Editor’s note: This article provides highlights of the business sessions. See separate articles on the launch of the Acts 2:17 Initiative, election of officers, messages and more Summit coverage in the coming days at baptistandreflector.org. Additional articles also will be published in the Dec. 7 print issue and online.
CORDOVA — Tennessee Baptist Convention messengers adopted a $35 million budget for 2022-23, approved a constitutional amendment on second reading, renewed a missions partnership with Guatemala and dealt with a variety of resolutions among a myriad of business conducted Nov. 15-16 during their annual meeting at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova.
The theme of the meeting was “Across the Streets, the States and the Seas.”
Messengers also received a final report from the Tennessee Baptist Sexual Abuse Task Force and received a resource entitled “Ministering Well: Best Practices and Resources Related to Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response.”
The convention drew 843 messengers and 104 visitors from 444 churches. Last year’s annual meeting at Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, drew 943 messengers. The last annual meeting held in West Tennessee (2018, West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson) drew 934 messengers).
In presenting the 2022-23 budget, Jeff Bowden, chair of the Budget and Ministry Committee of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and associate pastor of education at Forest Hills Baptist Church, Nashville, noted that Cooperative Program gifts began strongly last year but dropped off toward the end of the year.
The committee decided to recommend the same $35 million budget as the previous year with the same allocation percentages — 52.5 percent for TBC causes and 47.5 percent for SBC causes.
The budget was approved without amendments or discussion.
Tennessee Baptist messengers approved on second reading by a two-thirds majority an amendment to the Constitution which allows a church giving to the TBC-only portion of the Cooperative Program to seat messengers at the annual meeting.
David Worley, chair of the Committee on Constitution and Bylaws and pastor of Mount Gilead Baptist Church, Cedar Grove, reminded messengers that the amendment did not redefine the Cooperative Program. “It reaffirms the autonomy of the local church,” Worley said.
During discussion, Bartlett pastor Fred Shackelford of Ellendale Baptist Church expressed support of the amendment and noted that the change “better reflects Baptist polity,” but he encouraged Tennessee Baptists to remember that “cooperation is important. That is the heart of the Cooperative Program,” he said.
During the afternoon session on the first day, the TBC Sexual Abuse Task Force presented its report and introduced messengers to the booklet, “Ministering Well: Best Practices and Resources Related to Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response.” The task force was authorized by messengers during last year’s annual meeting and was appointed by TBC president Clay Hallmark.
Hallmark noted the task force was formed with the purpose of “being proactive in helping victims, churches and Baptist people deal with the hurt, pain and challenges of sexual abuse, allegations and harassment.”
In a letter included in the booklet, Hallmark added that the goal of the task force “is not to just resource Tennessee Baptists but to equip them.”
The booklet and interactive website provides churches and pastors “a ready reference” to prevent and respond to sexual abuse, said Victoria Tillman, an attorney and chair of the task force and a member of Bell’s Campground Baptist Church in Powell.
She noted that the “most important feedback I received today is from a sweet sister in Christ who told me many, many decades ago she experienced sexual abuse in the church, and she wholeheartedly believes her pastor would have been better equiped to minister to her if he had this booklet.”
Tillman later told the Baptist and Reflector that she received “great feedback” on the booklet. “Everyone seems very appreciative to having this resource available to them,” she said.
She also expressed her appreciation to the task force members (Dani Bryson, Ann Singleton, Chuck Cagle, Gary Chesney, Clay Hallmark, Sam Nichols and Kevin Shrum).
“The Sexual Abuse Task Force consisted of some of the finest, Christian professionals that one could ask to work with, and together we sought to provide our Tennessee Baptist Churches with materials that could help them to prevent sexual abuse from occurring, respond to an incident of sexual abuse properly, and minister well to the victim and the families involved,” she said.
Each Tennessee Baptist church will receive a copy of the booklet.
In addition to the budget, messengers approved a recommendation from TBMB directors to extend a missions partnership with the Guatemala Baptist Association that begun in 2017.
Chad Ball, chair of the Missions and Ministries Committee and pastor of First Baptist Church, Adamsville, noted that approximately 30-40 Tennessee teams have gone to Guatemala each year and have witnessed more than 3,200 decisions for Christ, Ball said.
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the TBMB, noted the Guatemala partnership has been “one of the most productive partnerships we’ve ever had.”
The extended partnership will begin Jan. 1, 2023 and run through Dec. 31, 2027.
Convention messengers also approved a TBMB directors’ recommendation to allow the Tennessee Baptist Foundation to offer its services “to like-minded evangelical Christian institutions and organizations. TBF trustees informed TBMB directors that “like-minded” would be defined by the Baptist Faith and Message.
During the executive director’s report, Davis noted “the world is coming to Tennessee. … A population boon is coming,” he said in response to Ford Motor Company’s Blue Oval City project which is expected to bring thousands of people to West Tennessee in the coming years. Six thousand construction workers are expected to be in the area by next summer.
TBMB staff member Danny Sinquefield shared information about the Blue Oval City partnership, a TBC coalition of TBC churches and associations in the six counties surrounding the new Ford Motor plant. The goal is to start 40 new churches in the next 10 years, Sinquefield said.
Davis called Blue Oval City “a unique opportunity” of God.
Davis also thanked messengers for their continued support of the Cooperative Progam and cited highlights of Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief — teams provided 3,060 volunteer days and 67,370 work hours. DR volunteers also had 2,081 ministry contacts, 400 gospel presentations and saw 39 professions of faith.
• John Green, pastor of Wallace Memorial Baptist Church, Knoxville, was chosen to deliver the 2023 Convention Sermon. Chattanooga pastor Sam Greer was chosen as the alternate.
• Messengers approved shifting the start of the 2024 annual meeting at Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro to start Monday night, Nov. 11, and conclude Tuesday night, Nov 12, as a means to significantly reduce costs. The Pastors’ Conference will have the same amount of time, but will start on Monday morning and end with the afternoon session.
• The Sevierville Convention Center was selected as the site of the 2026 annual meeting, set for Nov. 17-18, 2026.
• Messengers approved the reports of the Committee on Committees and Committee on Boards with no amendments or discussion.
• TBMB directors approved a resolution honoring Union University as it celebrates its 200th anniversary. B&R