Tenn. Baptists approve Vision 2021 report
BARTLETT, Tenn. (BP) -- Messengers to the 138th annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention at Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett, Tenn., overwhelmingly adopted the report of the Vision 2021 Team which included 10 recommendations.
Among the recommendations was the adoption of a new vision statement and seven core values, along with an affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and a plan to move toward a 50/50 distribution of Cooperative Program funds with the Southern Baptist Convention by the 2018-19 budget year.
In addition, messengers elected Morristown pastor Dean Haun as president and chose the convention's first African American vice president -- Michael Ellis, pastor of Impact Baptist Church in Memphis.
Among other items of business, messengers adopted a $37 million budget and approved a new missions partnership in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The meeting drew 926 registered messengers from 419 churches, the lowest messenger count in decades. The last time the annual meeting was held in West Tennessee was in 2009 when 1,173 messengers from 541 churches attended. The 2011 annual meeting drew 1,211 messengers from 500 churches.
Vision 2021 report
The Vision 2021 Team was authorized by messengers to the 2010 annual meeting in Knoxville.
Danny Sinquefield, chairman of the Vision 2021 Team and pastor of the host church, said prior to the annual meeting that the team prayerfully listened to Tennessee Baptists over the past 24 months as it tried to formulate a plan which "celebrates and affirms our historic partnerships" while refocusing "ministry and missions priorities around the lostness in Tennessee and around the world."
Team member Poly Rouse, pastor of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church in Hermitage, agreed.
"During our 24-month journey we have literally cried out to God asking for wisdom and direction," he told messengers.
Rouse shared that the team had multiple meetings with entity heads and Tennessee Baptists across the state.
"With each step, we have gained insight which has culminated in this presentation," Rouse said.
Rouse was one of several team members who spoke during the presentation of the Vision 2021 Team's report.
During the annual meeting Sinquefield challenged Tennessee Baptists to "join our hearts and hands together in a spirit of cooperation to get the job done."
In a symbolic move, messengers were given pieces of rope and encouraged to stretch across the sanctuary of Faith Baptist.
"We need to extend our reach," Sinquefield said.
"Wouldn't it be great if the TBC came to be known less as Tennessee Baptist Convention and became known more as Together Believers Can?" he asked.
The presentation was given over three sessions with a series of recommendations that were considered separately by messengers. The following recommendations were approved.
(1) Messengers adopted a new vision statement for the convention: "Our vision is to penetrate lostness and advance the gospel across Tennessee and to the ends of the earth by asking God to bring a sweeping spiritual awakening in our churches transforming our hearts toward radical obedience."
(2) The Vision Team presented six core values for the Tennessee Baptist Convention: humility, honesty, urgency, unity, generosity and accountability.
Messenger Shelby Smith of Walter Hill First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, proposed a seventh core value -- holiness. Smith observed that "when we fail to understand the holiness of God we have lost the power of God."
Sinquefield said the team would be in favor of adding the seventh core value. A motion to amend the recommendation to include "holiness" passed by a show of ballots.
(3) Messengers approved a unified revival theme of "It's Time!" based on Hosea 10:12 as the focus for the year ahead. The recommendation included a call to solemn assembly and encouraged churches to engage in seasons of prayer, confession and repentance and to strive for reconciliation of relationships between individuals and churches. It also called for "acceptance of our personal and corporate failure in following the Great Commandments and fulfilling the Great Commission -- becoming burdened for the 3.6 million lost people in Tennessee and billions more around the world."
(4) Messengers approved the following mission statement for the convention: "The Tennessee Baptist Convention is a cooperating network of churches, and related ministry partners, committed to reaching Tennessee and the world for God's glory by sharing the gospel and multiplying disciples."
(5) Messengers affirmed four priority ministries for the TBC Executive Board for the next 10 years (to be evaluated annually). They are sending churches, strengthening churches, starting churches and supporting churches.
(6) In accordance with actions taken by the TBC in 2006, messengers affirmed the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as the convention's "confessional foundation guiding our faith and practice as a convention of churches." This recommendation was adopted without discussion.
(7) Messengers approved a recommendation which "respectfully requests that each church consider increasing their support of the Cooperative Program, making this a significant part of their church's mission giving strategy as we partner together in fulfilling the Great Commission."
"Leaders need to step up and lead," Sinquefield said of the recommendation. He noted that Faith Baptist Church has begun the process to increase its CP gifts. The recommendation was adopted without discussion.
(8) In accordance with actions taken in 2010, messengers adopted a recommendation to request the Executive Board to move to a 50/50 distribution of Cooperative Program funds between the TBC and the Southern Baptist Convention beginning with the 2013-14 budget with the goal of reaching the 50 percent equal distribution by the 2018-19 budget year.
Sinquefield noted this recommendation "has caused more discussion than any other" of the recommendations. It was acknowledged that the TBC has increased its SBC portion including a half percent increase in this year's budget.
In response to a question, Sinquefield said the intent of the recommendation is to accomplish the goal in a six-year timeframe. The recommendation passed by a show of ballots.
(9) Messengers approved a recommendation to "request the Executive Board to facilitate statewide cooperation through the establishment of a strategic regional TBC presence focused on engaging churches and associations in the development and deployment of strategies for sending, starting, strengthening and supporting churches."
Sinquefield noted this is already happening, citing the leadership of TBC Executive Director Randy Davis.
In response to a question from Scott Linginfelter of Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Maryville, Davis said the recommendation would not involve new staff or buildings.
Messenger Michael Adams of First Baptist Church in Lexington expressed concern that the convention would be competing with local associations. Sinquefield stressed that was not the case. The intent, he said, was to get state convention staff in a closer partnership with the local associations across the state. The recommendation passed by a show of ballots.
(10) The Vision Team's final recommendation called for the formation of a Vision 2021 Transition Team, consisting of seven members from the Vision Team and two officers (president of the convention and chairman of the Executive Board) with the TBC executive director and a representative from the entity leaders serving as ex officio members.
The recommendation noted the transition team "will guide the process toward accomplishment of the actions approved by this convention, receive reports from TBC entities regarding actions taken in response to requests, report progress and response to the convention and recommend to the convention additional actions necessary to the fulfillment of the convention's vision, mission, priorities and budgets."
Sinquefield said he would name the transition team. He sent a list of the team members to the Baptist & Reflector Nov. 15. The transition team includes Chuck Groover (chair), pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet; Corey Cain, pastor of Maplewood Baptist Church in Paris; Bruce Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville; Mike Day, senior associate pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett; David Green, pastor of First Baptist Church in Greenville; Larry Robertson, pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville; and Jamie Work, pastor of Candies Creek Baptist Church in Charleston.
Other members are Dean Haun (TBC president), Bob Brown (chair of the TBC Executive Board who is pastor of First Baptist Church in Dandridge), and two ex-officio members: Davis (TBC executive director) and David Dockery (president of Union University, representing the entity leadership).
Gary Gerhardt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Church Hill, questioned the need for a transition team rather than the existing Executive Board and the costs involved.
Sinquefield said the Vision Team has already been involved in the process and has "reams of information" that will be needed for implementation. "Our task is not completed until implementation takes place," he said. The recommendation passed.
All three ministers were unopposed for office and were elected by acclamation.
Dean Haun, current TBC vice president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Morristown, was named president after being nominated by Bob Brown, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dandridge. Brown also is chair of the TBC Executive Board.
Brown noted that First Baptist Morristown gives 11 percent of its undesignated funds through the Cooperative Program to Southern Baptist causes and the church is in the top 200 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
Brown also reported on the many ministries of the church started during the five years Haun has served there. Haun also has served as a board member of the International Mission Board, Brown said.
Michael Ellis, pastor of Impact Baptist Church in Memphis, was elected as vice president by acclamation, becoming the first African American to hold a TBC office. He was nominated by Mike Day, senior associate pastor at Faith Baptist Church and former director of missions for the Mid-South Baptist Association.
Day observed that Ellis "is a man of prayer, humility and faith."
Day noted that while the election of Ellis would "cross historic, bridge eclipsing barriers" his selection would be much more than an historic opportunity.
This is an opportunity to elect a man from a cooperative church who encourages his church to tithe and give through the Cooperative Program, Day said.
Ellis, who is retired from the U.S. Navy after serving 21 years, has led Impact Baptist, a church plant of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, for six years and has seen it grow from 22 members to 1,300.
Steve Freeman, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Springfield, was named second vice president by acclamation. Freeman was nominated by Corey Cain, pastor of Maplewood Baptist Church in Paris.
Cain noted that while Freeman has served the church for the past five years it has grown and Freeman has baptized 220 people there.
The positions of recording and registration secretary are no longer elected each year. They are currently filled by Julie Heath (recording) and Dan Ferrell (registration).
Messengers approved a budget of $37 million for 2012-13, an increase of $250,000 or 0.7 percent over last year's budget.
The budget is divided 59.25 percent for TBC causes and 40.75 percent for SBC causes. The amount intended for the SBC was increased this year by half a percentage point.
During the introduction of the budget, Paul Rose, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Covington and a trustee of the Tennessee Baptist Children's Homes, noted that in 2002 the TBC voted to restore TBCH to 5 percent of the budget. "We have not met that 5 percent goal," Rose said. In this year's budget, the TBCH will receive $1,727,900 or 4.67 of the TBC portion of the budget.
Rose made a motion to amend the budget to "move the TBCH share to 5 percent of CP giving."
The next day, Rose withdrew the motion noting he did not intend for his motion "to cause hardship" to the budget process and impact other ministry partners.
TBC President Fred Shackelford noted that the motion could be withdrawn if no one objected. No objections were voiced, so the motion was withdrawn and the budget passed as presented.
The budget does not include any funds listed as TBC-SBC shared expenses.
Tennessee Baptists without opposition adopted a five-year volunteer missions partnership with International Mission Board missionaries serving in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The partnership will begin Jan. 1, 2014 and run through Dec. 31, 2018, with a year of preparation beginning Jan. 1, 2013.
The TBC also formally signed two partnerships that were established last year with Baptists in Italy and southwest Ohio.
Tennessee Baptists formally recognized the end of a 10-year partnership with the Baptist Convention of Iowa. Jon Jamison of the Iowa convention presented a plaque to Davis and the TBC "expressing deep love and appreciation for Tennessee Baptists."
With one exception, recommendations from the Committee on Committees and Committee on Boards were approved by messengers.
Gary Moats of Chestuee Baptist Church in Calhoun, made a motion to replace Jay McCluskey, pastor of North Cleveland Baptist Church in Cleveland, who was nominated to serve on the Executive Board, with Joel Jenkins, pastor of Benton Station Baptist Church in Benton Station.
Moats cited McCluskey's printed response to the question, "Do you affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000?"
McCluskey responded, "Yes, except the phrase in section VI that states 'The office of pastor is limited to men.'"
In speaking to the motion, McCluskey noted the BF&M has not been a litmus test for leadership. He noted he has "been a team player" within the TBC his entire ministry and that his church gives more than 15 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program. In 2011, the church's CP gifts were $91,620 or 15.15 percent.
A member of McCluskey's church, Steve Roper, spoke in favor of his pastor. Roper said the church has never had an ordained woman minister or deacon during McCluskey's 25-plus years of ministry at the church.
Moats said he did not question McCluskey's love for God or what he has done but noted that one of the recommendations of the Vision 2021 Team was a recommendation affirming the BF&M. "He (McCluskey) did not support that statement," Moats said.
The motion to vacate McCluskey was approved by a show of ballots vote.
Jenkins was then approved for the position on the Executive Board. Jenkins expressed approval of the BF&M statement. His church gave $4,416 or 3.84 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program in 2011.
Three resolutions were passed including the traditional resolution of gratitude.
Messengers approved, with some debate, a resolution on a sinner's prayer.
The resolution noted that "God desires for every person to be saved and has made salvation available for any person who hears the gospel" and that "a free response to the Holy Spirit's drawing through the gospel is both possible and necessary in order for anyone to be born again."
The resolution noted that this "is no one uniform wording found in Scripture or in the churches for a 'sinner's prayer'" and that "it is biblically appropriate to help a sinner in calling on the Lord for salvation."
The resolution observed that a sinner's prayer "is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the gospel."
The resolution commended "the use of a sinner's prayer as a biblically sound and spiritually significant component of the evangelistic task of the church."
Finally, the resolution resolved that "we encourage all Christians to enthusiastically and intentionally proclaim the gospel to sinners everywhere, being prepared to give them the reason for the hope we have in Christ, and being prepared to lead them to confess faith in Christ, including praying to receive Him as Savior and Lord."
Several speakers spoke in favor of the resolution which was presented by Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova; Chuck Herring, pastor of First Baptist Church in Collierville; and David Leavell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Millington.
Herring noted that a sinner's prayer is a biblical response. Several people spoke against the resolution.
Ben Simpson, pastor of West Main Baptist Church in Alexandria, said the resolution was unnecessary.
"The SBC affirmed a better resolution on a sinner's prayer" at its annual meeting in June, Simpson said.
Marty Comer, chairman of the Resolutions Committee and pastor of Sand Ridge Baptist Church in Lexington, said the committee was aware of the SBC resolution.
"We are simply affirming praying is a biblical response to the grace of God," Comer said. "It is not an incantation."
The resolution passed with some opposition by show of ballots.
A resolution on ministers meeting for prayer and mutual encouragement was approved without debate.
-- Messengers debated a recommendation offered by Steve Tiebout, pastor of The River Church in Cookeville.
Tiebout's motion requested "that the Executive Board strongly consider only appointing to the Church Planting Funding Team board members whose church is presently participating in church planting or have planted a church themselves."
Concern was expressed by several messengers that the motion would restrict the Executive Board from carrying out its responsibility.
"This is getting involved in the administrative process," said Jim Collier, pastor of Kirby Woods Baptist Church in Memphis.
The motion failed by a show of ballots vote.
-- During the annual meeting, messengers heard sermons on shared vision and witnessed God at work through several baptism services held during the sessions.
-- Messengers also heard reports from TBC Executive Board staff and TBC entities.
-- A bylaws amendment was approved to codify action by the 2011 annual meeting which eliminated a Wednesday afternoon session.
-- Messengers approved the following recommendations from the Committee on Arrangements:
(1) Robert Gallaty, pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, will deliver the 2013 convention sermon with Gary Jared, pastor of Stuart Heights Baptist Church in Hixson, as alternate.
(2) The Chattanooga Convention Center will be the site of the 2013 annual meeting Nov. 12-13.
(3) Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood will host the 2014 annual meeting Nov. 11-12. The meeting in 2015 will be at First Baptist Church in Millington and was already approved by messengers.
(4) The 2016 annual meeting will be Nov. 15-16 at the Sevierville Convention Center.
Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will be a guest speaker at the 2013 annual meeting in Chattanooga.
Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector of Tennessee. With reporting by Connie Davis Bushey.