Southern Baptists of Texas celebrate 20th anniversary

HOUSTON, Texas (BP) -- The 20th anniversary of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention drew more than 1,300 Southern Baptists, including 1,027 messengers, to the SBTC's annual meeting.

The theme for the milestone anniversary, "Entrusted: A Gospel Legacy for the Coming Generations," came from 2 Timothy 2:2 and opened each session as pastors and denominational leaders preached from 2 Timothy 2-4.

SBC President J.D. Greear closed out the Nov. 12-13 meeting with a sermon Tuesday night. Second Baptist Church of Houston hosted the gathering at its North Campus in the Houston suburb of Kingwood.

The newest of the Southern Baptist state conventions, the SBTC was constituted on Nov. 10, 1998, during a meeting at Woodforest Baptist Church in Houston. Current SBTC leader Jim Richards is the convention's founding executive director.

During a post-session reception Monday night, Richards recognized those who helped create the convention as well as current and former board members, presidents, committee members and employees, recalling the challenges that accompanied starting a convention from the ground up.

Rocky Weatherford, board chairman from 1999-2001, recalled a conversation he had with Richards the day Richards became executive director.

"I can remember telling you that day that if God called you to this, you needed to forget all the disagreement and just go on and go forward. Follow where God leads," Weatherford said. "And you answered and you did that and you've done that for the last 20 years. I'm really grateful for what you've done. I know that God called you there and God used you for His glory. And like Paul Harvey says, The rest is history."

"One hundred and twenty churches had constituted a convention with no real assets," Richards noted. "There were internal struggles in the first couple of years, but by God's grace we pressed on. Good and godly men and women paid the price to follow the guiding principle of being loyal to the inerrant Word of God."

Richards continued, "Should Jesus not return until 20 years from now, my prayer is that He will find a group of churches known as the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention faithfully working together to exalt His name." He voiced thanks to the convention "for the privilege you have allowed me to serve you these two decades."

The next day, messengers approved a resolution that praised God for blessing and growing the "confessional fellowship of churches" from 120 churches in 1998 to more than 2,700 churches today and recognized Richards for his 20 years as SBTC executive director.

Special needs families

Messengers approved a motion to study ministry to special needs families. The motion by messenger Lee Peoples, pastor of Heights Baptist Church in Alvin, asked the SBTC Executive Board to study "the needs of special needs families and develop a strategy for equipping churches to minister to special needs families and reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ." The Executive Board will study the topic and issue a report at next year's annual meeting.

In other business, messengers:

-- Approved a budget of $28,881,116, an increase of $938 over the previous year's budget. Fifty-five percent of undesignated receipts will continue to be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention while 45 percent will allocated for ministries in Texas. The 55 percent forwarded to the SBC is the highest percentage of any state convention.

-- Reelected Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, as president; Joshua Crutchfield, pastor of First Baptist Church in Madisonville, as vice president, and Joyce McKinley of Rowlett Friendship Baptist Church as secretary.

-- Approved Andrew Hebert, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, as preacher of the 2019 convention sermon and Mack Roller, pastor of Glen Meadows Baptist Church in San Angelo, as the alternate.

-- Approved the "East Texas area" as the location of the 2021 annual meeting. The site selection will be made by SBTC staff according to meeting space needs and hotel availability.

Including the resolution marking the 20th anniversary of the convention, messengers approved eight resolutions on matters such as justice reform, abuse and the international refugee crisis.

Regarding justice reform, the resolution expressed appreciation for law enforcement and government officials in addition to calling on "decision-makers at every level in the United States judicial system to apply the law equally, irrespective of race or socio-economic status."

Christians were urged to pray for those in authority and to work toward ending injustice through supporting "bills, policies, practices, and organizations in the state of Texas and beyond that work toward prudent justice reform."

A resolution, crafted from a resolution adopted during the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention, condemned all forms of physical, emotional and sexual abuse and called for repentance by those who commit abuse. It further called for decisive action by all persons to intervene and report abuse allegations to civil authorities.

Messengers responded to the refugee crisis with a resolution "repudiat(ing) any and all assaults on the dignity and humanity of God's image-bearers, regardless of refugee status." Although the resolution recognized inadequacies in the U.S. refugee system, it also expressed appreciation to those who enforce the law "faithfully, justly, and compassionately."

Other resolutions called for civility in public dialogue, better stewardship of our physical health, and expressing gratitude for the hospitality of Second Baptist Church of Houston.

Next year's annual meeting is scheduled for Oct. 28-29 at First Baptist Church in Odessa. 

Compiled by Rob Collingsworth, a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (texanonline.net), with reporting by contributing writers Keith Collier and Michael Foust.
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