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2013 Annual Meeting Report

Messengers at the 193rd annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention approved a 2014 budget of $28.6 million, launched a new convention-wide theme to guide the ministry and mission of the convention, and elected D.J. Horton, 36, an Upstate pastor, as the 2014 convention president.

Messengers also heard a first reading on changes to the convention bylaws which change the rules of notifying South Carolina Baptists through The Baptist Courier, clarify that a contribution to the Cooperative Program be required to be in good standing with the convention, and create a president-elect position as a convention officer. These changes to the bylaws will be considered for approval by messengers at the 2014 annual meeting.

Among the seven approved convention resolutions, which are non-binding on convention churches, were three that responded directly to cultural trends: Religious Liberty, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) membership changes, and the preservation of Biblical marriage.

At the last announcement on Wednesday morning of the annual meeting, there were 888 registered messengers at the annual meeting. Less than 500 cast ballots during Wednesday morning’s election of officers.

Shandon Church, Columbia, hosted the annual meeting, and will host the meeting again in November 2014. Dick Lincoln is the pastor of Shandon Church.

Ralph Carter, 2013 convention president, and pastor of Brushy Creek Church, Taylors, used several short, creative video clips and live Q&A panel discussions with pastors on stage to communicate the meeting theme, Better Together. The spirit of the theme was communicated through business and ministry partner reports, and through greetings brought by representatives from Southern Baptist entities and mission partnerships.

Budget Approval

The recommendation of the 2014 budget came from the convention’s Executive Board, which was approved at the board’s October meeting at White Oak Conference Center. The budget does not reflect an increase from the 2013 convention budget of $28.6 million. The budget, however, does reflect the 2012 approval of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force, reducing the Executive Board Ministries portion of the budget by one percent while improving direct giving to international missions; fixing budget amounts for the convention’s ministry partners and Woman’s Missionary Union; and, focusing Executive Board office and group budgeting around church planting and church health initiatives.

Great Commission Living

Sonny Holmes, pastor, Northwood Baptist Church, in North Charleston, served in 2013 as chairman of a 30-member Seeking the Kingdom Task Force, charged with the task of seeking God’s vision for the work of South Carolina Baptists beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

The task force was appointed by 2012 convention president Brad Atkins and followed approval of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) focus on church revitalization, missions mobilization and evangelism, and church planting throughout South Carolina Baptist Convention life.

The Seeking The Kingdom Task Force, led by Holmes, included members of the convention’s Executive Board; executive-level convention staff, including executive-director treasurer Jim Austin; former convention presidents, directors of mission, institution presidents or designees; and, Laurie Register, executive director-treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union of South Carolina.

Holmes, on behalf of the task force, presented the new theme, which includes this vision statement: “The South Carolina Baptist Convention will assist churches in making disciples who will urgently take the whole gospel to the world that all will be whole.” The vision is supported by Matthew 4:19: “ ‘Follow Me,’ He told them, ‘and I will make you fish for people!’ ” (HCSB).

Great Commission Living is further supported by a mission statement that calls on the “South Carolina Baptist Convention staff to serve as kingdom partners with churches, associations, and institutions of the South Carolina Baptist Convention in fulfillment of their role to ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.’ ”(Mark 16:15, HCSB)

Holmes also presented 10 Scripture-based initiatives that were developed in cooperation between the Seeking the Kingdom Task Force and all of the convention staff members. The initiatives challenge convention staff to:

  • Assist all South Carolina Baptist Convention churches in developing and implementing an intentional relational discipleship process. 2 Timothy 2:2.
  • Involve eight percent of South Carolina Baptist Convention churches in a church health process each year. Revelation 2:4-5.
  • Cultivate a church planting movement that assists South Carolina Baptist Convention churches to plant reproducing churches that equal at least two percent annually of the total South Carolina Baptist Convention church count. Acts 13:1-5.
  • Work towards a climate of prayer, repentance, and reconciliation among our churches and their members. Mark 9:29.
  • Change the culture of pastor/church relationships where the South Carolina Baptist Convention becomes last in forced terminations and suicides instead of first. Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:2.
  • Create a church leadership development pipeline for our young people and others that will encourage them to respond to God’s call for missions, church planting and church revitalization. Mark 3:13-15.
  • Partner with churches to mobilize 700 full-time Southern Baptist Convention missionaries by the year 2024. Matthew 9:37.
  • Encourage great commission generosity by increasing Cooperative Program and other mission offerings by one tenth of one percent per year. Luke 6:38.
  • Work to enhance alignment of ministries provided by the Southern Baptist Convention, South Carolina Baptist Convention, and its ministry partners. John 17.
  • Pray and realize that without true revival none of the preceding will ever occur. 2 Chronicles 7:14.

To meet the initiatives, the convention staff organizational structure will be built around:

  • Church Supporting staff
  • Church Strengthening staff
  • Church Sending staff

The approved report also outlined core principles and values for the state convention staff as a covenant to:

  • Pray Continuously. 2 Timothy 1:3.
  • Lead With Humility. 2 Timothy 1:3-2:4.
  • Model Integrity. 2 Timothy 1:3, 2:15, 22.
  • Minister to Multiply. 2 Timothy 2:22.
  • Preach and Teach Authoritatively. 2 Timothy 1:8, 3:16.
  • Evaluate Biblically. 2 Timothy 4:17.
  • Relate as Family. 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2. 

“Vision is not conceived, but received,” Holmes said. “Vision is always revelation. It’s seeking and listening to God’s vision for His church. Our role has been to discover that. Great Commission Living must be the unifying work of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and it must be our passion as South Carolina Baptists.”

The task force included convention pastors, members of the convention’s Executive Board, state convention executive staff, Woman’s Missionary Union representation, and convention ministry partners representation.

Horton elected 2014 president

D.J. Horton, pastor of Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church in Moore was elected the 2014 president of the South Carolina during the Wednesday morning session of the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s annual meeting at Shandon Baptist Church, in Columbia.

Horton, nominated by pastor Sonny Holmes of Northwood Baptist Church, in North Charleston, defeated Dusty Bradshaw, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, in North Charleston, 244-163. Bradshaw was nominated by Skip Owens, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Meggett.There were 408 ballots cast in the election with 407 counted and one ballot disqualified.

Elected by acclimation and without opposition were: Tommy Kelley, pastor, Varnville First Baptist Church, first vice president; Shane Donald, pastor, Cedar Shoals Baptist Church, Belton, second vice president; and, Verla Bennie, ministry assistant, First Baptist Church Mauldin, recording secretary.

Bart Kelley, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Westminster, was elected the convention’s 2014 registration secretary over Clark Carter, dean of students at Charleston Southern University, Charleston, and member of Northwood Baptist Church in North Charleston, 224-164. There were 391 votes cast and 388 votes counted. There were three votes that were disqualified.

Speaking at a post-session press conference, President Horton, 36, said he plans to represent South Carolina Baptist missions and evangelism to both South Carolina Baptists and outside South Carolina Baptist circles.

“We need to continue to tell our story of the great ministry occurring in and through South Carolina,” he said.

Horton said he hopes to lead the planning of a 2014 annual meeting that will be one of the most attended annual meetings in the convention’s history, and will call on state pastors to get behind and support coming together for celebration of ministry. The meeting will be Tuesday-Wednesday, Nov. 11-12 at Shandon Baptist Church, in Columbia.

Horton grew up in Alabama, the son of a bi-vocational Southern Baptist pastor who also worked as a local school teacher.

“I grew up Southern Baptist, and at every major intersection of my life was a Southern Baptist pointing me in the best direction,” he said.

Horton and his wife, Laurel, have been married 13 years and have four children. The family has a pending adoption of a child from Ethiopia.

Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church averages 800 in Sunday School each week.

Resolutions Approved

Messengers approved seven resolutions, including one on Appreciation in part to host church Shandon Baptist Church; recognition of the 125th Anniversary of the Woman’s Missionary Union; Christian Ministry to those Struggling with Mental Illness; responsible use of social media; religious freedom; expression of disappointment with the Boy Scouts of America membership policy regarding homosexuality; and, a Call to Prayer concerning the preservation of biblical marriage.

The resolution on Religious Freedom was amended on a motion by Stephen Owensby, pastor of First Baptist Church Enoree. The resolution largely challenged United States government’s encroachment on the “cherished rights of all citizens to express their religious beliefs in public.” Owensby’s motion encouraged South Carolina Baptist pastors to “preach the entire counsel of God during this difficult season as in any other season” believing pastors are on the front line of any attack on religious freedom. The convention Resolutions Committee did not oppose the amendment.

The resolution related to the Boys Scouts of American Membership Policy generally expressed “disappointment in the decision to change the BSA membership policy regarding homosexuality.” It called on churches continuing to support the BSA to “share the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ with all members and leaders while working to reverse the current membership policy . . . that normalizes sexual conduct opposed to the biblical standard.” For churches no longer supporting the BSA because of its position to accept members regardless of sexual orientation, the resolution asked churches to continue ministry to children and youth through biblical-based programs.

Further addressing homosexuality, the amendment calling for Prayer Concerning the Preservation of Biblical Marriage between one man and one woman was twice amended without opposition from the Resolutions Committee. An approved amendment offered by Gregory Dry of First Baptist Church Spartanburg called for strengthening the resolution to read “that messengers stand steadfastly for God’s design of one-man one-woman marriage and we urge all people of faith to urgently do as 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says and lift our elected and appointment leaders and judges in prayer and urge them to protect and defend one-man one-woman marriage as same-sex marriage is being deliberated in our state and several others.” An amendment by Mike Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church North Spartanburg specifically identified the University of South Carolina Upstate and the College of Charleston as two schools that “have endorsed required reading curriculum that embraces the acceptance of the gay agenda and have used specific programs to promote the homosexual agenda using public resources and have hired staff to promote homosexual lifestyles on campus.”

Celebrating Better Together

Jim Austin, executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, brought the theme of the morning together celebrating in his report the work of South Carolina Baptists throughout the year.

Austin celebrated South Carolina Baptists’ work this month in November’s My Hope With Billy Graham. It has been reported that South Carolina Baptists led states in per capita support of the My Hope emphasis timed this month with Billy Graham’s 95th birthday.

In highlighting the work of South Carolina Baptists in Disaster Relief, especially in New Jersey recovery after Hurricane Sandy, Austin said, “Disaster Relief helps us win the right to be heard.”

Austin spoke directly to the issue of pastoral health in South Carolina calling attention to a small group of Union Association pastors who have formed a “Band of Brothers” for encouragement and support. Austin recognized that “many, many pastors tell us that they don’t have a friend” and that has affected the emotional health of many pastors in the state. The Band of Brothers initiative through the convention staff is designed to help pastors encourage one another. Renovations at White Oak Conference Center provide a first-class retreat setting for pastors to use at no charge.

Missions was a key feature of Austin’s annual report to messengers and platform guests spoke to South Carolina volunteerism in the Canada Maritimes, especially Nova Scotia; church planting inside the Atlanta perimeter; and, the new I-77 Partnership, which will send South Carolina missions volunteers up I-77 from South Carolina to Cleveland, Ohio. Southern Baptists only have a 0.08 percent influence in Cleveland with “little other evangelical work there, too.”

Austin celebrated the cooperative work of South Carolina Baptists in Vacation Bible School, student and collegiate ministry, local church health initiatives, music ministry, evangelism, and weekday education. Austin also celebrated the planting of 31 new congregations in South Carolina. 

In other news, messengers:

HEARD a report from the Order of Business Committee that Thom Rainer, president and chief executive officer of LifeWay Christian Resources, will be invited to preach at the 2014 annual meeting; and that the 2015 annual meeting will be Tuesday-Wednesday, Nov. 10-11, at First Baptist Church, Spartanburg.

APPROVED an Executive Board recommendation that a ban on the use of convention consultants be lifted. The ban was approved at the 2009 annual meeting. The Executive Board felt that in some areas, like human resources and financial issues, consultant advice could lead to a budget savings.

HEARD about the merger of the North Greenville and Greer associations into the Three Rivers Baptist Association.

APPLAUDED Rev. Steve Lee, pastor, Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, Kershaw Association, who was recognized as the Small Church Pastor of the Year. Mt. Olivet, over the past several years, has baptized 40 people and sent volunteer missions to 25 different countries and within their own community.

APPROVED the Committee on Committees report.

DEFEATED a motion from the 2012 annual meeting that would have limited the number of board and committee members serving from respective churches, believing there was a concentration of service among churches. In 2012, the motion was referred to the convention Bylaws Committee, which chose not to recommend it as a Bylaws change at the 2013 annual meeting.

Stephen Ruff, chairman of the Bylaws Committee, said, “While we agree with the spirit of the amendment, we believe a more organic solution (brought through GCR changes approved in 2011 and 2012) will be better than a democratic one, involving a change to the convention Bylaws. This change would put a lot of pressure on the Nominating Committee process.”

At the October 2013 meeting of the Executive Board, it was also suggested that the convention Nominating Committee work with statewide directors of associational missions to organically cultivate candidates for consideration to boards and committees.

APPROVED the report of the convention’s Nominating Committee.

DEFEATED a motion to alter the convention’s move toward a 50-50 split of Cooperative Program funds between the South Carolina and Southern Baptist Conventions. The motion came from Wayne Dickard, pastor of Siloam Baptist Church, Easley. The GCR approval, in 2012, directed the convention to work in budgeting toward sending 50 percent of Cooperative Program receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention. The motion would have kept more funding in South Carolina.

APPLAUDED recipients of annual rewards from the convention’s Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee, which included:

  • Senator Lawrence K. ‘Larry’ Grooms selected to receive the 2013 Public Servant Award. According to the committee: “Senator Grooms is a veteran member of the South Carolina Senate, serving parts of Berkeley and Charleston counties since November 1997. He has supported or sponsored legislation that concurs with Convention resolutions on social and moral issues including limiting gambling expansion, support of pro-life issues, he is an advocate of one man-one woman marriage, stringent drunk-driving legislation and works to secure religious liberty in South Carolina.  He was also the primary sponsor and advocate for a 2007 law allowing public school districts to offer elective courses on the history and literature of the Old and New Testaments.”
  • Dr. Robert Jackson of Chesnee selected to receive the 2013 E.A. McDowell Award in recognition of Christian involvement in the public arena of politics, government and community affairs.
  • East Cooper Church, Mt Pleasant, selected to receive the 2013 Impact Your World Award for “sharing the Gospel, meeting needs and being actively involved in community social and moral issues.” The church has sponsored or supported Agape Hospice Lowcountry, Lowcountry Pregnancy Center, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Harvest Free Medical Clinic, a prison ministry, ReStartSC Career Development Community, The Journey House ministry to families dealing with a critically ill child and a veteran’s ministry. East Cooper Church is also actively involved with The A21 Campaign, an international, nongovernmental organization dedicated to abolishing human trafficking. Buster Brown is the church pastor.

RECEIVED greetings from Southern Baptist Convention representatives: Wint Fox, missionary, International Mission Board; Stephen Davis, vice president, South Region, North American Mission Board; Tom Hellams, vice president of corporate relations, LifeWay Christian Resources of Nashville.

Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville, and former pastor at Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, also brought greetings to the messengers.

“The headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention is not in Nashville; it is in the local church,” he said. “When your giving dollars come to us, we work very hard to get that money allocated to the field as quickly as possible, and we keep less and less of it for administrative work. More and more of your budget dollars go directly to missions and ministry, and it’s happening at the SBC Executive Committee. We want every man, woman, boy and girl to have the living water (of the gospel).”

Page said he was involved in leading cooperative missions giving before he was paid through the Southern Baptist Convention to do that. He challenged messengers to increase Cooperative Program funding by one percent each year. 

APPLAUDED the recognition of Welsh Neck Baptist Church in Society Hill, which is the convention’s third oldest church at 275 years. In celebrating its anniversary, Welsh Neck and pastor Eric Sloan were recognized for digitizing all of the church records. The recognition was provided by Mayson Easterling, chairman of the convention’s History Committee.

RECEIVED the 2014 Committee on Committees as appointed by convention president Ralph Carter.

APPROVED a motion from Bryant Sims, pastor, Mt. Moriah Church, Simponsville, that affirms, supports and finances Baptist Campus Ministry in South Carolina in light of the Baptist Convention of North Carolina’s decision this year to defund Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) in that state. South Carolina BCM is funded at $983,536 for 2014, which is an increase from the 2013 amount of $967,145.




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