Ala. Baptists continue move toward parity
DAPHNE, Ala. (BP) -- Messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting approved a 2016 Cooperative Program budget that brought state and national ministry allocations closer to parity. They also adopted a new offering aimed at helping fund Baptist missions work in state and expanded the role of the State Board of Missions executive committee.
State convention president Travis Coleman, pastor of First Baptist Church, Prattville, was re-elected without opposition. The same was true for first vice president John Thweatt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pell City, and second vice president Tim Cox, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, Chelsea.
The 748 registered messengers from 362 churches also adopted six resolutions and heard from Southern Baptist Convention president Ronnie Floyd.
The $40 million Alabama Baptist Cooperative Program budget, 53 percent of which is appropriated to state missions and ministries and 47 percent to SBC causes, is a $500,000 reduction from 2015.
The $500,000 reduction for Alabama Baptist ministries in the 2016 budget recommendation will come from an across-the-board cut of State Board of Missions and convention entities' budgets.
The increase in SBC ministries in the 2016 budget recommendation will come from the allocations for Samford University in Birmingham, The Baptist Foundation of Alabama and SBOM. SBOM also previously absorbed a $700,000 reduction from the North American Mission Board.
The goal in Alabama will be to increase the SBC allocation by 1 percentage point annually, assuming CP receipts coming into the state office hit the $40 million budget mark. Any amount over the budgeted amount will go to SBC until the equitable distribution is met.
State convention leaders have a goal of parity with the SBC and began moving that direction about five years ago, SBOM Executive Director Rick Lance reported in August.
The Alabama Baptist State Convention is currently at a 45–45–10 split when ministries that are shared between the national and state conventions are considered.
And while shared ministries are supported at all levels of Southern Baptist life, Lance explained, the phrase itself and the concept in general are no longer communicating the allocation of funds clearly.
So going forward, the budget language in Alabama will deal only with state and national percentages.
State convention ministries include all SBOM ministries, state convention entities -- the colleges, The Alabama Baptist, Alabama Baptist Children's Homes & Family Ministries, Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center, TBFA, etc. -- as well as Alabama Woman's Missionary Union and Alabama Citizens Action Program.
National convention ministries include all SBC ministries -- International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, the six seminaries, etc. -- as well as the SBC Executive Committee, GuideStone Financial Resources and SBC CP Advance.
The new offering -- the Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering -- takes the existing Kathleen Mallory State Mission Offering, which helped fund the ministry of Alabama Woman's Missionary Union and expands it to include other aspects of Alabama Baptist work.
"The offering will be an effort to foster annual financial support for Alabama WMU, disaster relief, missions partnerships and church planting and church revitalization ministries," said Mike McLemore, executive director of missions of Birmingham Baptist Association, who presented the recommendation to convention messengers.
The expansion also allows for a new namesake -- Martha Myers, an Alabama missionary doctor who was killed by an extremist in Yemen in 2002.
She joins the legacy of namesake Selma native Kathleen Mallory, who served as leader of Alabama WMU in the early 1900s and then head of national WMU for 36 years (1912–1948).
"It's a legacy that honestly inspires Alabama Baptists decades later to live devotedly and pray intentionally and give sacrificially," said Candace McIntosh, executive director of Alabama WMU.
Another way Alabama Baptists voted to redirect their missions money was to stop resourcing new mobile chapels for disaster relief and church planting purposes starting Jan. 1.
The growing expense of new mobile chapels became cost prohibitive, said Rex Kent, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jemison, who presented the recommendation. So instead of purchasing new chapels, the SBOM will instead provide monthly stipends for disaster-affected congregations and new church plants to rent nearby facilities.
The recommendations related to the executive committee authorize its members to serve as representatives of the convention in declaring when a church is no longer in like-minded fellowship and friendly cooperation with the convention, and as the bylaws review committee of the state convention.
Messengers also passed the following recommendations:
-- That convention messengers agree with the decision of Madison Baptist Association to dis-fellowship Weatherly Heights Baptist Church, Huntsville, and consider them no longer in friendly cooperation with the ABSC.
-- To approve the printed 2014 SBOM audit prepared by Jackson Thornton & Co. PC.
Messengers passed a resolution that urges Alabama Baptists to commit to "pray that Planned Parenthood will reverse their inhumane position and practice regarding abortion."
John Killian, pastor of Maytown Baptist Church, also proposed that Alabama Baptists "resolve that we support efforts to end all public funding of Planned Parenthood."
Resolutions committee members judged the proposed amendment "friendly" and incorporated the wording into the original resolution.
In addition to opposing Planned Parenthood, the resolution called on Alabama Baptists to pray for and show compassion to "those who have been victims of or participants in the abortion industry."
In other resolutions, messengers:
-- Expressed appreciation for University of Mobile (UMobile) President Mark Foley.
Foley, who has announced his retirement after more than 17 years at the helm of UMobile, received a standing ovation from messengers in appreciation for his dedicated guidance of the university. He also was honored for his emphasis on the core values of faith, learning, conviction, integrity, stewardship and leadership.
-- Opposed alcohol sales in Alabama saying that "privatizing liquor sales in Alabama would likely result in stores being open late at night and on Sundays" thus expanding "liquor sales through increased availability." This increased availability would likely lead to increases in underage drinking, problem drinking and alcoholism, the resolution stated.
-- Reiterated support for the historic and constitutional right to exercise religious liberty and committed Alabama Baptists to "teach, preach and practice religious freedom in acts of worship and in freely and publicly expressing deeply held religious convictions."
-- Expressed appreciation for the Alabama Baptists who contributed to the organization of the annual meeting, including Baldwin Baptist Association, host church Eastern Shore Baptist and the 2015 ABSC officers.
-- Affirmed appreciation and prayer for International Mission Board missionaries, including those returning from overseas service as part of IMB's reduction in force. The resolution also urged Southern Baptist churches to participate in the Week of Prayer and Mission Study "as a way of understanding the importance of praying for missionaries and how the gospel will continue to be shared around the world through IMB."
Lance also noted the IMB missionaries in his report earlier in the meeting. As several missionaries begin their transition off the field, "there will be a welcome mat here in Alabama," he said. "We want to make sure these individuals come back to a place they once called home and make it home again. For the children, we will do our best to make it their home as well."
In other news, messengers voted to set the following special offering goals for 2016:
-- Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, $12 million
-- Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, $6.1 million
-- Children's Homes & Family Ministries, $2,814,700
-- World Hunger Offering, $800,000
-- Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering, $750,000
The state convention's top three Cooperative Program giving churches also were honored at the annual meeting:
Largest amount given per resident member
Benton Baptist Church in Selma Baptist Association gave $414.20 per person. Lee Tate is pastor.
Highest percentage of undesignated receipts
Poplar Springs Baptist Church, Webb, Columbia Baptist Association, gave 26.4 percent. Jeff Ross is interim pastor.
Largest amount given overall
Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, Birmingham Baptist Association, gave $760,800. Danny Wood is pastor.
As the featured preacher during the Tuesday evening session of the annual meeting, SBC President Ronnie Floyd shared with Alabama Baptists that they have one great need -- the power of God -- and they have one great struggle -- to remember why it's life-or-death important.
"We have too many pastors, too many Christian leaders who are content to live life and do ministry without the power of God," Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said. "We've gone long enough where this world has seen what we can do. It's time the world sees what our God can do instead."
Floyd said we live in a world where billions are still unreached with the Gospel, and "sadly and regrettably Satan has convinced us that it's more about the songs we sing and the clothes we wear and the personal liberty that gives us the right to express ourselves in church" than it is about seeing the lost saved, Floyd said.
"We tend to drift away from the mission of God, and when you drift away from the mission, you drift away from the power of God and the heart of God," he noted. It means Christians are drifting away from devoted prayer.
And when that happens, revival can't take place, Floyd declared.
The church needs a generation that's not okay with drifting away from the power of God, Floyd said. "The field is the world. And we can do this if we will stay connected to God's power."
Buddy Champion, pastor of First Baptist Church, Trussville, addressed what to do when God doesn't seem to answer prayers the way one desires during the convention sermon at the close of the annual meeting.
"Our whole theme (of the Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting) has been about prayer," he said, noting the Scripture for his sermon as being Matthew 7:7–12. "'Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find and the door will be opened for you.' It's simple enough. You ask, you seek and you knock and it just happens. It unfolds in our lives."
But what about when "I ask and I seek and I knock and nothing happens?"
God is a God who does not give stones or snakes but what is needed, Champion said, noting Matthew 7:9–10.
"He loves us so much," Champion said, pointing to John 15:13–14. "Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness and he was called God's friend. What a great name. What a great privilege to be called the friend of God and God's friend. To know we had a friend who laid down His life for us.
"When the wheels fall off and we are asking God and we are praying and we are trying to be faithful through difficulty, we find a God who wraps His arms around us and loves us."
God's grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness, Champion said.
"Even in those dark days, even in those confusing days, pray for God's grace that will give you power in your weakness," Champion said. "We will find a God that will wrap His arms around us and sustain us and give us mercy in our times of need," he noted, pointing to Hebrews 4:16.
The 2016 annual meeting will be held at Eastmont Baptist Church, Montgomery, Nov. 15–16.