Ark. Baptists address medical marijuana push
ROGERS, Ark. (BP) -- Messengers to the 160th annual meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention approved a Cooperative Program budget of $22 million and, among four resolutions, encouraged voters to reject all attempts to legalize medical marijuana in the state in next year's general election.
The official messenger count for the Oct. 29-30 meeting at Cross Church Pinnacle Hills in Rogers was 591. Registered messengers numbered 634 at last year's annual meeting at First Baptist Church in Cabot.
The last annual meeting held in northwest Arkansas was in 2008 at First Baptist Church in Bentonville, with 664 messengers registered. In 2003, the annual meeting at First Baptist Church in Fayetteville drew 920 messengers. First Baptist Church (now Cross Church) in Springdale attracted 1,281 registered messengers in 1999.
This year's annual meeting theme, "Together," was underscored by convention speakers, including outgoing president Greg Addison, pastor of First Baptist Cabot. The annual meeting was preceded by an all-day Pastors' Conference Oct. 28.
Archie Mason, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro, was elected president; Doug Falknor, pastor of First Baptist Fayetteville, was elected first vice president; and Gary Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lowell, was elected second vice president. All three ran unopposed.
Messengers approved resolutions on the proposed Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act and on the issue of marriage, as well as a resolution focused on the need to reach men for Christ and hold them accountable. Another resolution expressed appreciation to people involved in the "preparation and guidance" of the annual meeting.
Two proposed state initiatives to legalize medical marijuana are being qualified for the 2014 general election ballot in Arkansas, and messengers strongly encouraged voters "to reject the notion that the largely unsupervised cultivation, marketing, distribution, and smoking of marijuana is compassionate and sound medical practice, to recognize the proposed medical marijuana laws as clandestine attempts to take the first step toward the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Arkansas, to refuse to sign petitions to qualify these measures for the ballot, and to soundly reject all of them at the ballot box in the November 2014 general election."
Messengers reaffirmed the sanctity of traditional, biblical marriage and the value of the nuclear family and resolved to redouble their efforts "to discourage cohabitation, out-of-wedlock birth, adultery, and those other practices that erode the strength of marriage, families, the church, and culture."
A resolution on reaching men declared that "many men are in desperate need of salvation, intercession, and intervention for the sake of the family, the church, the city, the state, the nation, and the world," and messengers resolved to "work diligently to reach men with the gospel of Jesus Christ and thereby enable greater opportunities to reach their families."
Ken Shaddox, pastor of Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock, made a motion that this year's annual meeting be dedicated in memory of Roy Fish and Johnny Jackson Sr.
"It is right to honor those who have faithfully served the Lord over the course of their lifetime," Shaddox said.
Roy Fish died in 2012 at age 82. He is best known as a longtime professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Jackson died this fall at age 85. Over his 65-year ministry he served many churches, his longest tenure being at Forest Highlands Baptist Church in Little Rock, where he served as pastor from 1966 to 1986.
The motioned passed unanimously.
A Cooperative Program budget of $22 million for 2014 was approved by messengers, which is the same amount as the 2013 budget.
The budget includes $9,439,120 (42.91 percent) for Southern Baptist Convention causes and $12,425,880 (56.48 percent) for missions and ministries in Arkansas. Another $135,000 (0.61 percent) is designated as the "shared ministries" budget split between the ABSC and the SBC.
The approved budget reflects the second year of the ABSC's 2013-17 budget formula approved by messengers at the 2011 annual meeting. The formula increases the percentage of funds (total receipts) forwarded to the SBC, with budget surpluses (any CP funds received above $22 million) being divided between the ABSC and the SBC as a part of "shared ministries." The percentage increase for SBC causes is two-tenths of 1 percent each year during the five-year budget formula period.
Additionally, the formula directs the convention to conduct a statewide emphasis every five years, encouraging churches to increase their Cooperative Program percentage.
The convention's nominating committee report was approved with no challenges and no discussion. The committee nominates people to serve on boards of ABSC entities and institutions.
Gary Hollingsworth, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, was re-elected president of the ABSC Executive Board. Mike McCauley, pastor of Bella Vista Baptist Church in Bella Vista, was re-elected first vice president.
The 2014 annual meeting will be held at Trinity Baptist Church in Texarkana.
Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News (www.arkansasbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.