Tenn. Baptists set BF&M as standard for nominees
MILLINGTON, Tenn. (BP) -- Messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention increased their Cooperative Program giving to Southern Baptist Convention causes and amended their constitution and bylaws to require members of boards and committees to act in accordance with the Baptist Faith and Message.
Attendance was down from the 1,172 messengers who gathered in the Nashville area last year but up from the last time the convention convened in West Tennessee three years ago.
Messengers adopted a budget of $34,250,000 for 2015-16, the same dollar amount as the 2014-15 budget. The primary difference is that 43.90 percent of CP receipts will be forwarded to SBC missions and ministries, compared to 42.07 percent in the current budget.
"We are moving toward 50/50 and we are on track to meet it by 2018-19," TBC Executive Director Randy Davis told messengers. "It requires sacrifice, and all of our entities are making an effort to help us get there."
Among the new slate of officers elected were: president, Roc Collins, pastor of Indian Springs Baptist Church in Kingsport; vice president, James Noble, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Memphis; and second vice president, Michael Crandall, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Dyersburg. All three were elected without opposition.
Upon recommendation of the convention's arrangements committee, Gary Jared, pastor of Stuart Heights Baptist Church in Chattanooga, was elected to preach the 2016 convention sermon, with Eric Stitts, pastor of Bayside Baptist Church in Harrison, serving as the alternate.
After considerable discussion, messengers approved the following amendment to the TBC's constitution and bylaws: "No person shall be nominated to serve on the governing bodies of the boards and institutions of the convention, on committees of the convention, or in any other elected leadership roles in and with the convention, unless the person has agreed that he or she will, if elected, covenant to serve in accordance with, and not contrary to, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000."
The day before the amendment was approved, some messengers expressed concern that its passage would make the BF&M a "creed."
"When this was presented in convention in 2000, we were assured this would never be a litmus test for anyone serving on any TBC committee or board," said Kim Allen, pastor of Little West Fork Baptist Church in Clarksville. "I speak against this. This becomes a creed and we are not a creedal people."
Larry Robertson, pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, disagreed. "It is important that we clarify that BF&M has never been a creed and it is not being used as creed in this report. It is a minimum statement of our faith," he said.
"We are only asking committee members to act consistent with and not contrary to minimum standards. It is not a requirement to believe every single detail in BF&M," Robertson said.
Among four resolutions adopted, messengers voiced displeasure with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges which redefined marriage to allow for same-sex marriages.
The resolution, approved without opposition, noted that "no governing institution has authority to negate or undermine God's definition of marriage" and that "the religious and conscientious liberties of individuals and institutions should not be infringed upon as a result of living according to deeply-held biblical convictions about marriage."
The resolution further stated, "Tennessee Baptists, regardless of opposition or any legal actions that may be taken against us for living out our biblical convictions, will not cease to stand upon the sound doctrine of Scripture which is God's inerrant and infallible Word."
A resolution in support of defunding Planned Parenthood, which receives more than a half billion taxpayer dollars annually, said the TBC "stands in strong support of the sanctity of human life and seeks to redirect the use of funds currently being appropriated to Planned Parenthood to instead be used for health services provided by ethical health care providers in communities throughout the state and nation which do not perform abortions."
The resolution encouraged Tennessee Baptists "to pray and also to petition our elected officials representing the state of Tennessee in Congress to boldly stand in support of the sanctity of human life and to make it a priority of greatest importance to eliminate all taxpayer/government funding of Planned Parenthood."
Messengers also approved a resolution in support of the "Million More by '34" strategy, which calls for Tennessee Baptists to baptize at least 50,000 people annually by 2024 and for Southern Baptists to baptize at least a million people each year by 2034.
Messengers voted to allow Robbie Leach, pastor of Beech Park Baptist Church in Oliver Springs, to read a resolution he presented in support of the nation of Israel but which was not reported for messenger consideration by the resolutions committee.
Pastors Michael Crandall, Bruce Chesser and James Noble interpreted the annual meeting theme: "Reach Now...Whatever It Takes."
Crandall, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Dyersburg, told how doors have opened for him in his community to minister to firemen and victims of fires, then to become a fireman and to minister to sheriff's deputies and paramedics. Crandall said he also witnesses to people in a gym he goes to.
Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, cited "the urgency of now," referring to John 12 and Ephesians 5:16.
"God help us to put the focus where it ought to be. God help us to stop playing church and to get concerned again about people in our communities that are lost and without Christ," Chesser said.
Noble, the newly elected TBC vice president, told believers not to be ashamed of the Gospel, noting, "I'm glad that we have some Tennessee Baptists ... today who are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Messengers celebrated 35 years of partnership missions with a banquet and commemorative program. New partnerships were adopted with the Baptist Convention of New England and the Baptist State Convention of Ohio that will begin in 2017. In addition, leaders from the TBC and the Guatemala Baptist Convention officially signed papers for a partnership that was approved last year and will begin Jan. 1, 2016.
Kim Margrave, volunteer missions specialist for the TBC, reported that 171 volunteers already have been to Guatemala this year. Otto Velasquez, president of the Guatemala Baptist Convention, told messengers, "We have already been blessed by those from your convention who have come to Guatemala."
In other business:
-- A motion regarding the CP giving of churches where board and committee nominees are members was referred to the Committee on Committees and Committee on Boards.
-- Davis' executive director report was divided into five segments, each highlighting one of the convention's Five Objectives: seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship by 2024; having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024; planting and strategically engaging at least 1,000 new churches by 2024; realizing an increase in local church giving through CP that results in each congregation giving at least 10 percent of its undesignated receipts by 2024; and realizing an increase in annual giving for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions that reaches at least $3 million by 2024.
-- The 180th anniversary of the Baptist and Reflector, the convention's newsjournal, was recognized with a special presentation by Davis to editor Lonnie Wilkey.
-- Special recognitions were presented to Kenny Cooper, who is retiring this year as president of Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes, and to Bryant Millsaps, who is retiring as president of Tennessee Baptist Children's Homes.
-- Messengers heard a report from Davis regarding the Chubby Challenge, which he issued at the start of the year encouraging Tennessee Baptists to improve their health by losing weight. He reported that the TBC staff lost 178 pounds or 4 percent of their body weight. In addition, Davis said 44 Tennessee Baptists signed up online to participate in the challenge. Those 44 individuals lost 633 pounds. Among them was Ryan Culpepper, pastor of Mary's Chapel Baptist Church in Ripley, who lost 148 pounds and 15 inches off his waist.
The 2016 annual meeting will be held Nov. 15-16 at the Sevierville Convention Center in Sevierville.