Texas Baptists celebrate fellowship, renewal, unity during 2021 Annual Meeting

by Texas Baptists Communications on November 17, 2021 in News

GALVESTON– More than 1,600 participants in-person and online gathered together for the 2021 Texas Baptists Annual Meeting Nov. 14-16. The three-day gathering focused on unity, renewal and the promise of better days ahead as attendees participated in worship celebrations, business sessions, rallies and workshops. Three rallies were held, a new Pastor Sabbatical Grant Program was announced, three worship celebrations took place and business was conducted. The meeting was the first in-person gathering of messengers in two years after the 2020 Annual Meeting was moved online due to the pandemic.

Officers elected, budget, and other business approved

Two convention officers were re-elected to serve for a second term and a new second vice president was elected during the Monday morning business session at the 136th Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas Monday in Galveston.

Jason Burden, pastor of First Baptist Church in Nederland, was re-elected President of Texas Baptists; and Julio Guarneri, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, was re-elected as First Vice President. Messengers also elected Nebiye Kelile, pastor of Pathway Church in Dallas, to serve as the Second Vice President. All officers ran unopposed and were elected following a vote by the 974 messengers in attendance during Monday morning’s session.

Clint Davis, chair of the Executive Board, gave an update on business conducted by the Executive Board during 2021. Davis highlighted two Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) property exchanges and one property acquisition; a new staff position to reach single adults in Texas; a recommendation to modify policy 525.1 in regards to sexual abuse and exploitation; and an adjustment to the ministerial retirement match program.

The 2022 budget was introduced by Ward Hayes, treasurer and CFO for Texas Baptists. He explained how the money given to the Cooperative Program was being used to help the pastors and churches of the Convention. Hayes highlighted the work of the Center for Ministerial Health, citing the financial resources, counseling and other services they offer. He also introduced the Pastor Sabbatical Grant Program, a new program designed to give pastors the financial support they need to take meaningful time for rest and renewal.

“We celebrate the incredible generosity of our God demonstrated through the generosity of our Texas Baptists churches through cooperative giving,” said Hayes.

Messengers approved the proposed 2022 Texas Baptists missions and ministry $34.59 million budget. This is a slight increase from the 2021 budget, the first such increase in decades. Messengers also approved the recommendation for the 2022 Texas World Missions Initiatives and Partnership Allocation for $1 million.

Adam Pardue, vice-chair of the Committee on Annual Meeting, brought a motion from the committee recommending the 2024 Annual Meeting take place in Waco on November 10-12. He also reminded attendees that the 2022 Annual Meeting would be in Waco on November 13-15, and the 2023 Annual Meeting will be a Family Gathering in McAllen on July 23-25.

Chris McLain, messenger and pastor from First Baptist Church in Bandera, submitted a motion to create a task force to study and recommend ways to increase Millennial and Generation Z involvement in Texas Baptists life and churches. The task force would report their findings and recommendations at the September 2022 Executive Board and the 2022 Annual Meeting.

A third motion was submitted by Chad Edgington, messenger and senior pastor from First Baptist Church in Olney, to amend the third bullet point of the GC2 movement statement of faith to include Jesus’ ascension.

All of the motions passed.

Three resolutions were approved by messengers, including one affirming women in the Convention and one encouraging intergenerational unity.

On Monday night, the worship celebration concluded with a special, surprise presentation in recognition of David Hardage’s ten years of service as Texas Baptists Executive Director.

“He has a big tent vision of leading the movement of God’s people that is Texas Baptists, and we would not be where we are today without his leadership,” Craig Christina, associate executive director of Texas Baptists, said.

Worship celebrations and workshops call for unity in the gospel and peace in the Lord

During the President’s Address, Burden urged Texas Baptists to be “wash, rinse, repeat” Christians.

“The ‘Wash, rinse, repeat’ kind of Christians rejoice in the Lord no matter what the weather is on the outside, no matter what has afflicted them on the inside, no matter what cultural obstacles are around them in their society,” he said. “‘Wash, rinse, repeat’ kind of Christians get up, go to church, they offer their praise, they rejoice in the Lord because they recognize they’ve been loved by the Lord.”

No matter what’s going on in the culture or society, the church can rest in the knowledge that the gospel is unchanging, Burden said.

During the Monday worship sessions, attendees heard messages from a diverse slate of speakers. In the morning, Jason Bryant, Western Heritage Consultant, spoke on the importance of teaching members of Texas Baptists congregations how to be disciple-makers, and Jordan Villanueva, former second vice president of Texas Baptists, shared from Acts 15 about unity in the gospel. The afternoon session featured Samuel Tolbert, president of the National Baptist Convention of America, who shared from Jude 24-25 about the testimony of the benediction, and Thom Rainer, founder and CEO of Church Answers who drew from Acts 2:41-42 as he preached about the importance of the local church.

On Monday evening, Hardage celebrated the far-reaching accomplishments of Texas Baptists in his Executive Director’s report, highlighting ministries within each of Texas Baptists’ five centers. He stressed the importance of unity under Christ.

“We’re enjoying a season of peace and unity,” he said. “Texas Baptists, guard that. Any time the enemy sees an advancement of the Kingdom like that of which we’re a part of today, he will seek to destroy that. We are going to guard our unity and peace. Good days are ahead.”

Following Hardage’s report, Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, spoke to attendees about responding to difficult times. Stetzer reminded the congregation that “we, as followers of Christ, go out into the world because Jesus first came to us.”

“In the midst of this time, we need a group of people that says, ‘We are not afraid because Jesus has already risen from the dead.’ We just need to be willing to say, ‘Here I am Lord, send me,’” said Stetzer.

An offering for the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering was collected during the Monday evening worship celebration. A total of $3,618 was raised for the Offering, which will go towards funding hunger relief and development ministries in Texas and beyond to end hunger and poverty and promote holistic transformation in the name of Jesus.

During the worship celebrations, music was led by the Singing Men of Southeast Texas, Keron Jackson, Kevin Klotz and Schola Cantorum, Cecile Dagahoy and the First Philippine Baptist Church praise team, John Bolin and the Kingsland Baptist Church choir, and Allen Cade and the First Baptist Church in Nederland celebration choir.

Three rallies were held on Nov. 14 in advance of the Annual Meeting. The African American Rally, Texas Baptists en Español Rally and Devoted Rally encouraged attendees in faith and unity and also encouraged them to be involved throughout the Annual Meeting.

Throughout the three-day event, 17 workshops were held. Hardage led a workshop about the GC2 movement and vision. Timothy Fuller, president at Fuller Life Ministry Consultants and Oza Jones, director of African American Ministries, led a workshop about race and reform. Stetzer led a workshop about what the church and culture will look like coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. A workshop about church adoption and fostering was led by Rainer; Sam Rainer, president of Church Answers; and Jonathan Smith, director of Church Health Strategy.

Several meal functions were held throughout the event. On Monday night, the Missions Banquet heard from Ed Stetzer and assembled hygiene kits for River Ministry missionaries to distribute. On Tuesday afternoon, the Texas Baptists Hunger Offering Luncheon raised awareness about the Offering and encouraged people to be “all in” in the fight against hunger and poverty.

The 2022 Texas Baptists Annual Meeting is scheduled to take place at the Waco Convention Center Nov. 13-15, 2022.

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