Published November 23, 2006
Powerful preaching, soul-stirring music, and historic decisions marked the 185th annual meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention, held at the Gwinnett Civic Center in Duluth Nov. 13-14. The first session on Monday evening was highlighted by President Wayne Hamrick’s address, which honored the theme “Back to the Basics in Sunday School/Open Groups, Evangelism and Missions” and Don Hattaway’s sermon entitled “Bring Back the Glory.” Hattaway is pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville.
The Cartersville pastor declared, “We are having little success because we are trying to win the world with dead churches.” He added, “Just because a church is growing doesn’t mean it’s alive. Cemeteries are growing, but not because of the living. We cannot use fleshly means to bring about life.”
New GBC Missions & Ministry dedicated
At the conclusion of the Monday evening session messengers and guests were ferried by buses to be involved in the dedication of the new Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center. The GBMMC, accented by powerful symbols of Georgia Baptists’ faith and mission, was dedicated in a moving ceremony in the facility’s Louie D. Newton Chapel. The hundreds of people attending the ceremony participated in a meaningful litany, which proclaimed, “We, your people, dedicate this building for the purpose of sharing the gospel of Christ throughout Georgia and to the ends of the earth.”
During the Tuesday morning session GBC Executive Director J. Robert White informed Convention messengers that the budget for the land and construction of the new Georgia Baptist Mission and Ministry Center was $43,500,000, and that the total cost of the completed facility was going to be less than the budgeted amount. It was announced that the amount to be financed is $19,540,314 and that the loan should be paid in full within ten years.
Upon hearing White’s comments, Mike Everson, chairman of the Executive Committee, remarked, “That is a hallelujah report!”
In the Convention business sessions Georgia Baptists adopted a record Cooperative Program budget of $52,000,000, including a challenge budget of $1,472,000 for 2007. In commenting on the CP White proclaimed, “There is not a better way to accomplish our Acts 1:8 responsibility than through the Cooperative Program. The Cooperative Program helps us touch our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world in the most effective way. If there was no Cooperative Program we would have to invent something just like it in order to accomplish our mission.”
White indicated that Georgia Baptists led all other 42 state Baptist Conventions in gifts to Southern Baptist causes through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2006 with an amount totaling $37,262,771.76. In addition to that, $5,148,108 has been given to disaster relief to help the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Present receipts to the CP represent a 1.67 percent increase over the same time last year.
The Convention also voted to enter into partnerships with the Yucatan Peninsula on the east coast of Mexico and the western regions of Canada including Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, and Yukon Territory. In Mexico the emphasis will be on strengthening existing Baptist churches, church planting, developing a seminary extension as well as a Bible Institute, and training indigenous church planters. In Canada the focus will be on evangelism and church planting. These two partnerships will begin in January and continue through December of 2012.
In another action, the Convention approved a motion made by Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, who recommended that the messengers accept the Lanier Baptist Association, comprised of 16 churches, located in Dawson and Forsyth Counties, as an association of the Georgia Baptist Convention and to grant it representation on the Executive Committee. The new association will be included in the existing North Central Area Missions Program, served by area missionary, Richard Poe.
Wayne Robertson, pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, announced to the Convention that all of the Constitutional requirements had been met to facilitate the discontinuation of the relationship between the Georgia Baptist Convention and Mercer University and made a motion that a final vote be taken to finalize the discontinuation. The motion was approved by a vast majority of messengers.
According to the Memorandum of Agreement established by the Executive Director of the GBC and former Mercer President, Kirby Godsey, the Convention’s Capital Improvement and Endowment Program funds designated for Mercer and accumulated since 1955, will be transferred to the University. The funds for Mercer totaled $25,500,000, (including individual trusts). Because of the Convention’s obligation to the students at Mercer, the 2007 CP budget formula support and allocations will be paid to Mercer in the approximate amount of $3,412,000. This will be paid in accordance with normal distribution of Cooperative Program amounts. After 2007 there will be no more CIEP or CP allocations to Mercer University.
Fred Evers, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Tifton, presented four recommendations from the Institutional Task Force. The first recommendation provided that the Georgia Baptist Convention be designated as the sole member of the institutions and agencies of the Convention. The other recommendations were designed to implement the concept of sole membership.
Tom Duvall, Convention attorney, explained, “‘Sole membership’ is a legal term used by non-profit organizations. Our institutions were incorporated before we had a non-profit corporation code. ‘Sole membership’ will mean that our institutions will have one shareholder – the Georgia Baptist Convention. We want to be clear that the Convention is the ‘sole member’ and that we have the rights set forth in the Georgia non-profit code.”
Weighing in on this historic recommendation, the Executive Director of the Convention added, “What this means is that no one can steal our institutions without our approval.”
To guarantee that the Convention has the right to control the selection of the trustees of its institutions Article VI, Section 7 of the Constitution was amended to specify that the Convention is in no way obligated to nominate trustees from names received from the institutions. White made it clear by stating; “This gives our Nominating Committee the right to insure that those who sit on our trustee boards are the same kind of people who sit on our pews on Sunday.”
In a miscellaneous business session Mike Ruffin, pastor of The Hill Baptist Church in Augusta, offered a motion that consideration should be given to holding future Convention meetings in churches rather the large civic and convention centers. White indicated that he was amenable to that suggestion and the messengers approved the motion that consideration be given to having the 2009 and 2010 Convention meetings in churches.
In the election of officers Wayne Hamrick was re-elected without opposition. Bucky Kennedy, pastor of First Baptist in Vidalia, was elected first vice president. Jim Perdue, pastor of North Cross Church in Cumming, was elected second vice president. Herman Parker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bremen, was elected third vice president. Cindy Evers of Northside Baptist Church in Tifton was elected fourth vice president.
There were 972 ballots cast for the vice presidential election, but 1,694 messengers representing 626 churches registered at this years Convention.
The music under the direction of the Convention’s music and worship specialist, Jon Duncan, was awe-inspiring and the messages were powerfully delivered. Larry Wynn, pastor of Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, in his doctrinal message stated, “We go to church like we go to the movies. We are looking for a great show, something to make us feel good when we leave. What we really need is a passion for souls and the power of God upon our lives.”
In his appeal to the Convention Wynn exhorted, “There is no shortage of people with needs, with problems, with pain, with crises, but there is a shortage of laborers. We don’t need more activities, more programs, more songs or sermons. We need people who are like Jesus with a heart of compassion for a lost and dying world.”
Former SBC Convention president and retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., Jerry Vines, preached a sermon entitled “Jesus, the One and Only” to conclude the annual meeting of the GBC. He proclaimed, “Jesus is the one and only above creation. Jesus is the one and only over the church. Jesus is the one and only on the cross.” Vines continued, “And the culture is offended by the cross, because the cross is a testimony that we are sinners.”
Looking forward to next year’s Convention meeting in Augusta, Nov. 12-13, Hamrick has already announced his theme for 2007. Building on this year’s theme of “Back to the Basics”, he stated, “Next year we are going to get ‘back to basics in evangelism, revivals, discipleship and missions through the Cooperative Program.’”
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