TBC leaders, messengers focus on how to ‘Win TN, by all means’ during 145th annual meeting
Editor’s Note: See stories from the 2019 Summit in Knoxville throughout this issue.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
KNOXVILLE — Tennessee Baptist Convention messengers gathered at First Baptist Concord, Nov. 17-20 for four days of inspirational worship, fellowship and to conduct business during the 145th annual meeting held during The Summit: A Gathering of Tennessee Baptists.
The Summit drew 998 registered messengers from 444 churches and 117 registered guests. The total is the highest since 2016 when 1,228 messengers from 501 churches gathered at the Sevierville Convention Center. Last year’s Summit drew 994 messengers from 409 churches to West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson.
Convention messengers demonstrated focus, excellence and unity, observed Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“Our great network of churches, the Tennessee Baptist Convention, is focused like never before on seeing our collective resources and ministry partnerships having gospel impact on growing spiritual lostness in our beloved state,” Davis observed.
“The Summit was marked by excellence at every turn. I appreciate the wonderful hospitality offered by First Baptist Concord, pastor John Mark Harrison and their great staff,” Davis said. He also cited the “top shelf” work of TBMB staff as they serve Tennessee Baptist churches as well as members of TBC committees and convention officers David Green (president), Byron Edens (vice president) and Lee Hickman (second vice president) who “collectively did exemplary work in carrying out their responsibilities.”
“The unity we enjoy across our state was obvious as we fellowshiped together. This unity was seen as we conducted all TBC business ‘decently and in order’ with a sweet and respectful spirit,” he observed.
Messengers elected Bruce Chesser of Hendersonville as president; Chuck Groover of Mount Juliet as vice president; and Corey Cain of Paris as second vice president. They also heard inspirational messages from H.G. Charles, David Green and Hollie Miller in addition to conducting a variety of business, including the adoption of five resolutions.
Tennessee Baptists adopted the 2019-20 Cooperative Program budget goal of $35 million with $800,000 allocated to CP administration and promotion. The budget is a $500,000 increase over the 2018-19 budget.
While the budget may be a “bit of a challenge, we believe it is a reachable budget goal,” said Marty Comer, pastor of Sand Ridge Baptist Church, Lexington, and chair of the TBMB budget and ministry committee.
The allocation to the SBC is 47.37 percent, which reflects a 0.25 percent increase over the allocation adopted for 2018-19, Comer told messengers. Last year the TBC sent $16,030,038 or 47.12 percent of CP receipts to the SBC.
The amount reflects about 8.1 percent of the total given to the SBC by all state conventions. The TBC is the third largest contributor to the SBC portion of the Cooperative Program. “We are supportive of the Cooperative Program both here (in Tennessee) and in the SBC as well,” Comer said.
During the report of the TBMB board of directors, chair Mike Kemper informed messengers that the directors had authorized the appointment of a task force by himself and TBC president David Green for the purpose of “examining the stewardship of investment of all missions dollars coming from our Tennessee Baptist churches and going to our Tennessee Baptist and Southern Baptist entities.
Members of the task force in addition to Kemper and Green are: Marty Comer, Jeff Bowen, Victoria Tillman and Velma Weathersby. The task force has begun work and is gathering information “on giving, allocations, reserve funds and how funds given to the various institutions in both the SBC and TBC levels are being used for the benefit of the Kingdom,” said Kemper, a retired TBC pastor and director of missions from Humboldt.
Kemper also reported to messengers that in 2017 an item was referred to the board of directors by messengers at the 2017 annual meeting. The motion was to change the constitution to “clarify our polity that a church does not have to participate with the SBC in order to send messengers to the TBC.” Kemper said the board engaged in two years of research on the matter, including many listening sessions across the state to hear from church and associational leadership.
“The result was that there still remains significant lack of consensus among our pastors and churches on this matter. Therefore, the board has decided, at this time, to not pursue the constitutional amendment on the definition of a Tennessee cooperating Baptist church,” Kemper said.
Messengers also approved a recommendation from the board of directors to adopt revised covenants with convention institutions. “There were no major changes in the content of the documents,” said Bill Espy, chair of the Partner Ministries Committee and pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, Humboldt.
“However, the language has been updated, made more consistent between each covenant, and where possible, made simpler. The covenants were rewritten for accuracy, clarity and uniformity,” he added.
Davis reported on various aspects of the TBMB ministry in 2019. The board sold a small section of its property 6,480 square feet of dirt that included eight parking spaces and half an alleyway on the Vanderbilt University campus for $2.3 million. The board also was able to buy additional property for the Tennessee Tech BCM in Cookeville and the UT-Martin BCM which will enhance the ministries at both locations, Davis said.
He added that the TBMB paid off its debt on the $8 million borrowed in 1999 and is now debt-free. Davis also updated messengers on the “I Stand for Life” petition held earlier this year and that a task force is at work on how the TBMB can assist churches in protecting their children and “how we can respond when a church has the tragedy of abuse occur.”
During the board of directors report, partnership papers were assigned with Germany and City Reach Chattanooga. The top churches in baptisms, baptism percentage, CP giving and CP giving percentage also were recognized.
One motion from the floor was brought to TBC messengers for discussion and vote at the final session. Messenger Ron Davidson moved that the Committee on Arrangements “immediately begin work with the administration of the convention to relocate the Summit to the Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg area on a permanent basis rotating among the three cities.” Davidson said that the majority of Tennessee Baptists live in East Tennessee and many people from across the state like to visit Gatlinburg and surrounding areas. Future meetings will be better attended, he predicted.
Several messengers spoke against the motion, noting that it is important to see every area of the state and to spread the meetings across Tennessee so people from all areas can be involved in the work of the convention. The motion was overwhelmingly defeated.
- Messengers approved without changes the final reports of the Committee on Boards and Committee on Committees.
- Messengers elected Mike Glenn, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, to preach the 2020 convention sermon with Larry Robertson, pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville, as alternate.
- Messengers approved two recommendations from the Arrangements Committee for future convention sites. The 2023 annual meeting will be held Nov. 14-15 at West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson, while the 2024 meeting will be held in Murfreesboro, the site of the first meeting of the TBC in 1875, on Nov. 12-13. The site of the 150th annual meeting is yet to be determined.
- Messengers heard a number of reports from TBC entities along with theme interpretations and a variety of interviews with Tennessee Baptist leaders on evangelism and topics of interest to churches.
The 2020 Summit will be held Nov. 8-11 at Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood.