CHATTANOOGA — Tennessee Baptist Convention messengers approved the Acts 2:17 Vision Team report (see story on page 2), adopted a $35 million budget for the fifth consecutive year, approved five changes to the Constitution and Bylaws, adopted four resolutions and dealt with additional business during the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention held during The Summit Nov. 12-15 at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
The theme of the annual meeting was “Side By Side: Steadfast and Immovable,” taken from I Corinthians 15:58.
The annual meeting drew 991 messengers from 500 churches, the largest attendance since 2021 when 1,004 messengers from 503 churches attended the session at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood. Including guests, the 2023 annual meeting drew 1,242 people.
The 2022 annual meeting at Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, drew 843 messengers from 443 churches.
The 2023-24 budget was presented during the report of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board on the first day of the annual meeting. Marty Comer, pastor of Sand Ridge Baptist Church, Lexington, and chair of the Budget and Ministry Committee, told messengers the committee had hopes of increasing the budget for next year.
“However, when it was realized that we would not achieve the goal this year, the recommendation to stay at the $35 million level was the prudent course of action,” he said.
The budget was overwhelmingly adopted the following day.
During the treasurer’s report, Randy C. Davis, president and executive director, thanked Tennessee Baptists for their generosity last year.
Though total Cooperative Program gifts fell 1.51 percent of the budget goal, the TBMB budget was surpassed by 1.9 percent due to $622,777 in non-CP designated gifts to TBC Ministries, Davis said.
He noted that the TBC was second among Baptist state conventions (behind Alabama) in SBC Cooperative Program gifts with $16,210,232. Tennessee Baptists also gave a record $2,262,288 through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, Davis added.
During the TBMB report, Davis updated messengers on the six “big rocks” the convention is focusing on in the immediate future. They include serving churches well, avoiding distractions, finishing the 5 Objectives well, the Acts 2:17 Initiative, the 150th anniversary of the TBC in 2024 and BlueOval City.
Later in his report, Davis emphasized the impact Shepherd Care is having on pastors in the state and included a testimony by Cliff Marion of First Baptist Church, Covington.
He also expounded on how Tennessee Baptists are responding to the needs to start new churches in the area surrounding the BlueOval City Ford plant in West Tennessee that is expected to bring 90,000 people to the area in the next 10 years.
Davis also introduced Pat Hood, pastor of LifePoint Church, Smyrna, to discuss the Amy Hood Adoption Endowment Fund. Amy Hood died unexpectedly last year and was a strong advocate for adoption.
The Hoods have adopted three children in addition to their two biological children. Hood shared about his wife’s desire to help children find “forever” homes.
The endowment fund, which has reached more than $250,000 in less than a year, will be used for grants to assist adoptive parents in Tennessee when the endowment reaches $1 million, Davis said.
During the segment with Hood and Davis, Martha and Robert Wilson shared how the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home assisted them with an adoption and then Hood presented the couple with a check for $5,000 from GOTM compassion ministry funds to complete the adoption process.
Constitution and Bylaws changes
Messengers overwhelmingly approved five amendments from the Constitution and Bylaws Committee.
The first recommendation changed the term “alternate preacher” to “convention preacher-elect” to elevate the role of the speaker by ensuring an actual opportunity to speak while securing names and dates well in advance for two years in a row.
Recommendation 2 dealt with the resolutions submittal process. The approved change strengthens the language toward the submission of a resolution 15 days prior to the annual meeting and gives the Resolution Committee the option to consider a resolution submitted less than 15 days before the annual meeting.
Recommendation 3 removes the requirement for one auditing firm selected by the TBMB for the audits of all TBC institutions that receive CP funds and gives each institution the option to select its own firm.
The first three recommendations all passed by a two-thirds majority and became effective at the end of the 2023 annual meeting.
The fourth recommendation calls for three regional vice presidents instead of a second vice president to widen the leadership pipeline in the state.
Recommendation 5 reflects changes in the convention’s three governing documents (Constitution, Bylaws and Business Financial Plan). The changes in all three documents are stylistic in nature, for consistency of terminology and grammatical correctness.
Both amendments passed by a two-thirds majority, but both must be approved again at next year’s annual meeting because they deal with changes to the Constitution.
Committee chair Todd Stinnett, pastor of Black Oak Heights Baptist Church, Knoxville, provided a rationale for the amendments in the Nov. 8 issue of the B&R. For more details, see “C&BC chair provides update on proposed changes” at baptistandreflector.org.
Messengers overwhelmingly passed four resolutions, including the traditional resolution of “gratitude.”
Messengers also adopted resolutions “Recognizing and Honoring the Significant Role of Women in Both the Bible and Baptist Life,” the “Persecution of Christians in the Middle East,” and “Support for Israel.” These resolutions can be found online HERE.
The resolution on women noted that the Baptist Faith and Message “rightly affirms that ‘the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture’ (Article VI), it also rightly affirms that ‘both men and women are gifted for service in the church’ (Article VI).
The resolution also notes that “Tennessee Baptists recognize and honor the innumerable works that women today are doing … to further the kingdom of God” and that “Tennessee Baptists continue to cultivate an environment with the TBC where women are fully respected, valued and honored for the significant role they play in our shared work of making Christ known.”
Messenger Sam Nichols of First Baptist Church, Collierville, proposed an amendment to the resolution on persecution of Christians to strike one “Whereas, the majority of Christians in the nation of Israel are Arab-speaking Christians, although all Christians living in that country come under a significant threat of persecution.” He noted that Christians in other countries in the Middle East are facing persecution in addition to Israel. The amendment passed.
The resolution called on Tennessee Baptists to “pray for those who are suffering persecution and ridicule for their commitment to the Lord and to seek to support them in all ways possible.”
The resolution on Israel condemned “the atrocities conducted against Israel in this current conflict by Hamas” and asked Tennessee Baptists to “call upon our state and national leaders to remain steadfast in their support for Israel.”
• Messengers approved a recommendation from the Committee on Arrangements to refer a motion by James Rogers of Oakwood Baptist Church, Milan, on appointing a special committee to study how the TBC can fund, manage and mentor up to 80 Carson-Newman University and Union University students who are called to vocational ministry and to report back to the 2024 annual meeting.
The committee announced they interpreted the motion to be consistent with the Acts 2:17 Initiative priority of “Fueling Church Collaboration” and will assign it to the appropriate workgroup.
• Chad Ramsey, pastor of First Baptist Church, Smithville, and chair of the Committee on Arrangements, reported there would be no convention sermon in 2024 due to the planned 150th anniversary celebration.
The committee recommended that the 2027 annual meeting be held Nov. 16-17 at First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, and it was approved by a show of ballots.
• Claude King, a member of the Acts 2:17 Initiative Vision Team and Belle Aire Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, led seven guided “prayer huddles” throughout the sessions focusing on pastors and churches, the future of the TBC, SBC and missionaries, TBMB and state missions staff, institutions and institutional leadership, associations and directors of missions and associational mission strategists and unity in the Tennessee Baptist Convention and TBC officers.
• Breakout sessions were held on Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon for messengers and guests on a variety of topics. B&R