Texas Baptists joined together for the 131st Annual Meeting Nov. 13-15 in Waco, focusing on “Celebrating Service” through worship and business sessions, workshops and a variety of events with 1,157 messengers and 663 visitors in attendance.
Messengers approved the 2017 Texas Baptists budget of $36.6 million, used to fund ministries, missions and institutional partnerships all focused on spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Monday’s business session, officers for 2016-2017 were elected including Danny Reeves, pastor of First Baptist Church in Corsicana, as president; Joseph Fields, pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Lewisville, as first vice president; and Jim Heiligman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryan, as second vice president. Reeves previously served as second vice president and this is the first time of service for Fields and Heiligman.
Keynote speakers included New York Times best-selling author Lee Strobel, professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University and esteemed preacher and theologian Cleophus LaRue, Francis Landey Patton professor of homiletics at Princeton Theological Seminary. President René Maciel, community life pastor at First Baptist Church in Woodway, moderated worship and business sessions.
“This Gospel is to be proclaimed to everybody, even if only received by some,” said LaRue during his Monday evening address.
Executive Director David Hardage shared about new Texas Baptists initiatives during his report on Monday evening. He introduced several staff members with overseeing key ministry areas. Leonid Regheta joined the staff this year as Director of Project:Start, a refugee resource center serving 30,000 refugees in the Dallas-area of Vickery Meadow. Leighton Flowers was also introduced as director of apologetics and youth evangelism, providing churches with information on how to contend for faith in an ever-changing culture through regional unApologetic conferences featuring national leaders in apologetics such as Strobel, Michael Licona and Mark Mittelberg.
“It’s going to take more ways and more people to reach the world for Christ than what we are doing now,” Hardage said emphasizing the need for expanding ministries.
During Tuesday’s morning worship and business session, messengers voted to approve two motions regarding how and for what reason a church may be removed from harmonious cooperation with the churches of the Convention.
The first motion, brought to the floor by Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, set in place a procedure to consistently address churches considered to be outside of harmonious cooperation. The procedure granted the Executive Board, with a two-thirds vote, the authority to remove a congregation outside of harmonious cooperation.
The second motion, brought to the floor by Craig Christina, pastor of Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church in Dallas, reaffirmed the BGCT’s longstanding historical position on Biblical human sexuality and marriage, specifically within the context of considering whether or not churches are within harmonious cooperation.
The motion stated, “because of the historical and biblical positions of the BGCT as stated in multiple resolutions, motions, and actions, that any church which affirms any sexual relationship outside the bonds of a marriage between one man and one woman be considered out of harmonious cooperation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”
Many workshops were standing room only, addressing pressing topics such as the end of religion, the future of Christian higher education, the historicity of the Gospel, refugee assistance and 5-point Calvinism.
Woven throughout the annual gathering was a common thread of cooperation, with an emphasis on the necessity of partnership to reach the state of Texas and beyond with the Gospel through commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
During his address, Hardage noted he preaches in different Texas Baptists congregations and while each church is uniquely different, “one thing remains the same. Our pastors are diligently preaching the Gospel. Thank you churches, thank you pastors. God bless you.”