation, we will allow all communication and conversation to be a personal reflection of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," the resolution read.

A resolution on covenant marriage cited the dramatic rise in divorce rates in Texas because of no-fault divorce laws and government policies that fail to protect the institution of marriage. The statement approved by messengers encouraged the introduction and passage of laws that will encourage marriage and discourage divorce.

Stan Coffey, pastor of The Church at Quail Creek in Amarillo, received the H. Paul Pressler Award for his contribution to the conservative theological resurgence among Southern Baptists for more than three decades. Pressler, while presenting the award, said he became acquainted with Coffey in the late 1970s as Pressler was seeking others concerned with the neo-orthodox and liberal theological drift in some Southern Baptists schools and entities.

Pressler said Coffey's greatest contribution is his legacy of soul-winning at the churches he led, which were perennial leaders in baptisms.

"Back in early 1979," Pressler said, "nobody was interested in the conservative movement, and very few saw the problem. When I went to see Stan, he immediately knew the problem. He immediately was willing to work for a solution to the problem.

"Stan Coffey was one of those very, very few individuals more concerned about what happened to the ministry of Southern Baptists than about the ministry of Stan Coffey," Pressler added. "He gave himself to a movement that had very little chance of success because he knew it was the right thing to do."

Next year's annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will be Nov. 10-11 at First Baptist Church in Houston.


Jerry B. Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN newsjournal, with reporting by news editor Tammi Reed Ledbetter.

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