FRANKLIN — Tennessee Baptists began looking toward the future in 2022 with the launch of the Acts 2:17 Initiative and extensive planning to prepare for the influx of residents who will be drawn to Tennessee because of the Blue Oval City Ford plant in West Tennessee.
The Acts 2:17 Initiative was launched at the 2022 Summit at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova. The initiative will provide the opportunity for Tennessee Baptists to speak into future priorities of the state convention.
The process began during Summit when messengers gathered in small groups. Listening sessions already have been held this month and others are scheduled for the remainder of January and through February (see ad with list of meeting dates and locations on page 8).
Prior to Summit, Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, said the initiative “could become the most consequential process in the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s history and at its heart is us working together in seeking God’s preferable future for our network of churches (see Davis’ Clarity column from Oct. 26).
In February, the TBMB hosted a “Blue Oval City Coalition” at Brownsville Baptist Church, Brownsville, to discuss church planting and church revitalization that is necessary for the expected population increase in West Tennessee. The Blue Oval City project is expected to create 6,000 new jobs at the plant with another 2,000-3,000 jobs in various support plants/industries that will be located in the region.
The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reported that 3,000 workers were to begin construction during 2022 and that number could increase to 8,000 workers this summer.
Danny Sinquefield, Harvest Field 1 (which includes many counties that will be impacted by the Ford plant, team leader for the TBMB, noted that Tennessee Baptists are on “the front porch of a population explosion in West Tennessee that will bring thousands of people to the region.
He emphasized the need for Tennessee Baptist churches in the region to be healthy in order “to reach and embrace the new people and also to strategically plant new churches in partnership together.”
Davis agreed. “By working together in collaboration and cooperation with a number of churches and associations, Tennessee Baptists will be ready to have an enormous impact with the gospel on the population explosion expected by the building of this mega Ford plant which will be the largest automobile manufacturing plant in the nation, according to projections.
Here’s a synopsis of other stories which impacted Tennessee Baptists in 2022.
• Sexual Abuse Task force appointed: TBC president Clay Hallmark, pastor of First Baptist Church, Lexington, appointed a seven-member task force, chaired by Victoria Tillman of Knoxville, to evaluate the process of how the TBC responds to allegations of sexual abuse occurring in TBC churches and entities; to study how the TBMB seeks to protect those it serves from sexual abuse and how it responds to allegations that occur; and the resources and assistance provided by TBC and TBMB to cooperating churches to help educate church leaders to best practices to protect their congregations from the evil of sexual abuse.
During the Summit in November, the committee presented its report and introduced messengers to the booklet, “Ministering Well: Best Practices and Resources Related to Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response.” The booklet, along with an interactive website provides Tennessee Baptist churches and pastors “a ready reference” to prevent and respond to sexual abuse, Tillman said.
• State Evangelism Conference is relaunched: After an absence of about 15 years, the State Evangelism Conference was held Jan. 30-31 at New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro. Based on the theme “Snatching Them from the Fire,” speakers exhorted Tennessee Baptists to be intentional in evangelism.
Roc Collins, director of strategic objectives for the TBMB, said last year’s event was a “relaunch” of the State Evangelism Conference, which once again will be an annual event. This year’s conference will be held again at New Vision Baptist on Jan. 29-30. See the ad on page 9 for the list of speakers.
• New record set for Golden Offering giving: Tennessee Baptists reached the goal for the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions for the first time since 2007-08 with a record $2,227,367, a 29.41 percent increase over the previous year.
• Porch passes: James Porch, who served as executive director of the Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention (now Tennessee Baptist Mission Board) from 1992-2010, died Aug. 3 at the age of 81. He was serving as pastor of First Baptist Church, Tullahoma, when he was elected to lead the Executive Board in 1992.
• Historic appointment for McLaurin: Former TBMB staff member Willie McLaurin became the first African American to lead an entity of Southern Baptists when he was appointed interim president/CEO of the SBC Executive Committee on Feb. 1.
• Tennessee Baptists aid Ukraine: In March, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief allocated $50,000 in relief funds for Ukrainian Response and $10,000 each for the Baptist seminaries in Ukraine and Romania. Russian troops began invading eastern Ukraine on Feb. 24 and spread across the country.
The funds were distributed to Send Relief International “to assist in meeting the immediate needs of the refugees coming across the various borders,” said Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the TBMB.
• BCM’s Beach Reach ministry resumes after two years: Beach Reach, a ministry to reach college students on spring break in Florida, was relaunched after a two-year absence, due to COVID-19, primarily through the efforts of Tennessee BCM directors and other BCM leaders across the nation. Mark Whitt, BCM director at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, served as the 2022 Beach Reach coordinator.
Beach Reach traditionally has been under the umbrella of Lifeway Christian Resources but the entity released its SBC assignment of collegiate ministry, leaving uncertainty for the future of Beach Reach.
“The campus ministers really joined together to make this event happen again — and it’s back to where it started. Beach Reach has gone back to being a grassroots effort of campus ministers who believe that it’s important for college students to experience the power of God working through college students serving college students,” Whitt said.
• Change announced for Get-Together: Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union leadership announced in September that Missions Get-Together will move to Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood on March 16-18, 2023.
Missions Get-Together is WMU’s annual three-day conference of fellowship, worship, breakout sessions and administrative meetings. It has been a fixture in Gatlinburg for 30-plus years.
The venue change was necessitated by a wave of circumstances, including COVID-19, that have impacted the event’s attendance figures, according to Vickie Anderson, executive director of Tennessee WMU.
• Hallmark elected for rare second term as TBC president: Messengers during the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention veered from tradition by electing TBC president Clay Hallmark to a second term at the annual meeting in November.
Since 1942, TBC presidents have generally served only one year on a rotating basis among the three grand regions of the state with only two exceptions — in 2010 when Randy C. Davis resigned to become president of the TBMB and was followed by vice president Poly Rouse who was then eligible for his own term; and in 2020-21 when Bruce Chesser had to serve two years due to COVID-19.
• Union celebrates milestone: Union University began its observance of its 200th anniversary with a kick-off celebration Sept. 23. The celebration will continue throughout the 2022-23 academic year.
• State’s oldest church celebrates anniversary: The oldest church in the Tennessee Baptist Convention — Sinking Creek Baptist in Johnson City — celebrated its 250th anniversary on Sept. 18. The church was established in 1772, four years before the United States of America was established. B&R