Ala. Baptists adjust to budget shortfall
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP) -- Alabama Baptists, while continuing to aim for a 50/50 allocation of Cooperative Program receipts with Southern Baptist Convention causes by 2023, decreased their budget for the coming year by $1 million.
Messengers approved a report by the Great Commission Ministries FutureFocus Task Force during the Nov. 13–14 Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting at Vaughn Forest Baptist Church in Montgomery.
More than 10 percent of Alabama Baptists' 3,200-plus churches were represented at the convention's 190th annual session – themed "FutureFocus 2 Chronicles 7:14" -- with 837 messengers registered from 373 churches. More than 1.1 million people claim membership in an Alabama Baptist church.
Along with routine business items, reports from state convention entities and congregational worship, Phil Waldrep of Phil Waldrep Ministries headlined the Tuesday evening program with an emphasis on prayer.
The main point of business for the annual meeting was the FutureFocus Task Force report.
The task force was appointed in 2010 by then-president of the Alabama convention, Jimmy Jackson, pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, following the approval of the Great Commission Resurgence goals by the Southern Baptist Convention in June of that year.
A key component of the Alabama FutureFocus report highlights Alabama Baptists' involvement in five ministry areas as essential to ongoing ministry partnership with the SBC: church planting; church revitalization; global missions; disaster relief; and Cooperative Program and stewardship development.
Alabama Baptist churches were challenged in the report to adopt the SBC's 1 percent CP Challenge in a modified form that encourages congregations to increase their CP giving of undesignated receipts by .25 of a percentage point annually for the next four years. Meeting such a goal would provide an additional $1 million per year to be divided between Alabama and SBC missions causes.
The report also stated that in CP budgeting beginning in 2014 Alabama Baptists commit to a shared ministries model with an amount not to exceed 10 percent of the base budget. All funds beyond the shared ministries amount would be divided 50/50 between the state and national conventions by 2023, which will be the Alabama Baptist Convention's 200th anniversary.
Among other goals and affirmations of the report:
-- increasing the total number of Alabama Baptist churches planted annually by 1 percent in partnership with "local churches, associations, the Alabama State Board of Missions, and to whatever extent possible, the North American Mission Board."
-- providing increased help to plateaued churches with specialized state missionaries, other trained leaders and "a self-assessment tool to aid pastors and church leaders in identifying areas of need" in church revitalization.
-- reaffirmation of the Alabama Acts 1:8 Connections strategy for involvement in global missions to begin in January. With the strategy, missions partnerships will be developed with international and North American missionaries who have connections to Alabama as their home state.
-- strengthening of Alabama disaster relief ministries through an annual statewide offering and by providing training for both "credentialed and spontaneous volunteers" in disaster relief.
While the FutureFocus report meant messengers had to think in terms of 2014 and beyond, other business kept them focused on the next 14 months with the adoption of a reduced CP budget from $43 million in 2012 to $42 million in 2013.
Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions Executive Director Rick Lance reported in August that the budget proposal was reduced because the 2012 goal was going to come up short.
"We have to be reasonable and responsible," he said in August. The $1 million decrease in the budget will be absorbed by state convention ministries and entities and the SBC across the board.
Messengers also approved an SBC/state causes budget of $700,000 and a $1 million challenge budget. The percentage will be split the same as 2012 -- 57 percent ABSC and 43 percent SBC. All dollars coming in over the base budget goal are divided equally between the SBC and the ABSC.
Special offering goals for 2013 also were approved by messengers: Lottie Moon Christmas Offering -- $11,600,000; Annie Armstrong Christmas Offering -- $6,100,000; Alabama Baptist Children's Homes & Family Ministries Offering -- $2,600,000; World Hunger Offering -- $800,000; and Disaster Relief Offering -- $200,000.
In his executive director's report to the convention, Lance officially launched the 2013 Praying Across Alabama emphasis.
"Great Commission Ministries are powered by prayer," he said. "Without prayer, we can't do anything.
"There are 67 counties in Alabama and some have two court houses.... Between the dates of Feb. 24 and May 2 ... we are going to hold brief prayer services at every one of those venues," Lance explained.
It starts with a Day of Prayer in the churches Feb. 24 and concludes with the National Day of Prayer May 2.
"On the courthouse steps, in other venues, join with others in Alabama to pray for revival to ignite right here in Alabama, flame across North America and reach the entire world," Lance challenged Alabama Baptists.
Alabama Baptists also adopted six resolutions including declarations for a continued opposition to same-sex marriage and support for the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition. Other resolutions supported the use of the "Sinner's Prayer" in evangelism and urged churches to support human needs ministries.
While the resolution on same-sex marriage affirmed "our support of the biblical definition of marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman," the resolution also calls on churches to deal compassionately with homosexuals. The resolution expresses "our love for those who struggle with same-sex attractions and who are engaged in the homosexual lifestyle." It also condemns gay bashing, disrespectful attitudes, hateful rhetoric and hateful actions toward gays.
At the same time messengers urged pastors to "preach the truth of God's word on human sexuality, marriage, purity and love with all boldness and without fear of reprisal" and encouraged churches to "proclaim that Christ offers forgiveness of sin for those who turn from their sins...."
The resolution supporting the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition announced the coalition's intention to introduce bills in the Alabama Legislature to raise standards of health care for women at abortion clinics and to protect employees of Alabama businesses who refuse to perform abortions or engage in human embryo research or cloning.
The resolution called for support of the Women's Health and Safety Act (the health standards proposal) and expressed appreciation to Gov. Robert Bentley for his "unwavering support for the right to life of the unborn."
The "Sinner's Prayer" resolution commended "the use of a 'Sinner's Prayer' as a biblically sound and spiritually significant component of the evangelistic task of the church." The resolution also noted that there is no one uniform wording of a "Sinner's Prayer" in the Bible and that a "Sinner's Prayer" is not "an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation...."
Concerning ministry to human needs, messengers agreed that "the work and ministry of Jesus involved both proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom and demonstrating the love of God." The resolution also noted the long history of Alabama Baptists of responding to human needs such as disaster relief, physical assistance and advocacy for the oppressed. The resolution expressed support for Baptists' ministries to human needs and urged churches and associations to "engage the needs of [their] community with a strong gospel witness in words, accompanied by a corresponding witness of deeds."
Messengers also adopted a resolution of appreciation for the ministry of Joe Bob Mizzell, who retired this year after 21 years of service at the SBOM as director of the office of Christian ethics.
Appreciation also was expressed to Vaughn Forest Baptist Church and others in the Montgomery area who worked to host the annual meeting of the convention.
New convention officers were elected during the annual meeting. John Killian, pastor of Maytown (Ala.) Baptist Church, was elected president. Travis Coleman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Prattville, was elected first vice president.
Jim Cooley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Haleyville, was elected second vice president. Cooley was one of three Alabama Baptists nominated for the post. Others were Lawrence Phipps, pastor of Vaughn Forest Baptist Church in Montgomery, and Paul Hicks, associate pastor of North Gardendale Baptist Church in Gardendale.
Mary Sue Bennett of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions was elected recording secretary, and Bobby DuBois, also of the SBOM, was elected statistical secretary and registration secretary.
Longtime registration secretary Billy Austin, president of the Alabama Baptist Retirement Centers, declined to be nominated again because he is retiring in July.
The 2013 Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting will be Nov. 12-13 at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville. The convention preacher for the 2013 annual meeting will be Kevin Wilburn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Scottsboro. Alternate preacher is Tim Cox, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Chelsea.
Messengers approved Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville as the site of the 2013 annual meeting, scheduled for Nov. 14–15.
Reported by the staff of The Alabama Baptist (www.thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, and the Alabama State Board of Missions (www.alsbom.org).