Thursday
Dec042014

Baptist leaders hopeful of repeal of LGBT ordinance on Fayetteville ballot Dec. 9

FAYETTEVILLE (BP) – Southern Baptist leaders in northwest Arkansas are expressing hope voters will overturn a pro-homosexual/transgender ordinance Dec. 9, turning back a significant threat to religious liberty.

Residents of Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas, will go to the polls to vote on rescinding a measure that includes civil rights protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people. Fayetteville's City Council passed the ordinance in a 6-2 vote in August, but its foes collected enough signatures within a month to place its repeal on the ballot in a special election.

A Fayetteville pastor and the local Baptist director of missions conveyed to Baptist Press a measure of optimism as the vote nears. The local Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, has added its voice for repeal.

Douglas Falknor, pastor of First Baptist Church, said he is "cautiously optimistic" the ordinance will be repealed.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Nov262014

Arkansas, Mississippi same-sex marriage bans struck down by federal judge

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas and Mississippi became the latest states to have same-sex marriage bans overturned by federal judges Nov. 25, according to media reports.

However, their will be no rush the altar, as both orders are on hold so the states can consider appeals. Arkansas and Mississippi passed voter-approved constitutional amendments in 2004 that defined marriage between one man and one woman.

Click to read more … (via Reuters)

Thursday
Nov202014

Ark. Evangelism Conference Jan. 26-27

SHERWOOD – The 2015 State Conference on Evangelism and Church Growth will be held at First Baptist Church in Sherwood, Jan. 26-27.

The two-day event will start at 1 p.m., Jan. 26, and continue through noon, Jan. 27.

Featured speakers include Kevin Hamm, pastor of Gardendale First Baptist Church, Gardendale, Ala.; Tom Elliff, former president of the International Mission Board; Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.; Michael Catt, pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church, Albany, Ga.; Robert Smith, professor of Christian preaching, Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Ala.; Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn.; and Brent Crowe, vice president of Student Leadership University, Orlando, Fla.

Worship will be led by recording artist Charles Billingsley, worship leader at Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va.

For more information contact Karen West at 501-376-4791, ext. 5128, or email kwest@absc.org.

Thursday
Nov132014

Arkansas Baptists: ‘Every One Matters’

TEXARKANA – An estimated 1,000-plus Arkansas Baptist messengers and guests converged on Trinity Baptist Church in Texarkana Oct. 27-29 to conduct business, worship and hear inspiring sermons and entity reports during the 161st annual meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC), Pastors’ Conference and related meetings.

The 515 church messengers registered by the ABSC at the meeting represented every geographical region of the state. In 2013, the annual meeting held at Cross Church in Rogers attracted 591 messengers. This year’s annual meeting theme was Every One Matters.

The annual meeting has been held in Texarkana three times previously – in 1906, 1928 and 1946 – and all at Beech Street Baptist Church. Messengers attending the 1946 annual meeting numbered 499.

Archie Mason, pastor of Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, was re-elected to a second term as ABSC president; Doug Falknor, pastor of First Baptist Church, Fayetteville, was re-elected first vice president, and Gary Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church, Lowell, was re-elected second vice president. All three men ran unopposed.

Messengers approved five resolutions, including resolutions addressing religious liberty, statewide alcohol sales, transgender identity and Christian citizenship and civic participation (see related story, Page 13).

Greg Addison, associate executive director of the ABSC, led a portion of the Oct. 28 morning session that focused on Dixie Jackson State Missions impact stories. During this time, ABSC team leaders and members interviewed several Arkansas Baptists about the impact the Dixie Jackson offering has had on their ministries. Those interviewed were Jason Huffmaster, block party coordinator for Reynolds Baptist Church, Paragould; Tarvoris “Tee” Uzoigwe, Baptist Collegiate Ministry campus minister at the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff, and Mike Prince, pastor of The Garage Church, Hot Springs.

“We just want you to know that you can go back and tell your church family that God is using that Dixie Jackson State Missions Offering,” said Addison. “Thank you … for investing in the Dixie Jackson offering.”

Throughout the meeting, messengers took part in several prayer sessions focused on revival and spiritual awakening. In addition, they heard from a number of church planters about the work God is doing in their churches. There were also several Celebrate
Arkansas sessions highlighting
mission work in the state.

During the Oct. 28 afternoon session, Mason served as moderator for a panel discussion focused on leadership. Panelists were Manley Beasley Jr., pastor of Hot Springs Baptist Church, Hot Springs; Jeff Childers, pastor of Cord Baptist Church, Cord; Wes George, pastor of First Baptist Church, Rogers, and Chad Grigsby, pastor of Compass Church, Batesville. 

Also on Oct. 28, Mark Dance, new associate vice president for pastoral leadership at LifeWay Christian Resources and former senior pastor of Second Baptist Church, Conway, presented Mason and ABSC Executive Director J.D. “Sonny” Tucker with a Bible and a book by Bobby Bowden as a way of thanking the state convention for investing in him during his time in the state and for “being a friend of LifeWay.” 

Miscellaneous business

Ed Simpson, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Little Rock, moved that the 2014 Annual of the ABSC be dedicated in the memory of Fred Williams, who died in 2013.

Simpson described Williams as “a faithful member of Calvary Baptist Church, an outstanding deacon, a prayer warrior, a loyal supporter of our denomination and state convention (and) a wonderful father and parent.”

Williams was also a professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and co-author of “A System & Plan: Arkansas Baptist State Convention 1848-1998,” which was written for the convention’s 150th anniversary. 

The motion passed unanimously.

2015 ABSC budget

A Cooperative Program (CP) budget of $22 million for 2015 was approved by messengers, which is the same amount as 2014.

The budget includes $9,443,786 (42.93 percent) for Southern Baptist (SBC) causes and $12,336,214 (56.07 percent) for missions and ministries in Arkansas. Another $220,000 (1 percent) is designated as the “shared ministries” budget split between the ABSC and the SBC. 

SBC causes include the International Mission Board, $4,721,893 (21.46 percent); the North American Mission Board, $2,152,239 (9.78 percent); theological education, $2,092,743 (9.51 percent); Christian ethics and religious liberty ministries, $155,821 (.71 percent), and other facilitating ministries $301,201 (1.37 percent).

Arkansas missions and ministries include Executive Board programs, $6,390,700 (29.05 percent); pastoral scholarship fund, $170,572 (.78 percent); convention, $172,109 (.78 percent); church protection plan-GuideStone, $147,938 (.67 percent); Camp Siloam, $252,634 (1.15 percent); Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries, $581,659 (2.64 percent); Arkansas Baptist Foundation, $340,510 (1.55 percent); Arkansas Baptist News, $290,736 (1.32 percent); Ouachita Baptist University, $3,159,994 (14.36 percent), and Williams Baptist College $951,748 (4.33 percent).

The 2015 budget reflects the third year of the ABSC’s 2013-17 budget formula approved by messengers at the 2011 annual meeting. The formula increases the percentage of funds (total receipts) forwarded to the SBC, with budget surpluses being divided with the SBC (CP funds received above $22 million). The percentage increase for SBC causes is two-tenths of 1 percent each year during the five-year budget formula period. Additionally, the formula directs the convention to conduct a statewide emphasis every five years, encouraging churches to increase their Cooperative Program percentage.

Recommendations, other action

Messengers approved a recommendation from the ABSC Executive Board to amend the articles of incorporation of the Arkansas Baptist Assembly (Camp Siloam). Article IV, Section 1, previously called for the executive director-treasurer to also serve as the recording secretary. The recording secretary is now a separate officer on the board of directors.

The Executive Board also approved all 2015 ABSC team goals.

The convention’s Nominating Committee report was approved with no challenges and no discussion. The committee nominates people to serve on boards of ABSC entities and institutions.

Greg Sykes, pastor of First Baptist Church, Russellville, was elected president of the ABSC Executive Board. Tom McCone, minister of music at First Baptist Church, Greenwood, was elected first vice president.

The 2015 annual meeting will be held at Hot Springs Baptist Church in Hot Springs.

Thursday
Nov132014

Alcohol proposal fails, GOP sweeps offices

LITTLE ROCK – Nov. 4 marked midterm elections in various states across the United States, including Arkansas. Arkansans voted to uphold local control of alcohol sales and gradually raise the state’s minimum wage. Republican candidates swept nearly all offices up for election in the state.

PageLarry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council (AFEC), was a harsh critic of the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Initiative, Issue 4, on the ballot. Page argued that the initiative would stifle the voice of individuals living in Arkansas’ 37 dry counties. By forfeiting the right of local municipalities and communities to decide to allow or prohibit the sale of alcohol, Page argued Arkansans would unnecessarily lose their voice on the issue.

Page sent an email to subscribers and to AFEC supporters following the results of the Nov. 4 election.

“The vote was not close. By an overwhelming margin, we beat Issue #4, rejected statewide alcohol sales, and retained the important principle of local control,” wrote Page. “It is so gratifying to see what a difference for righteousness we can make when we come together and take decisive action on an issue.”

The other major issue on the ballot in Arkansas dealt with gradually raising the state’s minimum wage. According to published reports, Issue 5 passed and will raise Arkansas’ minimum wage from $6.25 to $7.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015, to $8 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016, and finally to $8.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017.

According to published reports, the other three issues passed. These were: Issue 1, to require legislative review to all changes in state agencies’ administrative rules; Issue 2, to allow more time to gather signatures for statewide initiatives or referendum petitions, if as originally filed they contained 75 percent of the necessary signatures, and Issue 3, to regulate campaign contributions to candidates for state and local office, bar some gifts from lobbyists to state officials, set certain state officials’ salaries and set term limits for members of the state’s General Assembly.

Republicans gained all six congressional seats and all seven statewide offices, including the office of governor. Much like other Southern states, Arkansas has traditionally been dominated by the Democratic Party. This year’s election continued a trend over the past few election cycles, which saw Arkansans supporting Republicans over Democrats, in many cases by large margins.

Janine Parry, director of the annual Arkansas Poll conducted by the University of Arkansas, told the Arkansas News Bureau (ANB), “It solidifies a pattern that we’ve been seeing since 2010. … We saw more victories in more branches at more levels than the state has since Reconstruction, and we’ve seen it for multiple elections. That is a realignment by definition.”

According to the ANB, Parry said that while it is difficult to know conclusively what role Arkansas’ dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama played in these shifts, the large “gains” Republicans have made since Obama took office put the party in a desirable position looking to the future.

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