400 S.C. Baptists 'Unite' for citywide evangelism

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP) -- Gathering under the banner of "Unite," messengers to the 197th annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention sang, prayed, conducted business and fanned out across the city of Columbia for a "One Day" missions and evangelism effort.

Keith Shorter, SCBC president and pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, opened the Tuesday morning session of the Nov. 7-8 meeting by encouraging Christ's followers to unite as one "so that … a lost and divided world may believe that God sent [Jesus]."

"Serving is not easy or convenient," Shorter said at the conclusion of the morning session. "But just ask the people you serve if it matters. Go love people like God loves them. You're going to get your hands dirty, but you're going to make a difference in somebody's life."

More than 400 messengers and other volunteers then exited the auditorium of Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia and filed out to the parking lot where they reconstituted in small groups around handheld blue signs designating their assignments.

After lunching on Chick-fil-A meals, the volunteers dispersed to 24 service sites where they prayerwalked the South Carolina statehouse as well as multiple college campuses, handed out Bibles, visited patients at a V.A. hospital, distributed coats to the needy, led evangelistic block parties for children and sang at a men's prison, among other projects.

On Tuesday evening, volunteers returned to Shandon Baptist for an evening of worship and celebration. Shorter grew emotional while reporting that eight people (a number that grew to 11 by the next day) accepted Christ as part of the One Day outreach.

In all, 457 South Carolina Baptists participated in One Day. As a result, "11 people stepped over from death into life," Shorter told messengers on Wednesday.

Budget, resolutions & elections

Messengers approved a $28 million Cooperative Program budget for 2018, down $500,000 from last year's spending plan. Talmadge Tobias, chairman of the convention's budget, finance & audit committee, noted to messengers that the last time receipts exceeded budgeted needs was 2012. Income has ranged from $27.3 million to $27.5 million over the last five years at a time when the SCBC annual budget was $28.5 million. "This is a more realistic budget," Tobias said.

Messengers adopted the 2018 budget without debate. Forty-one percent of projected receipts will be forwarded to Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries; 4.5 percent will go directly to the International Mission Board; and 54.5 percent will remain in South Carolina to support SCBC ministries and the convention's seven institution ministry partners. The distribution of SCBC funds remains unchanged from last year.

Messengers adopted a slate of resolutions, including expressing: opposition to all expressions of hatred; approval for the work of South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers and staff members; opposition to the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana; commitment to repentance and fervent prayer for revival and spiritual awakening; and appreciation to Shandon Baptist Church and those involved in planning the annual meeting.

In the resolution on hatred, messengers opposed "any and all forms of hatred, declaring such displays as unchristian," noting the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:43-44: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

South Carolina Baptists resolved "to be leaders in their respective communities through practicing love, respect, and a Christ-like attitude in order to approach all hurting individuals with the life-giving hope found only in a personal relationship with the Son of God."

The full text of the resolutions is available at http://www.scbaptist.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/resolutions.pdf.

Messengers elected officers by acclamation and without opposition on Wednesday morning during the annual meeting's final session. Marshall Blalock, pastor of Charleston First Baptist Church, who was chosen as president-elect at last year's meeting, will serve as SCBC president during the coming year under the theme of "Building Bridges."

Bryant Sims, pastor of First Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Greenwood, was elected as president-elect.

Other newly elected officers for 2018 are: first vice president, Mike Runion, pastor of City View First Baptist Church in Greenville; second vice president, Josh McClendon, pastor of Philippi Baptist Church in Johnston; recording secretary, Frances Miller, member of Hulon Baptist Church in Batesburg; and registration secretary, David Dinkins, pastor of Center Baptist Church in Hemingway.

John Goudelock, chairman of the SCBC's Executive Board, updated messengers on the status of the proposed sale of the convention's White Oak Conference Center in Fairfield County. He reported that the Executive Board has signed an intent-to-sell contract with a group of investors seeking to purchase White Oak for $5.4 million for the purpose of establishing a charter school. The group has 24 months to secure funding through grants and other sources. Goudelock said the convention's summer programs, including SummerSalt and KidsSalt, will be held at White Oak in 2018 without interruption.

Messengers heard the first reading of a proposed bylaw change to require all nominees for Executive Board membership or trusteeship of the convention's seven institutions to "affirm [in writing] and reflect in practice" the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the mission and vision of the state convention and "sacrificial support" for Great Commission Giving, including the Cooperative Program. The second reading of the proposed change and a vote will be next year.

The convention's Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee presented awards to Spartanburg First Baptist Church; South Carolina Law Enforcement Division chief Mark Keel; and former SCBC director of public policy Mark Hendrick.

Messengers heard detailed reports from SCBC executive director-treasurer Gary Hollingsworth and convention staff as well as reports from leaders of the seven SCBC-affiliated institutions.

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, delivered the keynote address on Tuesday night of the annual meeting. "Living on mission is about Gospel conversations," Ezell told messengers in a sermon based on the parable of the sower in Mark 4. "The seed is God's Word -- the Gospel we are to share," he said. "Sharing the Gospel is not always convenient, but we must always be obedient."

The messenger count for this year's annual meeting was 611, down from last year's 756 and the lowest-attended meeting since 1944. Messengers represented 311 of the SCBC's more than 2,100 churches.

Next year's annual meeting will be held Nov. 13-14 at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, a historically African American fellowship.

Butch Blume is managing editor of The Baptist Courier, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Download Story