Nearly 1,500 people traveled to the 2017 Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) Annual Homecoming with the theme “We Are Not Alone,” Nov. 12-14 at The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights.
Photo courtesy of SBCV
Brian Autry, left, executive director of the SBC of Virginia, joins with the convention’s new officers, from Autrey’s left: Tim Ma, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Manasas, secretary; Emery Minton, pastor of Christian Life Fellowship in Jonesville, second vice president; Allen McFarland, pastor of Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth, first vice president; and Eric Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk, president.
The three-day SBCV event, which drew 701 messengers and 738 guests, took aim at “every form of racism, including and specifically alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” in a resolution that voiced “love and compassion to those in Charlottesville” devastated by the loss of life at a white supremacist rally Aug. 12.
And the homecoming celebrated SBCV’s 15 years in disaster relief ministry, presenting the North American Mission Board (NAMB) with a $100,000 check for the Puerto Rico disaster relief initiative by NAMB’s Send Relief following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
Before the business meeting began, 418 volunteers from 24 churches and two colleges gathered in Petersburg for the SBC of Virginia crossover event, “Bless Petersburg,” a collaborative effort involving city and school officials for A.P. Hill Elementary and Robert E. Lee Elementary schools. Mission projects, which yielded more than 60 gospel conversations, included painting, landscaping, a soccer clinic and working with the local fire department and Red Cross to install 100 smoke detectors.
“We are ecstatic!” said Marcus Newsome, superintendent for Petersburg City Schools. “This has been an answer to prayer. It has been my hope since I arrived here just a little over a year ago to get the community involved in making a difference.”
Brian Autry, SBCV executive director, noted to the homecoming, “The power of churches not alone is seen as churches are strengthened and mobilized, planted and revitalized. This results in more disciples made, more locations and nations reached.”
Keynote speakers, who likewise reminded messengers and guests they are not alone in the Great Commission, included Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board; Alex Himaya, senior pastor of theChurch.at in Tulsa, Okla.; Don Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C.; Bryan Carter, senior pastor of Concord Church in Dallas; and the SBCV’s outgoing president, Bryan Smith, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Roanoke, Va.
“The emphasis on biblical, gospel preaching and teaching brought by those who spoke in each session was yet another reminder why we’re truly thankful to be a part of the SBCV family,” Smith said after the meeting.
Photo courtesy of SBCV
Brian Autry, SBCV executive director, underscores the “We Are Not Alone” theme of the SBCV 2017 Annual Homecoming as “churches are strengthened and mobilized, planted and revitalized … more disciples made, more locations and nations reached.”
Ezell shared in his message Sunday night that SBCV churches through the Cooperative Program are part of aiding First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, after the shooting that killed 26 people on Nov. 5, with NAMB providing funds to take care of funeral expenses for families who were impacted. Ezell also thanked the SBCV for its partnership in disaster relief.
A special lunch reception was held in honor of the thousands of SBCV volunteers from nearly 200 churches who have served in disaster relief since the convention’s entry into disaster relief (DR) ministry 15 years ago. SBCV DR has provided well over 1 million meals to the hungry, worked in thousands of homes and helped lead hundreds to Jesus Christ. David Melber, vice president for Send Relief at NAMB, was the guest speaker. Autry, along with Mark Gauthier, SBCV Disaster Relief director, presented NAMB with a check for $100,000 for disaster relief in Puerto Rico.
“Words simply are not adequate to express our thankfulness for the SBCV as key partners with NAMB and Send Relief,” Melber said. “SBCV is a powerful leader for the [Southern Baptist Convention] in challenging us to be on mission and to demonstrate that as Southern Baptists we are not alone, but we are a part of a large family.”
“The dedication and passion with which these volunteers serve is incredible,” Gauthier said. “They give up time and comfort to sleep on air mattresses, work in extremely difficult conditions – heat, cold, wind and rain – all for the opportunity to share the love that Christ has for each one of us.”
For Eric Thomas, pastor of First Norfolk Baptist Church in Norfolk, “One of the most encouraging moments of our homecoming was the celebration of [SBCV] churches giving more than $500,000 for disaster relief to those devastated by hurricanes [in 2017]. We are truly known as belonging to Jesus by our love.”
‘Unified voice’ on racism
Seven resolutions were unanimously approved during the business meeting. A standing ovation from messengers took place after Resolution #7 was read, titled “On Charlottesville and the Sin of Racism,” to decry every form of racism and the need to share God’s love.
Rob Pochek, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlottesville and chairman of the Resolutions Committee, said he believed it “absolutely essential that our state convention denounce the deadly violence of white supremacists in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017.”
“It is something quite different for 718 churches to speak with a unified voice, not only to condemn what happened over the summer in Charlottesville, but to speak clearly and unequivocally about the sinful nature of racism and our repudiation of it,” Pochek said. “Because these events happened in Virginia, it was particularly important that we speak to them as a convention at our first opportunity. And that is what we did.”
“The unanimous support of the resolution on the evil of racism was a highlight of the meeting,” said Doug Echols, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Yorktown and SBCV Executive Board chairman. “[This] affirms our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ being shared with every man and woman regardless of their race, nationality or ethnicity.”
The resolution voiced sorrow over the Aug. 12 deaths of Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer and of two Virginia state troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, and noted that SBCV churches “denounce and repudiate every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil intended to bring suffering and division to our society.”
White supremacist movements and the alt-right are “influencing public discourse in America in ways that are contrary to Christian teaching,” the resolution stated. It acknowledged that “we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst and we repent for failing to do so sooner.”
Other SBCV resolutions called for prayer for the president, other elected leaders, the armed forces and the people of Sutherland Springs and voiced renewed commitment to the key doctrines of the Protestant Reformation, which marked its 500th anniversary on Oct. 31.
Budget & elections
The SBCV’s 2018 Ministry Investment Plan (MIP or budget) was approved at $9.704 million, an increase from the 2017 MIP of $9.675 million. Anticipated Cooperative Program (CP) gifts for 2018 are $9.3 million, an increase from the 2017 CP of $9.2 million, while the remaining $404,000 of the budget involve gifts from SBCV partners.
The SBCV continues to provide 51 percent of its total budget for Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program missions and ministries and 49 percent for Virginia Cooperative Program causes. Additionally, a budget provision of 3.26 percent for shared expenses was made for Cooperative Program resourcing.
In 2017, the SBCV received its largest Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and Vision Virginia (SBCV missions) gifts in the 21-year history of the convention. To date, the SBCV Vision Virginia offering stands at more than $333,000, the highest total in its history.
Elected as SBCV officers for 2018 were Eric Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk, as president; Allen McFarland, pastor of Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth, first vice president; Emery Minton, pastor of Christian Life Fellowship in Jonesville, second vice president; and Tim Ma, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Manassas, secretary.
Thomas said he is “honored to serve alongside such Christ-exalting, gospel-advancing, church-multiplying leaders such as Brian Autry and his team along with the family of churches in [SBCV].”
“It’s been one of the true highlights and privileges to have served as convention president,” Smith said as the outgoing president. “I wish every SBCV pastor had the joy of getting to know so many of our fellow SBCV pastors and convention staff as have I during my time of service. We are indeed truly blessed to belong to a very special ministry and mission family of faith as the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia!”
Autry, in his report on Monday evening, noted that through biblical truth and SBCV resources, churches are not alone.
“This is not cooperation for cooperation sake,” Autry said. “This is cooperation because souls depend on it.”
“Messengers and guests were able to witness multiple stories of God at work and the gospel being proclaimed through the Great Commission coalition of churches known as the [SBCV],” Autrey said. “The one true God, empowering His people to proclaim the only name by which one can be saved – the name of Jesus.”
Messengers approved 18 new affiliations that brought the total of SBCV churches to 718. Phil Stevens, pastor of one of the new affiliations, Winfall Baptist Church in Gladys, said, “Today we were officially voted in as the newest member of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. This is a big win for all of us. As we now give money to our association we now give money to organizations, groups, missionaries around the world that believe as we do. Every single dollar that we send out now reflects the values of our congregation.”
Other opportunities at the 2017 Annual Homecoming included 11 breakout seminars; a women’s ministry dinner featuring author Annie B. Garman; a Great Commission-focused dinner with Chuck Lawless, vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers and dean of doctoral studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; and multiple dessert fellowships, including one focused on church planting.
Avalon, three-time Grammy-nominated, American Music Award and Dove Award winning Christian group, performed Sunday night in a special concert. Their well-known song “Testify to Love” brought a standing ovation at the end of their performance.
“The SBCV Annual Homecoming was a refreshing time of encouragement, challenge and commitment to the mission of God in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the world,” Echols said. “The theme of ‘Not Alone’ is a great reminder that in our partnership of churches, we can do more together than we can ever do alone. I am thankful for the unity and passion of the SBCV leadership, pastors and churches to impact the state of Virginia and the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In a time when our country seems to be more divided than ever, it was refreshing to be in a meeting with such unity and common purpose.”
“The [SBCV] churches experience the power of not alone because Jesus does not leave us or forsake us,” Autry said. “He has empowered His church with His Spirit to proclaim the gospel of Christ.”
Resources from the 2017 SBCV Annual Homecoming can be found at sbcv.org/homecoming.
The 2018 Annual Homecoming, with the theme “They Are Not Alone,” is scheduled for Nov. 11-13 at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by Ishmael LaBiosa, director of communications for the SBCV, and Brandon Pickett, the convention’s associate executive director.)