Ga. Baptists surpass 20,000 backpacks goal
DACULA, Ga. (BP) -- As Georgia Baptists gathered for the annual meeting of the state convention they brought a veritable mountain of backpacks.
Under the leadership of GBC President John Waters, a goal of 20,000 backpacks for impoverished Appalachian children was exceeded, with more than 20,300 announced at the close of the convention.
The convention adopted a "straight allocation budget" of $41,800,000, same as the 2013 budget that reflects 2000 funding levels. Under a new budget structure, 40 percent of Cooperative Program gifts from Georgia churches will be allocated to Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries (a percentage that changes slightly each year in GBC budget calculations, this year involving a 0.18 percent reduction from last year); 11.03 percent in a category titled "Mission Extension Ministries"; and 48.97 percent to Georgia Baptist Convention ministries.
Under the budget, Mission Extension Ministries encompasses GBC institutions such as the three Baptist-affiliated colleges in the state while GBC ministries include evangelism, church planting and collegiate ministry supported by the state convention.
Additionally, the importance of the Missions Georgia Offering, the new name for the state missions offering, was underscored in the budget presentation. The offering has become important to reducing lostness in the state as Georgia Baptists seek to shore up budget shortfalls, including an eventual cumulative $910,000 being returned to the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in Cooperative Agreement funding to help plant churches in weaker sections of the nation.
A detailed account of the budget, the first major revision in 80 years, was provided in the Sept. 19 edition of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia convention.
In officer elections, Don Hattaway, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville, was elected president in a two-nominee ballot with John Reed, an evangelist from Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula.
Elected as vice presidents were: 1st vice president, Stephen Fountain, minister of students, First Baptist Church, Buford; 2nd vice president, Eric Rentz, pastor, First Baptist Church, Ludowici; 3rd vice president, David Chauncey, pastor, Eastside Baptist Church, Marietta; and 4th vice president, Tim Jones, pastor, Britt David Baptist Church, Columbus.
Ray Newman honored
In an emotional part of Monday night's session, Ray Newman was honored as a statesman in Georgia Baptist life and defender of religious freedom. Newman recently was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
Newman and his wife Gwen, who have been married 47 years, were described as examples of faith and courage. J. Robert White, GBC executive director, presented a commemorative plaque to Newman highlighting his 26 years as a pastor and 21 years as a Georgia Baptist state missionary, including his role as GBC public policy advocate at the state capitol for the past decade.
Newman, in a frail but confident voice, stated that the tumor had just about stolen his eyesight, greatly affected his vocal chords and begun to cause excruciating pain but that his faith had saved him, sustained him and would lead him home. Messengers gave Newman a prolonged standing ovation in appreciation for his service.
GBC President John Waters, pastor of First Baptist Church in Statesboro, highlighted the theme of the convention, "Busy with the Father's Business," in his sermon based on Luke 2: 41-50. "There is no question as to whether Georgia Baptists are busy," Waters said, "but are we busy about the Father's business?"
To be "busy with the Father's business," Waters said, "we must (1) go where Jesus goes, (2) see what Jesus sees, (3) love what Jesus loves and (4) be what Jesus is. It is not our programs, strategies, priorities that will change lives across Georgia. The only thing that will change Georgia is Jesus."
Waters accented his sermon by singing words from the hymn "My Faith Has Found a Resting Place" -- emphasizing "I need no other argument, I need no other plea, It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me."
Tommy Fountain, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Monroe, preached the missionary sermon, with Titus 2:11-15 as his text. He recounted his own salvation experience and mentioned three men who had greatly influenced his life -- his dad; Ray Newman; and layman J.D. Shehane who led him to the Lord.
"The sacrifice has been made; the price has been paid," Foutain said of Christ's crucifixion. "And we need to proclaim His coming again."
Messengers also heard greetings from William Townes of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee; Al Gilbert of NAMB; and, via video, Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
The convention concluded on Tuesday evening with a message from Bill Barker, missionary to Appalachia, and then scores of convention-goers formed a procession carrying backpacks laden with gifts down the aisle to the altar of Hebron Baptist Church.
The backpacks heaped upon the altar were symbolic of thousands of backpacks that were donated. Eight trucks, including three 18-wheelers provided by the North American Mission Board, were required to deliver the backpacks to Appalachian ministries.
Jason Jones, pastor of Isabella Baptist Church in Sylvester, announced that 48 churches and 13 missions have joined the convention.
Al Wright, pastor of Waynesboro First Baptist Church, presented resolutions at the Tuesday morning session. One of the adopted resolutions, opposing sexual abuse of children, was proposed by Peter Lumpkins, pastor of Corner Stone Baptist Chapel in Waco. Another, voicing prayer for the Philippines following several thousand deaths from Typhoon Haiyan, was proposed by Allen Hill, Clarkston International Church pastor and former IMB missionary to the Philippines.
The convention's 192nd annual session, Nov. 11-12, began with the spirited music of African American combined choirs named Voices of Praise.
The 2014 annual meeting will be Nov. 10-11 at Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon and will be hosted by the Mid-State Baptist Association. The missionary sermon will be brought by Ken Cloud, associational missionary for Bowen Baptist Association; the alternate will be Wayne Jenkins, associational missionary for Western Baptist Association. Tez Andrews, pastor of Connect Church in Decatur, will bring the doctrinal sermon; the alternate will be Jamie Powell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Perry.
Adapted by Baptist Press from reports in The Christian Index (www.christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.