DAPHNE, Ala. (BP) — Every four years messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention have traveled to the milder climate of south Alabama to worship, fellowship and conduct business.
Temperatures, however, dropped to record lows during the Nov. 12-13 sessions at Eastern Shore Baptist Church in Daphne on Mobile Bay. The meeting nevertheless remained “Fruitful,” in a theme centered on John 15:5.
Speakers underscored Alabama Baptists’ commitment to evangelism, discipleship, missions and church planting; the topic of sexual abuse was addressed both by Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Missions, and in a resolution; and messengers approved the third year of a 50-50 allocation in Cooperative Program funds between the missions and ministries of the state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Tim Cox, in his president’s address, told the convention’s 665 messengers, representing 328 churches, “What we need in the changing times in which we live is to be strengthened daily by the Holy Spirit who provides power for our lives to bear spiritual fruit for His glory.”
The apostle Paul was “compelled to worship because the love of God continued to grow in his heart and mind,” Cox, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Chelsea, also noted. “The more we grow in our understanding of God’s love toward us, the more we grow in our love for Him. The more we grow in our love for Him, the more His love is reflected toward others — making disciples who make disciples who make disciples.”
Rick Marshall, retired senior pastor of Eastern Hills Baptist Church in Montgomery, exhorted Alabama Baptists in the convention sermon, “Let us look to those who launched the church in the book of Acts to find our way in fulfilling the Great Commission. They were pioneers taking the name of Jesus with them in spite of cultural boundaries or community location. They were proclaimers unashamed of the Gospel and unafraid to share it. They were … examples of how the Spirit of God operates through men, how God penetrates a community, how He moves to change His people and transform them.”
Lance highlighted several examples of Alabama fruitfulness in church planting in his report to messengers, referencing new congregations in a changing community, in a trailer park, among the 20,000 international students across the state’s campuses, in Alaska and in Scotland.
Addressing the issue of sexual abuse, Lance reported on the State Board of Missions’ work to help churches be safer places for all people, starting with a task force working to “provide the best resources possible.”
Though the SBOM is “not a governing body,” Lance said it has three main aims regarding sexual abuse — “reducing the risk,” “responding to victims” and “respecting our values.”
The board is partnering with MinistrySafe, an organization that advises churches and ministries and provides training and workshops on best practices to prevent sexual abuse. Nearly 1,000 Alabama Baptists have been trained so far, with the next training set for April 7, 2020, at First Baptist Church in Decatur.
The SBOM will background check its new trustees and continue to background check all employees, Lance said. He asked churches to “underscore” the “vitally important” need for reporting suspected abuse immediately to the appropriate authorities.
The first priority should be the well-being of the victim, “to grieve with those who have been hurt and harmed,” he said.
One of the convention’s three resolutions — “On Making Our Churches Safer Places” — affirmed the State Board of Missions’ partnership with MinistrySafe to make resources available to help prevent child sexual abuse.
The resolution echoed Lance in emphasizing the importance of caring for the victim and immediate reporting of abuse allegations to authorities as required by mandatory reporting laws.
Two other resolutions were adopted — commending Alabama’s leaders for enacting the state’s Human Life Protection Act in May of this year and voicing appreciation to the host church and association as well as other area churches that helped facilitate the annual meeting.
Lance reminded messengers of Beyond 2020, an effort to cast vision for the future, which will transition to OneMission Alabama. He read five “strategic reaffirmations” of state Baptists’ commitment to: spiritual preparation, evangelism and discipleship, church revitalization and planting, prayer and giving through the Cooperative Program. “Next year you will receive some strategic initiatives that will reflect those strategic affirmations,” Lance said.
Messengers were informed of the State Board of Missions’ updated mission statement: “The Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions ministers in partnership with our Alabama Baptist family and other Southern Baptists by seeking to obediently fulfill the Great Commission through an Acts 1:8 missional strategy.”
And messengers were told of the formation of a task force to organize the SBOM’s bicentennial celebration in 2023, with Greg Corbin, pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church in Birmingham, serving as chair.
All convention officers were re-elected to a second term without opposition: Cox as president; Buddy Champion, pastor of First Baptist Church in Trussville, first vice president; Morgan Bailey, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Ranburne, second vice president; Billie Davis of Mountain Hill Baptist Church in Lapine, recording secretary; and Bobby DuBois of Heritage Baptist Church in Montgomery, statistical/registration secretary.
A $37.5 million budget for 2020 was approved — the same as 2019 with a third year of a 50/50 allocation of Cooperative Program funds between the state’s budget and the SBC.
Messengers also affirmed special offering goals for 2020 — Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, $12,250,000; Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, $6,250,000; Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, $3 million; Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering, $1.2 million; and Global Hunger Offering, $800,000.
Several recognitions were presented:
— the Troy L. Morrison Leadership/Church Health Award to Craig Carlisle, associational missionary for Etowah Baptist Association. “Craig has taken it on in his personal life to minister to ministers and encourage us,” said Mike Jackson, director of the SBOM office of leadership and church health.
— the Tommy Puckett Award for Excellence to longtime disaster relief volunteer John Hayes, a member of Adamsville Baptist Church, and Becky Luther, a member of East Gadsden Baptist Church who coordinated child care for the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham in June.
Two missions volunteers — Lenora Hamrick and Emily Stanford — also were recognized for their missions volunteerism.
Hamrick, a member of First Baptist Church in Livingston, has worked with children and college students for more than 50 years, serving both locally and internationally.
“At 80 she went to a closed country and taught at a school where there were no children who had ever been exposed to the Gospel,” said Scotty Goldman, director of the SBOM office of global missions. “She is very diligent in praying for missionaries and in her own family has a missionary granddaughter.”
Stanford, a member of First Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove, has taught Vacation Bible School (VBS) both at her own church and in Guatemala.
“You could call her ‘Miss VBS,'” Goldman said, noting the person who nominated her for the award tallied up how many children he personally had seen her minister to and the number topped 8,000 in Guatemala alone.
Alabama Baptists voted to change the location of the 2020 annual meeting to First Baptist Church in Montgomery in order to accommodate an International Mission Board Sending Celebration on Nov. 17, the first night of the two-day meeting. Jeff Meyers, pastor of First Baptist Church in Opelika, was named as the convention preacher.