Mo. Baptists gain via communication, cooperation
ST. LOUIS (BP) -- Buoyed by news that Cooperative Program giving is holding steady, messengers to the Missouri Baptist Convention's 178th annual meeting approved a $14.6 million budget and entered into new partnerships with New York and Mexico.
The theme for the convention's Oct. 29-31 sessions in St. Louis was "Gratitude" based on Psalm 107:1. Registration totaled 923 messengers and 295 visitors from 398 churches.
MBC Executive Director John Yeats, in his address to messengers, said the emphasis on communication and cooperation he has been sowing in his first year are beginning to take root. Yeats said a convention "reboot" is now necessary in building toward the future.
"We know in our heads that by working together we are enabled to do things on a larger scale than we could possibly ever do as individuals, individual churches, one association or even two associations," Yeats said. "Our Baptist forefathers discovered that our churches, by making a proportional gift to the Cooperative Program, could accomplish greater things than we could ever imagine or dream....
"But for lots of reasons, we lost sight of the cooperative vision and began embracing the power of individualism as acceptable to our culture. As a result, our cooperative work has been financially on the skids," Yeats said.
Messengers approved a $14.6 million Cooperative Program budget, up from the current $14.5 million. CP receipts for the year are projected to come in around $14.6 million (up 6 percent from last year). Budgeted funds for 2013 will be allocated 37.5 percent for Southern Baptist Convention causes -- up 0.25 percent -- and 62.5 percent for MBC causes.
Yeats cited one unprecedented statistic -- CP giving is up this year by around an average of $1,600 per day from last year. Meanwhile, the MBC is maintaining $2 million in reserve funds.
Yeats noted that the MBC is now on a "50-50 by 2020" course to balance state and national giving for CP causes in the next seven years. through a "legacy" approach to budgeting. Approved by the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1950s, the method involves placing selected items into a "shared" funding category (meaning they would not count toward 50-50). Within those parameters, Yeats said the MBC would now focus on annuity protections and The Pathway. Special status is warranted in both cases, he said, because the ministry flows back to the churches.
For 2013 this will mean $297,250 will go toward The Pathway as it transitions from paid subscriptions to an open circulation model distributed at no extra charge to upwards of 30,000 homes. For the annuity protections, the dollar amount will be $435,000. With that coming off the top, the actual total for the recommended budget drops to $13,912,750.
With the new 50-50 emphasis comes an identical commitment to distribute the MBC's overage line item (sometimes referred to as the "underspend") that way each year. Right now this category in the budget is more than $332,000.
Wesley Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church in Paris, was elected as the convention's new president over David Baker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Belton, 405-269.
For the last two years, the same officers have led the convention: president, John Marshall, pastor, Second Baptist Church, Springfield, who completed five consecutive years as an officer. Now Hammond, who moves up after two years as first vice president, is the only one of those four remaining. Hammond was elected to the post
Other new officers, all unopposed, are: first vice president, Neil Franks, pastor of First Baptist Church in Branson; second vice president, Joshua Hedger, pastor of Freshwater Church in Bolivar; and recording secretary, David Krueger, pastor of First Baptist Church in Linn. All were unopposed.
The total number of MBC churches is being reduced. After one vote on Oct. 29 and another on Oct. 31 to reconsider, messengers opted to potentially remove 94 churches from the MBC by Dec. 31 due to their lack of giving through the Cooperative Program. The action comes after a constitutional change in 2008 and several years of grace. Now by a final means of certified letter, congregations will be asked to either request removal or demonstrate that they have been disbanded.
Continuing its commitment to partnership missions, the Missouri convention now will be engaged in Upstate New York and Puebla/Tlxaca, Mexico through Dec. 31, 2016, with possible extensions of up to four more years. Messengers also voted to extend the MBC's partnership through the International Mission Board for a fourth year with one of the groups among the IMB's Sub-Sahara Africa Affinity Peoples. Missouri Baptists will complete their partnership with northern Illinois as of Dec. 31.
The MBC is weighing the feasibility of a historical restoration of its building in Jefferson City, acquiring a new Baptist Building or buying an existing building. More assessment is needed to determine whether to stay in a renovated building, with the possibility of capital generation being explored, or whether to sell the property. To that end, up to $35,000 from the convention's building fund has been set aside to pay Pearce Construction of Kansas City to provide firmer cost figures and develop a comprehensive strategy to pursue renovation/restoration of the Baptist Building. A preliminary presentation of their findings could occur at the MBC Executive Board's December meeting.
Messengers also gave Southwest Baptist University approval on charter changes. SBU President C. Pat Taylor said several are minor, involving gender-neutral language. The other change adds a section stating that the 136 acres of property known in 2012 as the Shoffner and Stufflebaum campuses in Bolivar, which amounts to the entire SBU main campus, cannot be sold or leased without the approval of the MBC Executive Board or the convention in annual session.
Kenny Qualls, pastor of First Baptist Church in Arnold, preached the convention sermon. Eddie Bumpers, pastor of Crossway Baptist Church in Springfield, was elected to preach the 2013 convention sermon in Kansas City.
Future annual meeting sites will be Oct. 28-30, 2013, at the downtown Sheraton Hotel, Kansas City; Oct. 27-29, 2014, at Tan-Tar-A Resort, Osage Beach; and Oct. 26-28, 2015, at University Place & Expo Center, Springfield.
In other business during convention sessions at St. Louis' Millennium Hotel, messengers:
-- chose a new convention site, St. Charles, for 2016 in approving an Oct. 24-26 annual meeting at the St. Charles Convention Center & Embassy Suites Hotel.
-- heard reports from two new Baptist leaders in the state -- Anthony Allen, president of Hannibal-LaGrange University, and Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City.
-- set goals for various offerings including $4 million for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; $1.75 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions; $250,000 for World Hunger; and $700,000 for the Missouri Mission Offering.
-- were alerted to a new disaster relief headquarters, archive storage facility and alternate training center located about 13 miles from the Baptist Building in Jefferson City. This building sits on 10 acres of property and includes 14,000 square feet of warehouse space. It is intended to replace the existing DR center at Marshall.
Allen Palmeri is associate editor of The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.org), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.