South Carolina Baptists’ Annual Meeting Centers on Building Gospel Bridges Spanning Racial Barriers; Evening Service Held at Mother Emanuel AME Church

Comprising the 2019 slate of officers for South Carolina Baptists are (from left) Larry Zaky, Larry Baldwin, Josh Powell, Bryant Sims, Alex Sands and Adrianne Smith. Baptist Courier photo Marshall Blalock: Marshall Blalock addressed messengers Baptist Courier photo

Holding their 198th annual meeting under the theme of “Building Bridges,” South Carolina Baptists committed to advancing the Gospel and healing racial divisions in their home state and beyond.

An emotional high point of the Nov. 13-14 gathering was an evening worship service at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, also known as Mother Emanuel, a church revered as one of the oldest independent black congregations in the South. See BP’s related story.

Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, a historically African-American congregation in North Charleston, hosted the remaining sessions of the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s (SCBC) annual meeting.

Mount Moriah pastor Augustus Robinson Jr., welcomed messengers.

“We did not start our friendship yesterday or last year,” Robinson said of himself and SCBC President Marshall Blalock. The annual meeting theme, Robinson said, reflects “the manifestations of Jesus Christ.”

Blalock encouraged messengers to build bridges for the Gospel.

“This is the most polarized time I can ever recall, the most secular society in my lifetime,” said Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston. “But we can trust the Savior who holds all authority, the one who has all the power” to “build bridges to lost people.”

Jesus’ work on the cross has prepared the way for Christians to build bridges encompassing humanity, Blalock encouraged messengers.

The “greatest bridge ever built was on a hill outside the gates of the city, on a cross, in the person of Jesus Christ, whose bridge spans gaps in the hearts of human beings to every people, language and culture,” Blalock said. “Wherever you go, build bridges. He is with you.”

The 2017 South Carolina Baptist Annual listed 2,138 affiliated churches and missions with a total membership of 568,519. Messenger attendance totaled 747, up from 611 in 2017.

Business

Messengers approved an “Advance Plan” operating budget, altered SCBC bylaws, adopted resolutions and elected officers. In other business, messengers heard about the ongoing work of the convention’s ministry partners, the South Carolina Woman’s Missionary Union and the SCBC Executive Board ministries.

Messengers approved a 2019 Cooperative Program operating budget of $28 million, unchanged from 2018. The budget commits 41 percent of receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention and 4.5 percent to the International Mission Board, both percentages unchanged from the current budget. The 2019 percentages allocated to the SCBC’s seven partnering institutions in ministry remain unchanged from 2018.

New in 2019, the budget permits SCBC officials to draw from the convention’s restricted and fund balance accounts in order to supplement funding for executive board ministries. The convention may pull more than $1 million from the designated accounts to help fund $9.93 million in spending through the executive board ministries “Advance Plan,” messengers voted. The plan’s purpose is to help churches fulfill the Great Commission through a strategy outlined by Gary Hollingsworth, SCBC executive director-treasurer.

The budget will fund a “very clear vision” for the SCBC, executive board chairman Tommy Kelly said. “We are not a bank or a savings and loan. We are to do the work of the Kingdom.

“We need to take the Gospel to all ends of the earth,” Kelly said. “I totally back this vision.”

Budget, Finance and Audit Committee chairman Talmadge Tobias told messengers the SCBC has $7 million in its unrestricted fund.

Messengers also changed SCBC bylaws to require prospective institution trustees and executive board members, as well as their churches, to “affirm [in writing] and reflect in practice” the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

In floor discussions preceding the bylaw vote, messenger Steven Owensby, pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in Spartanburg, asked how the new requirement might affect a nominee from a church that has a statement of faith other than the BF&M 2000.

Bylaws Committee Chairman Woody Oliver said there is a distinction between a church’s “affirming and reflecting in practice” the BF&M 2000 and “adopting” it as the church’s official statement of faith.

Blalock noted that while churches may elect to “affirm and reflect in practice” the BF&M 2000, requiring them to adopt it as their statement of faith would be a violation of church autonomy.

Nominations Committee chairman Bryant Sims, pastor of First Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Greenwood and incoming SCBC president, endorsed the bylaw change in his capacity as a messenger.

“This is deeply needed,” Sims said. A church’s “friendly cooperation” with the SCBC, which in previous years was the standard under which the Nominations Committee operated, “is not enough to make sure our trustees and committee members are doctrinally accountable.”

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Source: Baptist Press


Walter Strickland said racial unity is a sign of spiritual maturity during the 2018 annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Baptist Courier photo

About 300 worshipers filled the sanctuary of historic Mother Emanuel Church Nov. 13 for a session of South Carolina Baptists’ annual meeting, held at the site of the 2015 massacre of nine black worshipers by a self-avowed white supremacist. An overflow crowd of 400 watched from closed-circuit TV at the nearby Citadel Square Baptist Church.

South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) President Marshall Blalock had arranged for SCBC messengers to hold evening worship at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in keeping with the annual meeting theme, “Building Bridges.”

“I don’t know if we’ve ever been in a more sacred place,” Blalock told messengers and guests. “As we gather in Mother Emanuel Church, the place itself speaks to us of the power of faith in Christ Jesus. We’re in a place of safety because, while it’s where hearts were broken, it’s also the place where the life-saving power of God’s grace is.”

Blalock’s heart was changed in the months following the race-motivated murders at Mother Emanuel on June 17, 2015, he said, when he realized there was unintentional segregation in his own network of relationships.

“The outpouring of love and unity that inspired the world has faded some over time, but the deep conversations over race can now take place,” he told The Courier a year after the shootings.

Ronnie Floyd, who emphasized racial unity during his Southern Baptist Convention presidency 2014–2015, was among guest speakers; joined by host pastor Eric Manning, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) assistant professor Walter Strickland, and Anthony Thompson, whose wife Myra died in the 2015 shooting.

Floyd

Floyd, senior pastor of the multisite Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, chose John 13:34 to emphasize that love must cross racial lines.

“Racism is an assault on the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Floyd said. “When you belong to Jesus, you belong to love. You forfeit your right to choose whom you will love.”

He recalled the 2015 SBC Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio. The evening of July 16, messengers were on their knees praying for the country to have a spiritual awakening. Less than 24 hours later, he began hearing the shocking news coming out of Charleston.

“It was genuine grief,” Floyd said. “It felt like Satan had seen us on our face before God and said, ‘I’ll show you’.

“But you showed the world what love is,” Floyd said, gesturing toward Thompson. “Love is God’s way to build bridges.

“Southern Baptists, you are not known by your creeds, songs, doctrine, knowledge, achievements, dress, appearance or color of your skin,” Floyd said. “You are only known by His love and His love through you.”

Living out the Gospel brings credibility to what the church believes, Floyd said.

“We need to live it out,” he said. “We need to stop letting our nation define who we are. Love is the one note of the true church.”

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Source: Baptist Press