GREENVILLE, S.C. (BP) – Under the banner of “Great Commission Living,” South Carolina Baptists gathered at the TD Convention Center in Greenville to conduct their state convention’s annual business and to worship and fellowship together.
Messengers elected new officers, adopted a $28.6 million budget, enacted bylaw changes to conform with last year’s adoption of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report, and endorsed the appointment of a Seeking the Kingdom Task Force to develop a “compelling vision” to guide the future work and ministry of South Carolina Baptists.
Resolutions on adoption, religious liberty and gambling also were approved at the Nov. 13-14 meeting which drew 1,104 registered messengers representing 460 of the convention’s 2,117 churches and 707,000 members.
Although the bottom line for the 2013 South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) $28.6 million operating budget remains unchanged from 2012, the supplemental amount to be forwarded directly to the International Mission Board (IMB) grew by nearly half.
The direct allocation to the IMB was boosted from $400,263 to $583,768, while the amount of Cooperative Program (CP) funds to be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention remained unchanged at $11,685,000.
The remaining $16,815,000 will stay in South Carolina to support Executive Board ministries, Woman’s Missionary Union and the SCBC’s seven affiliated institutions.
The increase in the IMB allocation reflects South Carolina Baptist messengers’ decision last year, in adopting the state convention’s Great Commission Resurgence report, to increase supplemental funding to IMB by 21.95 percent over three years in order to achieve an amount that reflects what the missions entity would receive if the SCBC split its Cooperative Program gifts 50/50 with the Southern Baptist Convention.
In 2013, South Carolina Baptists will forward 41 percent of CP receipts to the SBC, the same percentage as in 2012. At the time of its adoption last November, the Great Commission Resurgence report called for moving the SCBC toward a 50/50 split of Cooperative Program funds with the Southern Baptist Convention within five years.
The state convention budget anticipates revenues of $28.5 million through Cooperative Program giving and $100,000 through “Cooperative Giving,” which includes non-CP gifts to be distributed according to the direction of the donor.
Messengers approved changes to the convention’s bylaws to allow the SCBC’s universities and other institutions to have a greater say in the election of trustees to their governing boards.
The bylaw changes codify recommendations adopted last year as part of the report of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force.
The revised bylaws will give the CEOs of the institutions greater input in the selection of trustees through a mutual-agreement process with the convention’s Nominations Committee. Another bylaw change allows for one-fifth of institutional trustees to live outside South Carolina, although all trustees still must be members of Southern Baptist churches and must endorse the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
All institutional trustees will still be elected by messengers attending the SCBC annual meeting.
The changes were proposed by the GCR task force as part of a report adopted overwhelmingly by messengers in Columbia in November 2011. The GCR guidelines significantly reduce funding to the institutions in order to help pay for global missions and church-planting initiatives.
Prior to the bylaws vote, former GCR task force chairman Ralph Carter, in a recorded video, urged messengers to support the revisions, as did North Greenville University president Jimmy Epting.
Messenger Alan Quigley, pastor of South Main Street Baptist Church in Greenwood, spoke against the motion to allow out-of-state trustees to serve at the SCBC’s institutions. “Allowing outside [board] members is unprecedented,” he said, adding that he opposed “unlocking the doors” of the institutions, some of which might choose to “depart the SCBC” under future leadership, he said.
Don Purvis, a retired pastor from Hartsville who served on the GCR task force, spoke from the floor in favor of the bylaw changes. “If anything will be accomplished to reach the world for Christ, we need to approve this recommendation,” he said.
Jim Stovall, a messenger from Taylors First Baptist Church, also spoke in favor of the motion, saying “we need to pass this” to help “institutions and mission boards.”
With no further discussion from the floor, SCBC president Brad Atkins asked messengers to vote on the motion by lifting their ballots. Atkins ruled that the motion carried by a two-thirds majority.
Messengers also approved other bylaw alterations or additions, including the adoption of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as the convention’s statement of faith; changes to membership guidelines for the Committee on Committees to allow for representation of churches across the spectrum of large and small congregations and to reflect “the ethnic diversity” of the SCBC; and adoption of a statement that similarly calls for ethnic diversity among those elected to serve on standing committees of the SCBC.
Seeking the Kingdom Task Force
Messengers approved – but not without discussion – the creation of a Seeking the Kingdom Task Force to begin determining the future focus of the state convention.
SCBC president Brad Atkins announced in early November his desire to appoint the task force, which would be charged with crafting a ministry concept and plan that will guide the future work of the state convention and its churches.
Experience Kingdom Life is the SCBC’s current ministry focus and is slated to end in December 2013.
During the Wednesday morning business session, Atkins asked first vice president Brad Kelley to preside over discussion of a motion to empower Atkins to appoint the task force. The motion was offered by Jon Davis, pastor of Summit Church in Ladson, during Tuesday morning’s business session.
Atkins elaborated on his reasons for wanting to appoint the task force. “The South Carolina Baptist Convention needs to have a compelling vision … [to] rally behind as we had under Empowering Kingdom Growth … and Experience Kingdom Life,” he said.
Atkins told messengers the task force “doesn’t replace any governance” of the Executive Board, institution trustees or staff, local church leadership or any ministries of the SCBC. He said each entity “will have to interpret the vision and principles” offered by the task force, whose recommendations will be subject to approval by SCBC messengers.
Atkins said he hopes the task force will build on the “principles of the Cooperative Program” and the “mandates” of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.
Naveen Balakrishnan, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Adams Run, spoke in opposition to the motion and expressed concern that the task force would bypass the Executive Board’s and the executive director-treasurer’s “duty of casting the vision” for the state convention. “This is contrary to established pattern,” he said.
SCBC executive director-treasurer Jim Austin said he appreciated Balakrishnan’s perspective but said he had “no problem with how this is framed” and that the task force would not “usurp authority from the Executive Board or other boards.”
With no further discussion, a majority of messengers approved the motion by a show of ballots.
The Seeking the Kingdom Task Force will consist of 40 members, including former SCBC presidents, convention officers, SCBC executive leaders, institution leaders, pastors and WMU leaders. For a more complete list of task force members, visit www.baptistcourier.com/7894.article.
Messengers elected a new slate of officers during the closing session of the annual meeting.
Ralph Carter, pastor of Brushy Creek Baptist Church in Taylors, was elected president with 349 of 553 votes cast over Ty Childers, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Spartanburg, who received 204 votes.
Keith Shorter, pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Piedmont, was elected first vice president. Shorter received 234 of 389 votes in a runoff with Jeff Whaley, pastor of Secona Baptist Church in Pickens, who received 155 votes in the runoff. In the vote preceding the runoff, in which no candidate received 50 percent of votes, Shorter received 237 of 550 votes cast, Whaley received 169 votes, and Frankie Melton, pastor of Heath Springs Baptist Church, received 144 votes.
Micah Lane, pastor of Socastee Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, was elected second vice president without opposition, as were recording secretary Luella Sargent, a member of Pickens First Baptist Church and ministry assistant at Eastside Baptist Church in Liberty, and registration secretary Shane Donald, pastor of Tanglewood Baptist Church in Easley.
Messengers approved a slate of resolutions Nov. 13 voicing their support for adoption, religious liberty and the nation of Israel, while decrying the infiltration of “sweepstakes gambling” machines across the state and the influence of foreign laws on American court proceedings.
Noting that more than 1,400 children and youth in South Carolina are in need of permanent adoptive families, messengers approved a resolution calling for governments to streamline adoption procedures and for churches to foster “transcultural adoption” by encouraging “moral, emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial support for those who undertake this [g]ospel work.”
The resolution also called for Christians to consider adopting because “children are being adopted into homes where they will not be exposed to the [g]ospel.”
Affirming the “Judeo-Christian principles of law that make up the very foundation upon which [W]estern civilization stands,” messengers approved a resolution calling on state and federal elected officials to “insure laws be litigated” according to the constitutions of South Carolina and the United States.
The “Influence of Foreign Law on Legal Proceedings” resolution acknowledged that the United States “has always been open to immigrants from cultures, races and religions” but stated that Americans “understand the danger of allowing foreign law to supersede American law.”
Messengers approved a resolution declaring South Carolina Baptists’ support for America’s “full and free exercise of religious liberty” while voicing concern for the “suppression of religious expression and Christian views” in the United States.
The resolution calls on Congress to “reverse the trends of hostility toward Christianity by passing laws that place no greater restrictions on individual Christians than on others.”
The resolution further noted a “growing anti-Christian bias” in network television programming and urged advertisers to cancel their support for any programs that promote such a bias.
Citing scriptural references to the “unconditional covenant” between God and the Hebrew people, South Carolina Baptist messengers declared their support for the “sovereignty of Israel to exist as a nation.” The resolution also recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and calls on South Carolina Baptists to pray for “the peace of Jerusalem.”
The resolution asks South Carolina Baptists to pray for Israel as well as for “those who seek her destruction, that God would change hearts and bring peace through the work of grace in His Son, Jesus Christ.”
A “new face” in the gambling industry that has “infiltrated all corners of South Carolina” prompted messengers to approve a resolution calling on lawmakers to close loopholes that allow the sweepstakes gaming industry to “mirror the dark video poker industry that plagued South Carolina for so many years.”
Similar to video poker, sweepstakes games are “permanent high-stakes games” where customers are “coerced into gambling money.” The resolution noted that the sweepstakes gambling “has mushroomed in South Carolina nearly overnight with locations in bars, restaurants, convenience stores, business centers and Internet cafés.”
The resolution urges South Carolina Baptists to “pray for and be a witness to anyone operating gambling machines that may prey on vulnerable citizens.”
Messengers expressed appreciation to SCBC officers, staff, committees, platform personalities and to the staff of the TD Convention Center in Greenville.
To view the full text of the resolutions, visit www.scbaptist.org/annualmeeting2012/annualmeeting2012resolutions.htm.
The 193rd annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention will be Nov. 12-13, 2013 at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Butch Blume is managing editor of The Baptist Courier in South Carolina.)