KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Tennessee Baptist Convention messengers gathered at First Baptist Concord Nov. 17-20 for four days of inspirational worship, fellowship and to conduct business during the 145th annual meeting held during The Summit: A Gathering of Tennessee Baptists.
The Summit drew 998 registered messengers from 444 churches and 117 registered guests, the highest attendance since 2016.
Convention messengers demonstrated focus, excellence and unity, observed Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB).
“Our great network of churches, the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC), is focused like never before in seeing our collective resources and ministry partnerships in having Gospel impact on growing spiritual lostness in our beloved state,” Davis observed.
“The Summit was marked by excellence at every turn. I appreciate the wonderful hospitality offered by First Baptist Concord, pastor John Mark Harrison and their great staff,” Davis said. He also cited the “top shelf” work of TBMB staff as they serve Tennessee Baptist churches as well as members of TBC committees and convention officers David Green (president), Byron Edens (vice president) and Lee Hickman (second vice president) who “collectively did exemplary work in carrying out their responsibilities.”
“The unity we enjoy across our state was obvious as we fellowshipped together. This unity was seen as we conducted all TBC business ‘decently and in order’ with a sweet and respectful spirit,” he observed.
Messengers elected Bruce Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church Hendersonville, president; Chuck Groover, pastor of Victory Baptist Church, Mount Juliet, vice president; and Corey Cain, pastor of Maplewood Baptist Church, Paris, second vice president. All three men were unopposed.
Tennessee Baptists adopted the 2019-20 Cooperative Program (CP) budget goal of $35 million with $800,000 allocated to CP administration and promotion. The budget is a $500,000 increase over the 2018-19 budget.
While the budget may be a “bit of a challenge, we believe it is a reachable budget goal,” said Marty Comer, pastor of Sand Ridge Baptist Church, Lexington, and chair of the TBMB budget and ministry committee.
The allocation to national and international CP causes through the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is 47.37 percent, a 0.25 percentage-point increase over the allocation adopted for 2018-19, Comer told messengers. Last year the TBC sent $16,030,038 or 47.12 percent of CP receipts to the SBC.
During the report of the TBMB board of directors, chair Mike Kemper informed messengers that the directors had authorized the appointment of a task force by himself and TBC president David Green for the purpose of “examining the stewardship of investment of all missions dollars coming from our Tennessee Baptist churches and going to our Tennessee Baptist and Southern Baptist entities.”
Members of the task force in addition to Kemper and Green are: Marty Comer, Jeff Bowen, Victoria Tillman and Velma Weathersby. The task force has begun work and is gathering information “on giving, allocations, reserve funds and how funds given to the various institutions in both the SBC and TBC levels are being used for the benefit of the Kingdom,” said Kemper, a retired TBC pastor and director of missions from Humboldt.
Kemper also reported to messengers that in 2017 an item was referred to the board of directors by messengers at the 2017 annual meeting. The motion was to change the constitution to “clarify our polity that a church does not have to participate with the SBC in order to send messengers to the TBC.” Kemper said the board engaged in two years of research on the matter, including many listening sessions across the state to hear from church and associational leadership.
“The result was that there still remains significant lack of consensus among our pastors and churches on this matter. Therefore, the board has decided, at this time, to not pursue the constitutional amendment on the definition of a Tennessee cooperating Baptist church,” Kemper said.
Messengers also approved a recommendation from the board of directors to adopt revised covenants with convention institutions. “There were no major changes in the content of the documents,” said Bill Espy, chair of the Partner Ministries Committee and pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Humboldt.
“However, the language has been updated, made more consistent between each covenant, and where possible, made simpler. The covenants were rewritten for accuracy, clarity and uniformity,” he added.
Tennessee Baptists overwhelmingly adopted a resolution denouncing Critical Race Theory (CRT) and intersectionality. The resolution defined CRT as “a secular worldview used by some in social sciences to analyze marginalized populations by categorizing differences among peoples, especially race and gender.” The resolution noted that intersectionality “arises from dialogue regarding CRT and focuses on the overlapping categorizations within CRT.”
The resolution presented to TBC messengers was originally written and presented by Shawn Allred, pastor of First Baptist Church Kenton. The TBC Resolutions Committee rewrote the resolution that was presented for a vote by messengers.
The resolution acknowledged that “ethnic, gender and cultural differences do exist and are a gift from God that will give Him absolute glory when the entirety of sanctified humanity worships Him in perfect unity founded upon our unity in Jesus Christ.
The resolution also encouraged Tennessee Baptist churches and institutions “to take a stand against all forms of biblically defined injustice” and to do so “in a manner consistent with the biblical worldview rather than unbiblical worldviews.” In addition, the resolution urged messengers of the TBC to “strongly denounce CRT and intersectionality as inconsistent with a biblical worldview and theology” and to “affirm Scripture as the first and only framework for evaluating the world around us including academia and social sciences.”
In a show of hands vote following the presentation of the resolution, there appeared to be only one dissenting vote and fewer than six abstentions.
Messengers adopted four other resolutions, including resolutions supporting life and Senate Bill 1235; adoption, foster care and the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes; and release time programs for moral instruction in public schools.
One motion from the floor was brought to TBC messengers for discussion and vote at the final session. Messenger Ron Davidson moved that the Committee on Arrangements “immediately begin work with the administration of the convention to relocate the Summit to the Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg area on a permanent basis rotating among the three cities.” Davidson said that the majority of Tennessee Baptists live in East Tennessee and many people from across the state like to visit Gatlinburg and surrounding areas. Future meetings will be better attended, he predicted.
Several messengers spoke against the motion, noting that it is important to see every area of the state and to spread the meetings across Tennessee so people from all areas can be involved in the work of the convention. The motion was overwhelmingly defeated.