Celebrating what God has done, is doing and can do through them, Alabama Baptists gathered for their 199th annual meeting Nov. 15–16 at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham.
Messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention approved a $37 million Cooperative Program budget for 2023, maintaining the same budgeted amounts as in 2022 and continuing the 50/50 allocation of funds between Alabama Baptist ministries and national efforts through the Southern Baptist Convention. Funds also were allocated to help retired pastors and wives through Mission:Dignity.
Alabama Baptists’ Sexual Abuse Task Force reported the results of its year-long review of policies and practices of Cooperative Program-funded state convention entities and auxiliaries, including the State Board of Missions, related to sex abuse.
Task force chair Craig Carlisle, director of missions for the Etowah Baptist Association, delivered a favorable report but said the real challenge will be for churches going forward.
“While our task was to audit the policies of our entities and auxiliaries … ultimately our church leaders will be on the frontlines of seeking to prevent sexual abuse in our churches and families,” Carlisle said. (Download the full report here.)
The 685 registered messengers, plus more than 100 registered guests and others, also heard plans to celebrate 200 years of cooperative ministry work. The Alabama Baptist State Convention first gathered Oct. 28–29, 1823, at Salem Baptist Church near Greensboro in West Central Alabama. (See full story here.) The bicentennial celebration will culminate at next year’s annual meeting at First Baptist Church Montgomery, scheduled for Nov. 14–15, 2023, focusing on the theme “Unfinished.”
In his report, Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, spotlighted an initiative called “The Gospel to Everyone,” a statewide effort to reach every home in Alabama with the gospel and help churches better connect with their communities.
Lance, who celebrated his 25th annual meeting in the role of SBOM executive director, also spoke of state efforts focused on raising the next generation of ministry leaders and encouraged churches to participate in a March 10–11 Send Relief Serve Tour project in Montgomery.
In his president’s address, convention president Buddy Champion, pastor of First Baptist Church Trussville, spoke on Ephesians 4:32 and encouraged kindness and speaking the truth in love so as not to leave a “trail of carnage behind you from your sharp words.”
“Be gracious and loving; have a heart that freely desires to give grace to other people,” Champion said.
Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, spoke during the Nov. 15 afternoon session of the annual meeting. In keeping with the convention theme, McLaurin said Alabama Baptists have many reasons to celebrate what God has done as they kick off the commemoration of 200 years of cooperative ministry and missions work. It’s important to tell that story, he said.
“When we tell and celebrate what the Lord Jesus Christ is doing among us, it builds our faith, it builds belief that God is able to do anything, anywhere, anytime with anyone,” McLaurin said.
Speaking during the Nov. 15 evening session, Robert Smith Jr., professor of Christian preaching and Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, said Alabama Baptists have “much to celebrate” as they see what God is doing in and through them.
“You’re not the biggest convention, you’re not the largest churches, but you led the last decade in the Southern Baptist Convention in missions and missions giving,” he noted. “You ought to celebrate because it’s not by numbers, it’s not by might, it’s not by power, but it’s by His Spirit.”
Joel Carwile, pastor of First Baptist Church Athens and this year’s convention preacher, spoke from Acts 14:8–18. As Alabama Baptists look to the future, Carwile said he hopes the focus stays on Jesus.
“If we stay focused on Him,” Carwile said, “He will continue to pour out His blessings upon our state, upon our convention, upon our associations and upon our local churches.”
- Cookie Baker, a member of First Baptist Church Glencoe, received this year’s Tommy Puckett Award for Excellence. The award is presented annually to someone who contributes both practically and strategically to Alabama DR efforts.
- Barbara Kay Edwards, a member of Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Deatsville, received the Missions Volunteer of the Year Award.
- Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, led by pastor George Wright, was recognized as the church with the highest giving through the Cooperative Program ($1,034,986.65).
- Midway Baptist Church, located in southeast Alabama and led by pastor David Stewart, was recognized as the church with the largest average gift per resident member given through the CP ($486.72).
- Mountain View Baptist Church in Cullman, led by pastor Dale Banks, was recognized for the largest percentage of undesignated receipts given through the CP (36.7%).
Messengers approved the following special offering goals for 2023:
- Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, $12 million.
- Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, $6 million.
- Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, $3 million.
- Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering, $1.2 million.
- Hunger Offering, $800,000.
Messengers passed seven resolutions, including a call for repeal of a state law legalizing medical marijuana and an appeal to legislators to continue to protect minor children from transgender treatments.
Officers for the Alabama Baptist State Convention for 2022–23 were elected without opposition Nov. 16.
Messengers reelected Buddy Champion, pastor of First Baptist Church Trussville, to serve a second term as president of the convention.
Morgan Bailey, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Ranburne, will serve a second term as first vice president.
Jarman Leatherwood, founding pastor of House of Hope and Restoration Church in Huntsville, will serve a second term as second vice president. Leatherwood also was announced as the convention preacher for 2023.
Leatherwood was part of a historic moment during the final session of the annual meeting. He became the first African American to gavel in and lead proceedings during an ABSC annual meeting.
Next year’s Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting will be held Nov. 14–15, 2023, at First Baptist Church Montgomery.
The 2023 Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference was held Nov. 13 in conjunction with the Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting. Find a recap of the Pastors Conference here.