WRAP-UP: Ala. Baptists eye relocation

MOBILE, Ala. (BP)--Alabama Baptists voted to approve a record budget, work toward a future relocation of the offices of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and extend the state convention's international partnerships.

Messengers to the annual meeting of the Alabama Baptist State Convention Nov. 13-14 at Cottage Hill Baptist Church in Mobile adopted a record Cooperative Program base budget of $44,585,000, a 1.5 percent increase over the current year. They also approved a $45,585,000 record challenge budget, up from $44.9 million.

The convention plans to forward $18,859,455 from the base budget to national and international Southern Baptist Convention causes, remaining at 42.3 percent of Cooperative Program gifts received from the churches.

"We don't present you with a budget that we don't think we can reach together," Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Missions, told messengers.

Lance noted that with next year's gifts, Alabama Baptists will exceed the $1 billion all-time mark in CP giving.

"I don't know if any state has done it, but one state will do it by this time next year," he said.

Offering goals for 2008 also were approved during the annual meeting, including $10,500,000 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, $5,500,000 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, $2,475,000 for the Alabama Baptist Children's Homes & Family Ministries Offering, $875,000 for World Hunger and $100,000 for Disaster Relief.

Bobby DuBois, associate executive director of the state board, said the recommendation dealing with the convention's building and property was meant to plan for future building needs in a way that will keep from dipping into additional CP funds.

As the State Board of Missions looks toward relocating from South Boulevard in Montgomery, its first proposed step to convention messengers was the sale of its Taylor Road property. The property, bought years ago with future building needs in mind, cost more than $17,000 this year in property taxes and is at its peak real estate value, DuBois said.

"If we are going to sell the property, now is the time," he said. "We believe it's good stewardship."

The recommendation called for the funds from the land sale to be used to purchase five to 10 acres along the Interstate 65 corridor near Prattville, an area more centrally located and more easily accessible for state Baptists, DuBois said.

All remaining funds from the Taylor Road land sale would be invested in The Baptist Foundation of Alabama to draw interest that will be used to retire the debt on the current building, he said. Once that debt is paid off, the balance, plus any additional interest earned, would be available for use for construction on the new property in future years.

The strategic plan tentatively proposes a building similar in size to the current one, plus a storage building for the state's disaster relief equipment, DuBois said. The steps approved at the annual meeting will prepare for that possibility.

"No matter what you might have heard, this is not a recommendation for the immediate relocation of the State Board of Missions offices," DuBois said. "We have no intention of moving next week or even starting construction next week.

"We want to minimize future need of CP dollars for capital expense," DuBois added. "We are positioning the convention to make a decision several years down the road that won't put a strap on CP dollars."

In other land decisions, messengers approved a recommendation to transfer ownership of Bigbee Baptist Association's office from the State Board of Missions to the association. In previous years, the property has housed the offices of both Bigbee Association and the Baptist Campus Ministries of the University of West Alabama in Livingston.

"For 40 years, they have shared facilities," said Mike Northcutt, State Board of Missions chairman. "As we see expanding campus ministries needs, there is a change in which the campus minister from [the university] will have responsibilities not only at UWA but also at surrounding community colleges."

To facilitate this, Northcutt said the BCM needs to relocate to have more space.

Messengers voted to extend the convention's partnership with Baptists in Guatemala and Ukraine, which began in 2006, until December 2011. Also, the State Board of Missions recommended that its office of global partnerships and volunteers in missions change its name to office of global missions.

Messengers passed a resolution on hate crimes legislation, stating their desire to protect the First Amendment right of ministers "to preach and speak biblical truths" about God's views on "homosexual activities." Messengers urged Congress to remove the hate crimes section from the Defense Authorization Act and asked President Bush to veto the bill if it passes unchanged.

Another resolution expressed "moral outrage and concern at any instance of child victimization" and urged the state's churches to "exercise moral stewardship" by performing background checks on employees and hiring in a responsible manner. The resolution acknowledged that a task force appointed by Lance has written guidelines for Alabama Baptist churches to use when dealing with sexual misconduct.

Messengers re-elected the convention’s top three officers: Roger Willmore, pastor of Deerfoot Baptist Church in Trussville, president; Jimmy Jackson, pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, first vice president; and Mike Shaw, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pelham, second vice president.

Other resolutions opposed Sunday liquor sales and expanded Indian gambling, urged continued support of the Cooperative Program and acknowledged the 300th anniversary of Baptist associations.

Lance, during the executive director's report, referred to a prayer of the Apostle Paul recorded in Philippians 1:9-11 as Lance urged messengers to grasp what should matter most to them.

Those priorities, Lance said, include reaching the more than 2 million people in Alabama who claim to not know Jesus Christ as Savior, starting new churches and praying for others. Lance has launched www.prayingbridge.com to offer an online prayer network.

Another priority for Alabama Baptists is funding the Cooperative Program, Lance said.

"As we look to the future, investing in the mutual fund we have called the CP really matters," Lance said. "It is not a bucket; it's a channel. You don't give to it. You give through it, and you invest in it. You are impacting the world for Christ by the means of what we call the CP."

Other priorities of the state convention are helping to connect leaders in ministry, and preparing for the coming calendar year, Lance said.

During the State Board of Missions meeting following the close of the annual meeting, the following officers were re-elected unopposed: Mike Northcutt, pastor of Eastmont Baptist Church in Montgomery, chairman; Travis Coleman, senior minister of First Baptist Church in Prattville, vice chairman; and Mary Sue Bennett, special assistant to the executive director, secretary.

Next year's annual meeting of the Alabama Baptist State Convention will be Nov. 18–19 at the Montgomery Civic Center.


Adapted from reporting by The Alabama Baptist newsjournal.

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