Unity, cooperation pledge tops EC agenda
PHOENIX (BP)--An affirmation of unity and cooperation among Southern Baptists and new ministry assignments for two Southern Baptist entities highlighted the SBC Executive Committee's agenda June 13 in Phoenix.
Pledging to "walk in unity as brothers and sisters in Christ," Southern Baptist entity heads, state executives and ethnic fellowship leaders signed an "Affirmation of Unity and Cooperation" pledge during the meeting.
The document, to be highlighted during the Executive Committee's June 14 report to the convention, includes five core "pledges" toward a spirit of unity. Executive Committee President Frank Page and Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright also signed it.
The document's five core pledges are:
-- "We pledge to maintain a relationship of mutual trust, behaving ourselves trustworthily before one another and trusting one another as brothers and sisters indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. (Ephesians 4:20-32; 2 Peter 1:3-8)
-- "We pledge to attribute the highest motives to those engaged in local church ministries and those engaged in denominational service in any level of Convention life -- motives that originate within hearts truly desiring to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we also serve. (1 Samuel 2:3; Matthew 7:1-5; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.
-- "We pledge to affirm the value of cooperative ministry as the most effective and efficient means of reaching a lost world with the message of the Gospel. (Psalm 68:11; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Acts 9:31; 1 Corinthians 16:1-23)
-- "We pledge to embrace our brothers and sisters of every ethnicity, race, and language as equal partners in our collective ministries to engage all people groups with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 16:25-27; Revelation 7:9)
-- "We pledge to continue to honor and affirm proportional giving through the Cooperative Program as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our outreach as Southern Baptists, enabling us to work together to evangelize the lost people of our world locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, 20:20-21; Romans 10:14-172 Corinthians 8:1-13; 9:1-15)"
The ministry assignment changes for the International and North American mission boards reflected "Great Commission Resurgence" recommendations adopted during the 2010 SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
The International Mission Board assignment, which will be brought before the annual meeting's messengers June 14 for final approval, has been revised to allow the IMB to "provide specialized, defined and agreed upon assistance to the North American Mission Board in assisting churches to reach unreached and underserved people groups within the United States and Canada." The current ministry assignment focuses IMB work outside the U.S. and Canada.
The North American Mission Board's mission statement and ministry assignment, which also will be brought to the floor June 14, both have been completely rewritten. The original mission statement said the entity existed to proclaim the Gospel, start churches, minister to people and assist churches. The new mission statement refocuses NAMB on partnership with churches, associations and state conventions in "mobilizing Southern Baptist as a missional force" in North America.
The proposed ministry assignment for NAMB consolidates nine points to six and rearranges its priorities. Where appointing missionaries was the first assignment, planting churches now heads the list. A previous ministry assignment on "Christian social ministries" has been merged into an assignment to assist churches "in the ministries of evangelism and making disciples." The assignments of "communicating the Gospel ... through communication technologies" and "strengthening ... and providing services to associations" have been eliminated.
The proposed new statement for the International Mission Board was adopted on a show of hands by Executive Committee members with two negative votes. The North American Mission Board statement was adopted on a voice vote with one opposing. The statements must be approved by messengers during the annual meeting before taking effect.
Executive Committee members also approved recommendations:
-- to make a loan of up to $23 million available to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for 252 new housing units in its Student Village.
-- transferring the national Empowering Kingdom Growth ministry initiative to North Greenville University in South Carolina.
-- expressing appreciation for Kenneth S. Hemphill, national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth, for "outstanding and exemplary leadership" of EKG and "unflagging devotion to, and exemplary sacrifice in, advancing God's Kingdom for His glory."
-- to hold the 2017 annual meeting in Phoenix and the 2018 annual meeting in Dallas.
The Executive Committee also unanimously re-elected its current officers: Roger Spradlin of Bakersfield, Calif., chairman; Ernest Easley of Marietta, Ga., vice chairman; and Joe Wright of Dyersburg, Tenn., secretary.
Mark Kelly is senior writer and assistant editor for Baptist Press. With reporting by Baptist Press associate editor Michael Foust.