BGAV focuses on 'Church Today, Church Tomorrow'

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- For the first time in more than 30 years, the Baptist General Association of Virginia met in a church location to hold its 192nd annual meeting. This year's attendance totaled 1,170, which consisted of 875 messengers and 295 guests from 360 churches, and together they gathered at Second Baptist Church, Richmond, the church where the 1,400-church organization first met in 1823.

The theme of the meeting was "Church Today, Church Tomorrow," and Monday night's opening event featured a panel discussion focusing on the future of the church. Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research and Alan Jamieson, senior pastor of South West Baptist Church in New Zealand, were keynote speakers during the worship services Nov. 10-11. Messengers and guests heard messages about how followers of Christ can be faithful disciples in a rapidly changing world.

"When you build churches like theaters, don't be surprised when the people act like show-goers," Stetzer said. "What we need now is a church alive in mission as culture changes."

Craig Sherouse, pastor of Second Baptist Church, and John Upton, executive director of the BGAV, also offered messages during the meeting. During the Nov. 10 evening worship service, Upton shared a report from his five-year term as president of the Baptist World Alliance.

"The biggest thing I learned in five years with the BWA is that we humans are experts in building walls," he said in his address, "The walls need to come down to be able to see."

The 2016 budget, presented by the Executive Board, was approved during the Nov. 9-11 meeting at $10.5 million, $1 million less than the 2015 budget, which is in line with expected Cooperative Missions receipts. As in previous years, the budget divides allocations between BGAV ministries and partners -- which in 2016 will be $7,560,000 -- and world mission causes, totaling $2,940,000.

The BGAV offers three preset giving tracks to its churches, and it provides a fourth option for churches to customize their giving. Those options will not be affected by the reduced budget.

The percentage divisions:

--The World Missions 1 track provides 66 percent for Virginia ministries and 34 percent for Southern Baptist Convention ministries.

--The World Missions 2 track provides 72 percent for BGAV ministries and 28 percent for a combination of Virginia, Southern Baptist Convention, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other ministries.

-- The World Missions 3 track provides 72 percent for Virginia ministries and 28 percent for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ministries.

Messengers also approved a partnership mission covenant with the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School, focusing on connecting with students at the school. The covenant is the second such agreement with an educational institution outside of Virginia, following the covenant last year with Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C.

Two presidential candidates were nominated, with Nancy Stanton McDaniel, pastor of Rhoadesville Baptist Church, elected. Stuart Crow, a retired businessman and member of First Baptist Church, Waynesboro, was elected first vice president, and Adam Tyler, pastor of Grace Hills Baptist Church, was elected as second vice president. Fred Anderson, executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, was elected to a 33rd term as clerk.

For the first time, the BGAV elected a chair of the Executive Board, the new governing body created last year. Carl Johnson, a retired mission administrator and member of First Baptist Church in Richmond, succeeds Ann Brown as chair. Pat Ellis, Laurie Harris, Ben Jamison, Wayne Maness and Katie McKown were elected to serve a three-year term on the Executive Board.

Meeting in regions was another first for messengers, with a number of nominees elected by their respective regions to serve on the Mission Council, which is a consulting board for the association.

In other business, messengers voted to approve a resolution on the sanctity of marriage, which was a reaffirmation of a 1993 resolution on homosexual behavior and a 1998 resolution on the sanctity of marriage. See full text of resolution.

They also approved a resolution on religious liberty, which encourages churches and members to use Christian liberty to uphold the truth of the Gospel of grace in a spirit of grace in order to reveal the attitudes of Christ in words and in deeds during these times of cultural change. See full text of resolution.

A resolution on abortion resulted in a 330-200 vote in favor, but it did not reach the three-fourths majority required for it to pass. Since the motion failed, the BGAV continues to stand behind its previous resolution on abortion passed in 1997. See full text of resolution.

Next year's meeting will be Nov. 14-16 at Bonsack Baptist Church, Roanoke.

Videos of messages may be viewed here: http://bgav.tv/category/bgav15/.

Nathan White is chief marketing officer for the Baptist General Association of Virginia.
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