Messengers approve amendments to SBU governing documents
ST. CHARLES, Mo. – During their 186th annual meeting, Oct. 26-27, messengers of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) elected their first ever black president and approved amendments to Southwest Baptist University’s governing documents.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 842 messengers and 172 visitors from 340 churches gathered at the St. Charles Convention Center here. By contrast, the 2019 annual meeting in Branson included 1,277 messengers and 262 visitors from 499 churches.
Amid a standing ovation from messengers, Jon Nelson was elected as the MBC’s first black president. He is an MBC church planter and pastor of SOMA Community Church, located near the campus of the historically black Lincoln University in Jefferson City. Immediately following the election, Nelson tearfully expressed gratitude to MBC messengers for the opportunity to serve them.
For the past two years, Nelson has served as the MBC’s first vice president. He also serves as chairman for a racial reconciliation task force that was appointed at the MBC Executive Board meeting in March. He will preside over next year’s annual meeting, which will convene, Oct. 25-26, 2021, at the Branson Convention Center in Branson, Mo.
Other new officers elected by MBC messengers include: First Vice President Chris Williams, pastor, Fellowship Church, Greenwood/Raymore; Second Vice President Lane Harrison, lead pastor, Life Point Church, Ozark; and Recording Secretary Jason Marlin, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Kirksville.
Additionally, messengers approved amended articles of incorporation and received amended bylaws from Southwest Baptist University. These approved amendments, which include the affirmation of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as the university’s statement of faith, bring SBU’s governing documents into line with the MBC’s revised governing documents, which messengers approved during their annual meeting in 2017. This also completes the process begun in 2014 for updating the governing documents of both the MBC and all of its entities.
During his address, 2020 MBC President Jeremy Muniz urged Missouri Baptists to center their lives and ministries around the annual meeting’s theme, “Jesus Saves.”
Preaching from Luke 19:1-10, Muniz reminded messengers of the worth of a human soul. “Every soul will live with God or apart from God forever,” he said. And, although it’s difficult to win souls, Missouri Baptists must be “intentional,” “open” and “faithful” in sharing the message that “Jesus saves.”
“Once we have found rest for our souls in Jesus,” he said, “we must become restless to see souls saved in the name of Jesus.”
Likewise, MBC Executive Director John Yeats urged Missouri Baptists to “take the initiative” in proclaiming the gospel that “Jesus saves,” and he emphasized the cooperative role of the state convention in helping Missouri Baptist churches advance God’s kingdom.
“The beauty of Southern Baptists’ cooperative work is that no matter the size, every church is valuable,” said Yeats. “Every association has worth. Every state convention is needed. Every SBC entity has an immeasurable role to play in the Kingdom of God. We must count everything as loss for the sake of the cross. It’s how we do our work, now and until we hear the trumpet call pronouncing the Day of the Lord.”
Other keynote speakers at the annual meeting included:
- Michael Byrd, pastor, Faith Community Bible Church, St. Louis, who in a message from Colossians 1:13-23, urged Missouri Baptists to uphold the supremacy of Christ as creator, redeemer, head of the church, and reconciler. “The problem,” he said, “is that the world is full of fans of Jesus, rather than followers of Jesus.”
- Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee, who highlighted Vision 2025, a five-part SBC initiative for sending more missionaries, planting more churches, calling out those called to ministry, reaching teenagers from the gospel and increasing Cooperative Program giving among Southern Baptists. Ultimately, he said, Southern Baptists must “focus on the Great Commission.” He added, “Nobody is as committed to fulfilling the Great Commission as Jesus Christ Himself.”
- Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., who in a sermon from Romans 3:21-26, lifted high the message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, made possible only by the propitiatory death of Christ Jesus. “Because of the cross and the empty tomb,” Mohler said, the righteous and holy God “is never more just than when He is seen to be the justifier – of whom? Of the one who has faith in Jesus. Brothers and sisters, if that doesn’t excite you about the gospel, then what would?”
2021 budget, offering goals approved
During their business session, messengers approved the MBC’s 2021 spending plan, which is based on a $15 million CP budget. This budget sets aside 5 percent of the total CP giving for “shared expenses,” which are allocated for annuity protections and The Pathway.
From the remaining funds, 35 percent is allocated for Missouri Baptist missions and ministries. Additionally, according to the CP budget, 22 percent is allocated for Missouri Baptist entities, including the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, The Baptist Home, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Southwest Baptist University, Hannibal-LaGrange University and Missouri Baptist University. Finally, 38 percent of these CP funds are forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention to support its ministries.
Additionally, Missouri Baptists approved 2021 goals for its various missions offerings: a $725,000 goal for the Missouri Missions Offering (MMO); a $4 million goal for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; a $2 million goal for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions; and a $195,000 goal for the World Hunger Fund.
Missions partnership, other executive board recommendations approved
As recommended by the MBC executive board, Missouri Baptists also approved a new, seven-year missions partnership with the churches of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention, beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, and ending on Dec. 31, 2028. The partnership may be extended after this seven-year period, if both convention’s desire to do so.
The new missions partnership was one of 22 recommendations from the MBC executive board that messengers approved, which can be viewed in the 2020 Book of Reports on the MBC website at http://media.mobaptist.org/public/annual-meeting/2020/2020-bor.pdf.
Additionally, messengers collected a special offering, which will be given to Oasis International for the benefit of the Good Neighbor Initiative, a ministry to refugees that Missouri Baptist churches in St. Louis have been heavily involved with in recent years.
Resolutions approved, motions referred to executive board
Missouri Baptists also approved four resolutions, which called for the abolition of abortion; rejected the “use of any and all products” derived from the fetal tissue of aborted babies; and, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, called upon elected officials to restore and protect the religious liberty rights of residents at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Messengers also submitted four motions. Two motions were ruled out of order, including one motion requesting that all pastors and DOMs sign the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and another calling Missouri Baptists to reject Critical Race Theory and similar worldviews. Two other motions were referred to the MBC executive board. Of the two motions, the first was in fact a set of five motions aiming to amend MBC bylaws and seeking the convention’s will regarding MBC nominating committee rules and procedures. The other motion referred to the executive board requested that MBC resolutions be published at least one week prior to the annual meeting.