Ala. Baptists spotlight CP, Samford relationship
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (BP) -- For several years, the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) has been leading the Alabama Baptist State Convention (ABSC) to move its budget toward a 50–50 split of funds with Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministry causes. What started out as a gradual goal was accomplished this year as Samford University in Birmingham withdrew from state convention funding, freeing up $3.5 million.
In addition to approving the budget, messengers also approved selling the property of Auburn University's Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) to the City of Auburn in exchange for new space for Auburn's BCM and money to help renovate the nine other BCM properties around the state.
All three officers of the convention were re-elected without opposition for a second one-year term. They are: president, John Thweatt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pell City; first vice president, Tim Cox, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, Chelsea; and second vice president, Buddy Champion, pastor of First Baptist Church, Trussville.
Alabama Baptists also joined the SBC and other state conventions in adopting a resolution condemning racism and white nationalism and promoting racial unity. See related report. A total of eight resolutions were adopted during Alabama's meeting.
The Samford withdrawal from Cooperative Program funding, the SBC's funding channel for missions and ministry, was announced by university officials July 7. The plan is for Samford to continue in partnership with the ABSC but without any CP support.
With the extra $551,231 left over from Samford after the $3 million reduction in the budget, an additional $107,576 is headed to SBC causes to accomplish the parity goal.
In Alabama three entities also will receive a boost in funding. Judson College in Marion will get an additional $101,293, University of Mobile (UM) is allotted an extra $242,362 and the Board of Aid receives an extra $100,000.
And while the money for Board of Aid and A. Earl Potts' scholarships will continue to fund existing Samford student recipients, those funds will not be granted to Samford students going forward.
Budget amounts for all other entities will remain at 2017 levels, according to the SBOM report.
Along with approving the budget adjustments related to Samford, messengers heard the full and final report of the ad hoc Samford Relationship Study Group.
Samford and ABSC plan to continue in partnership but without two traditional aspects -- funding and board member affirmation. The report, which was approved by the SBOM in August in its role as the convention ad interim, did not require a vote of the messengers.
While Samford has been governed by a self-perpetuating board legally elected by its own trustees since 1994, the university did work with ABSC's Committee on Boards and Commissions to present the incoming slate of trustees to messengers for affirmation at each annual meeting. That will no longer be the case.
"We believe that to continue the practice would imply a relationship with Samford which does not exist," the study group report says. "We also believe that the reasons which originally supported the presence of the convention's president and executive director on Samford's board no longer exist."
Samford agreed and has amended its bylaws to remove those positions but will continue to invite the ABSC president and SBOM executive director to attend as guests.
The plan for the new relationship between ABSC and Samford is being developed and are "not all meant to be conclusive," according to the report.
Ongoing communication "is recognized as important," the report said. And in addition to ABSC leaders being invited to Samford trustee meetings, Samford will be invited to report to various convention-related meetings. Samford's partnerships with the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, The Baptist Foundation of Alabama and Woman's Missionary Union will continue. SBOM and Samford's Ministry Training Institute also plan to continue partnering but will review the relationship annually. And Alabama Baptist-related events may be hosted on Samford's campus "when mutually advantageous."
According to the report, "Samford's board has agreed to this plan and to work toward these ends.... (Also the) potential points of relationship will be evaluated periodically.
"Be assured that any future relationships by the state convention with Samford will be characterized by the convention's faithfulness to Scriptures we hold dear as God's timeless truth. These potential relationships will be framed in such a way to help foster our mission which is the Great Commission," the study group report says.
The group was formed in May when a controversial student organization seeking "to discuss topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in an open-minded and accepting environment" sought official recognition.
Concerns arose among ABSC leaders because the organization's emblem featured the colors of the rainbow, a trademark of the homosexual (or LGBT) community, and because one of the student founders had been involved in LGBT-rights organizations. On June 27, Samford's board of trustees' executive committee decided to withdraw from state convention funding. See related report.
Following the study group's report during the state convention meeting, Samford President Andrew Westmoreland addressed the messengers from a microphone in the crowd. He noted that while he disagreed with a few points, "I affirm the work of the study committee. On behalf of Samford University, I affirm the biblical understanding of marriage and human sexuality," he said. "We are velcroed to Alabama Baptists and will stay anchored."
A resolution "On Condemning Racism and Promoting Gospel Unity for All Races and Ethnicities in Alabama," was modeled on a similar one passed by SBC messengers in June.
The resolution states that such groups "are awakening racial and ethnic divisions that seek to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide our people and stir up anger and further separation of races" and have "expressed hatred toward our immigrant and refugee neighbors."
The statement calls on Alabama Baptists to "denounce and repudiate" racial and ethnic animosity of any kind; to stand up for immigrants, refugees and any who are persecuted and harassed by racist groups; and to "prayerfully and urgently seek racial reconciliation in our respective communities across Alabama to show the power of the gospel and to give respect, honor and love to one another ... as an expression of the love of Jesus Christ."
Messengers passed another resolution "On Support of the Biblical and Constitutional Right of the Sanctity of Human Life." The statement comes ahead of a statewide constitutional amendment referendum on the November 2018 ballot, according to John Killian, director of missions for Fayette Baptist Association, who submitted the resolution.
The proposed amendment, also known as House Bill 98, seeks to declare that Alabama's public policy is to "recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life."
Killian said the resolution is not "a generic pro-life statement" but is intended to encourage voters to support the amendment vote next year.
Other resolutions express the following:
-- Appreciation of Buster Taylor, executive director of Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center, who will retire Dec. 31.
-- Appreciation of Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers.
-- Appreciation to Whitesburg Baptist Church, Madison Baptist Association, other local churches and volunteers who helped with all aspects of the ABSC.
-- Opposition to a City of Birmingham nondiscrimination ordinance that "infringes on religious liberty by creating an unconstitutional burden on religious freedom for churches, ministries and religious entities ... individuals and businesses."
-- Affirmation to parents as their children's primary educators and disciple makers.
-- Appreciation to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee for preserving the adoption tax credit in current national efforts to overhaul the U.S. tax code and urging national legislators to preserve the credit in the final bill.
State convention president John Thweatt told Alabama Baptists during his president's address Nov. 14 that his biggest fear is he will become so comfortable in his own sin that he will step into the pulpit one day and find that the anointing of God has left.
"We live in a day and an age of tolerance," said Thweatt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pell City. "But I pray we get to the place where we can never live easily in our sin. I pray that it would haunt us, that it would keep us up at night."
In the convention sermon Nov. 15, Stuart Davidson, pastor of Eastern Shore Baptist Church of Daphne, challenged messengers to think about their legacy and how they invest their time. "There's nothing more important than instilling the Kingdom of God into someone else's soul."
Preaching from 2 Kings 2:1–14, he talked about how the prophet Elijah had taken seriously his call to invest in Elisha. Elijah knew he only had a short amount of time to invest. He also knew that his investment would change the trajectory of Elisha's life.
"There is no greater joy than to witness the spiritual growth of another man, woman, boy or girl," Davidson said. "There is no greater use of our life than to be a conduit of grace, peace, love, compassion and mercy for God. God uses our lives as conduits to powerfully impact someone's life."
The meeting also featured syndicated radio host Rick Burgess of "The Rick & Bubba Show." Burgess was the featured speaker for the Tuesday evening session. Burgess' wife Sherri, author of "Bronner: A Journey to Understand," spoke to a dinner crowd prior to the Tuesday evening event. Christian artist Kevin Derryberry served as worship leader alongside the praise team from Westwood Baptist Church in Alabaster.
Also during the annual meeting:
-- Messengers approved the auditor's report of SBOM.
-- Messengers affirmed the special offering goals for 2018 -- Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, $12 million; Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, $6.1 million; Alabama Baptist Children's Homes & Family Ministries, $3 million; Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering, $1 million; and Global Hunger Offering, $800,000.
Rick Lance, SBOM executive director, announced that Alabama Baptists had given $1,281,000 for disaster relief assistance during 2017, and that as of Nov. 13, $957,000 had been given to the 2017 Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering. He felt confident the $1 million goal would be met by the end of the year.
Lance also pointed out "The Christmas Code" books given to each messenger and how they were a way to support GuideStone Financial Resources'
Mission Dignity program.
SBOM also is working alongside Southern Baptists to support the North American Mission Board's (NAMB) new Gospel Conversation Challenge, Lance said.
"We are trying to help NAMB reach its goal of 1 million people having an intentional gospel conversation," he said.
In other SBOM news, Morgan Bailey, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church, Bessemer, was re-elected chairman. Mike Goforth, pastor of Sardis Baptist Church, Boaz, was re-elected vice chairman. And SBOM's Billie Davis will continue to serve as secretary.
SBOM officials also announced the new State Board office building in Prattville is near completion with an anticipated operational date of mid-January.
Next year's annual meeting will be held Nov. 13–14 at First Baptist Church in Trussville. Terrence Jones, pastor of Strong Tower at Washington Park in Montgomery, will be the convention preacher.