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Baptists Endorse Mission Initiative

Nov 15, 2002 03:00 AM EST

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.– An overwhelming majority of the messengers to the annual Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) voted to implement the sweeping evangelistic plan labeled "Kingdom Advance." More than 1500 Baptists authorized the plan during the BGAV meeting held Nov. 8-9, in Virginia Beach.

Kingdom Advance is the massive project that calls for the reorganization of BGAV ministries around priorities of identifying and equipping leaders, aiding churches, evangelism and "glocal" missions – the combination of local and global ministries.

"Kingdom Advance is about all our churches and organizations coming together and making our small voices into one big voice to minister in Christ's name," said BGAV Executive Director John Upton.

However, the stagnant economy and loss of some contributing churches slightly offset the monumental goal. To fund the project, the participants approved a $15 million budget for next year, including a $500,000 fundraising goal for the Kingdom Advance initiative.

Budget committee chairman Walter Harrow says that several costs, including health insurance for employees will result in a $500,000 cut of the current $15.2 million BGAV budget.

The BGAV budget offers churches a variety of "giving tracks," as well as an option to craft their own giving plan.

Two of the tracks, one that forwards 34 percent of receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention SBC), and another that invests 28 percent to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, remain unchanged. However, the "World Mission 2" track, favored by the majority of BGAV churches, was modified to include funds for the Kingdom Advance initiatives, leaving 12.5 percent less funding for the SBC international and North American Mission boards and the Annuity Board for that particular track.

Some critics of the "World Mission 2" track commented that such reduction of funds to the SBC would drive churches to seek affiliation with the Southern Baptist Conservatives, a group formed in 1996. Nonetheless, the budget was passed without discussion during the business session the next day.

The implementation of Kingdom Advance could also affect how the BGAV continues to relate to Baptist agencies in Virginia, such as colleges. A study committee said that if a historic "partner" feels it no longer aligns with the BGAV's mission, it might opt to enter into a "covenant" agreement to maintain historical ties while severing financial ties.

During the meeting, Beth Fogg, a homemaker from Richmond, was elected president for the BGAV. Her father, William Cumbie, the retired executive director of the Mount Vernon Baptist Association in northern Virginia, nominated Fogg, a member of Second Baptist Church in Richmond. Cumbie was president of the BGAV in 1976.

Don Davidson, pastor of Mount Hermon Baptist Church in Danville, and Karl Heilman, pastor of Sandston Baptist Church in Sandston, were voted as first and second vice presidents.

Virginia Baptists Committee, a moderate advocacy group critical of the Southern Baptist Convention, endorsed all three officers.

Davidson a vocal supporter of the SBC and the World Mission 1 track wishes to support the BGAV by channeling all national and international contributions to the SBC. His likely election to presidency next year will signal the BGAV's commitment to inclusiveness.

Also elected to office were Fred Anderson of Richmond and Eddie Stratton. Anderson was elected as the executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society during his 21st term as clerk. Stratton was entitled treasurer of the BGAV, filling the spot left vacant by the death of Nat Kellum last year. Stratton was employed as treasurer and business manager of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board last year and had been serving as interim treasurer of the BGAV.

By Pauline J.
pjang@chtoday.com