DALLAS–“We need each other in the times of storms because we lend our strength to one another by locking our arms in fellowship. And even when we can’t be together in person, we can be locked together heart to heart,” Jason Burden, president of Texas Baptists, said during his presidential remarks at the May 2021 Executive Board meeting.
The meeting marked the first time the Executive Board was able to gather in person since the February 2020 meeting, after which meetings were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were ten regrets and 23 online attendees, with the rest attending in person. Board leaders celebrated being together again as they heard ministry reports and conducted convention business.
During his report, Executive Director David Hardage explained how Texas Baptists had responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlighted the Pastor Relief Fund, which helped approximately 400 pastors in Texas and a total of almost 1,000 around the world, and the Camp Relief Fund, which raised $681,000, approximately a third of which were matching funds from an anonymous donor. He noted that, despite the pandemic and the many adjustments that needed to be made, Texas Baptists churches and individuals were generous and the gospel continued to be spread.
Hardage also honored Dan Ho, who passed away from COVID-19. Ho was an Executive Board member and pastor of Chinese Baptist Church in Houston. He asked for prayers for all the churches and families who lost pastors and loved ones to the virus.
In addition to touching on past challenges, Hardage also looked ahead to the future and to figurative storms that may be present in the days ahead. He spoke of the cultural and societal shifts happening in America and challenged the convention to meet them with truth and grace.
“How do you speak truth with grace?” He asked the board. “We want to do both of those. We will always, always stand on the truth of God’s word. We want to love God and love other people, and we need to find the best way to do that.”
Hardage referenced GC2 as the “moniker” given to the work of the convention. The name is a way of avoiding distractions and focusing ministry efforts around the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment. He noted that the label has also been attractive to people outside of the state who, though not Texas Baptists, may identify as “GC2 Churches.”
In his presidential remarks, Burden also touched on possible storms to come. He drew from Psalm 29:10-11, which he said was an anchor passage for him in hard times. Burden, who is also pastor of First Baptist Church in Nederland, spoke of the many disasters that God carried him through in prior years, including Hurricane Harvey, Tropical Storm Imelda and the premature birth of twins his son and daughter-in-law endured.
“God has never abdicated his throne, no matter how hard the rain was falling, no matter how fierce the wind was blowing and no matter how desperate we were in our hearts,” he said.
Burden called for unity amidst Texas Baptists in the storms to come by looking up, holding on, and staying together so, saying that their strength will help their brothers and sisters in Christ make it through the hard times.
Phil Miller, director of the Center for Church Health, shared two exciting updates. He announced that Baptistway Press, the publishing branch of Texas Baptists, has become GC2 Press. This name change, explained, reflects the convention’s GC2 focus. Miller also announced a new partnership between Texas Baptists and Church Answers, led by Thom and Sam Rainer. The partnership is coordinated through Jonathan Smith, Texas Baptists’ new director of Church Health Strategy.
Ward Hayes, Treasurer/Chief Financial Officer, provided an update on the Cooperative Program. He said that giving through the end of March was at 97.7% compared to the prior year and in line with budget projections. The Mary Hill Davis Offering is on pace with the 2020 numbers, during which the offering fell short by $600,000. BGCT Worldwide giving is strong at 140% compared to the prior year. He also reported that the Cooperative Program Investment Income was ahead of budget at $2 million. Hayes explained that even though ministry activity is rebounding, total expenditures remain below budget.
Hayes also emphasized the increased online giving, which accounted for 55% of the number of gifts and 13% of the monetary amount received over the last year. Moving forward, users who make online gifts to the convention will have the option to check a box and cover the credit card processing fees associated with their gift. There are no fees when churches send checks.
Hayes talked about the Texas Baptists Retirement Matching and Protection Benefit program, which allows ministers of affiliated churches who participate in Cooperative Program giving to be eligible for a retirement matching program, as well as disability and life insurance. He reported that currently, about 2,700 ministers participate in the program. During the business session, a recommendation by the Finance Committee passed which raised the annual match amount to $250, up from $210. Additionally, the minimum threshold for churches' contributions will be adjusted to better match costs and ministry partnership, with $1,200 required annually for the first participating minister and $500 for each additional staff. Changes to the program are expected to go into effect in 2022, and convention leaders will reach out to those impacted in the coming days to provide additional information.
Other business approved
The following recommendations were also approved.
A recommendation by the Administration Support Committee to adopt Certified Resolution, which allows the BGCT to authorize corporate officers and any person holding the corporate office as an interim officer to execute documents and sign checks on behalf of the BGCT, as well to authorize the controller to sign checks on behalf of the BGCT. Any non-budgeted contract exceeding $250,000 must have received the prior approval of the Executive Board of the BGCT.
The Administration Support Committee’s recommendation of revisions to Policy 809, regarding Information Technology and Services Usage Policy; Policy 535, regarding Counseling Services; and Policy 400, regarding Executive Board Structure.
The Administration Support Committee’s recommendation to appoint Ward D. Hayes as the Successor Trustee of the Charles Wade Deferred Compensation Insurance Trust. This was submitted by Ronnie C. McClure, Trustee of the Trust, who submitted his retirement to the Executive Board on March 31, 2021.
The Finance Committee’s recommendation for the redesignation of Roger Hall Undistributed Income. Per their recommendation, $100,000 of the Undistributed Income from the Roger W. Hall Opportunity Scholarship Fund for each of the next three years will be for program expenses of the Church Health/Revitalization ministry. A recommendation was also passed to increase the Roger Hall Scholarship awards to up to $20,000 per student annually.
The Finance Committee also recommended that any amount in excess of $7,000,000 in the BGCT Reserve Fund be moved to an investment account at HighGround Advisors.
Two board vacancies were filled: Tyler C. Cooper, Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, for the 2023 term on the Baylor University Board of Trustees; and Jorge Zayasbazan, Baptist Temple Church, San Antonio, for the 2023 Term on the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio Board of Trustees.
The September meeting of the Executive Board is expected to take place entirely in person and is scheduled to be held Sept. 27-28 in Dallas, TX.