Miss. Baptists elect 1st black officer

JACKSON, Miss. (BP) -- Mississippi Baptists made history by electing the first African American to serve as a convention officer during the Mississippi Baptist Convention's annual meeting at First Baptist Church in Jackson.

Messengers also adopted resolutions affirming traditional marriage and decrying transgenderism. In response to a motion that the convention support changing the state flag -- which includes the Confederate "stars and bars" emblem -- messengers adopted a statement that expressed support for racial reconciliation.

Newly elected Mississippi Baptist Convention officers are (from left) assistant recording secretary Jerry Bingham, second vice president Larry Young, president Matt Buckles, first vice president Gary Wyatt and recording secretary Michael Weeks.
Photo by William Perkins
Larry Young, an African American and pastor of Spangle Banner Missionary Baptist Church in Pace, was chosen as second vice president over Chas Rowland, pastor of Bovina Baptist Church in Vicksburg, in the only contested race for a convention office. Young was accorded a standing ovation when his election was announced. Vote totals were not disclosed.

Matt Buckles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Vicksburg, was elected to a second term as president. Gary Wyatt, pastor of North Morton Baptist Church in Morton, was elected to a first term as first vice president.

Both recording secretary Michael Weeks, pastor of Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church in Olive Branch, and associate recording secretary Jerry Bingham, director of missions for the Benton-Tippah Baptist Association in Ripley, were reelected.

Buckles was nominated by Thad Moore, pastor of First Baptist Church in Coffeeville. The nomination was seconded by Kent Campbell, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Vicksburg.

Joe Abel, director of missions for the Leake County Baptist Association in Carthage, nominated Wyatt. The nomination was seconded by Reggie Williams, director of missions for the Scott County Baptist Association in Forest.

Young was nominated by Clarence Cooper, pastor of Brandon Baptist Church in Brandon. The nomination was seconded by Rick Henson, pastor of Oakdale Baptist Church in Brandon.

Rowland was nominated by Shannon Davis, pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Lexington. The nomination was seconded by Michael Wilbanks, pastor of Thaxton Baptist Church in Thaxton.

During the Oct. 28-29 meeting, messengers approved a 2015 Cooperative Program budget of $31,284,567, a decrease of 1 percent from 2014. The entire budget will be funded through Cooperative Program gifts from Mississippi churches.

The convention will forward 37 percent of CP receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention's national and international missions and ministries, a .75 percent increase from 2014. Some 63 percent of CP receipts will support Mississippi causes. The budget does not include any shared expenses with the SBC.

The Baptist Children's Village will receive a 2 percent increase in funding, and the Board of Ministerial Education will receive a 4.6 percent increase.

Four resolutions were approved by messengers:

-- expressing appreciation to First Baptist for hosting the annual meeting, along with thanks to the speakers, singers, instrumentalists and President Buckles.

-- affirming the family as "the basic unit of human society."

-- affirming "God's good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not one's self-perception."

-- A motion encouraging churches to promote changing the Mississippi state flag was ruled out of order and referred to the Resolutions Committee. Based on the committee's recommendation, messengers adopted as a resolution the text of a statement issued by Buckles.

The statement did not express the convention's corporate support for changing the flag but noted that many Mississippi Baptists, including Buckles and Mississippi Baptist Convention Board executive director Jim Futral, supported a change when the issue came before voters in 2001 but failed to receive support from a majority of Mississippians.

The statement said Mississippi Baptists "are pleased to see the growth of African-Americans in our convention, serving in leadership roles in our convention, associations, campuses, and other staff positions, even in traditionally white churches." It also expressed support for "racial reconciliation" and recognized "that all human beings are created equal and made in the image of God."

Buckles delivered the president's address. Mark Vincent, pastor of Clarke-Venable Baptist Church in Decatur and president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, preached the convention sermon. Don Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., preached the closing message.

Futral presented the convention board emphasis. Herb Reavis, pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., presented the Bible Treasures series of devotionals.

Next year's annual meeting will be Oct. 27-28 at First Baptist Church in Jackson, with David Eldridge, pastor of First Baptist Church in Clinton, preaching the convention sermon and Phil Walker, pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Madison, serving as the alternate preacher.

Adapted from reporting by William Perkins, editor of The Baptist Record, newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
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