MARIETTA — A brand new Georgia Baptist Convention reinvented for a new era in ministry was unveiled to messengers at the Tuesday morning session of the state convention. Messengers also approved a 2016 budget of $40,600,000, a modest $200,000 increase over the current year’s budget.
Messengers – which totaled 1,382 and counting – learned that on Jan. 1 the Convention would be renamed the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, a more descriptive name for what it actually does.
GBC Executive Director J. Robert White explained the current name does not sufficiently describe the agency’s focus – missions – and said the new name would position it closer to the missionary-sending entity which it has become.
Georgia Baptists serve statewide in missionary staff positions and are represented nationally and globally as volunteers. White said the name is not a totally new name, since it was first introduced to messengers in 1879 as “The Board of Missions of the State of Georgia.”
The change could result in the eventual sale of the Baptist Missions and Mission Center on Sugarloaf Parkway, whenever a suitable offer is received, with minimal staff relocated to a much small facility. The Convention will slowly moved toward field based personnel to save on overhead costs and bring state missionaries closer to the field.
For a more detailed report see the Sept. 15 issue of The Christian Index or visit www.christianindex.org and key in “Georgia Baptist Mission Board.”
Kelvin Cochran, the Atlanta Fire Chief who was terminated due to his personal statements on the gay lifestyle, gave messengers an update on his past year since losing his job and gaining national media attention.
Cochran, a member of Elizabeth Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta, spoke “just two weeks shy of my one-year termination” and spoke of the providence of God in meeting his family’s needs.
The Georgia Baptist reported that he has been called to preach, having delivered his first sermon on July 11, and has since gained employment at chief operating officer at his church, “providing a predictable income” for the first time in 12 months.
He then thanked those believers, like the Georgia Baptist Convention, who stood by him during the most difficult time in his life.
“There are Christians nationwide who have watched how you responded to my situation and have risen to support others in similar situations who have faced trying times for their faith.”
Messengers gave the soft-spoken former fireman a standing ovation for this unyielding stand on biblical values.
White, with GBC Public Affairs Committee Representative Mike Griffin standing nearby, awarded two elected officials the Legislator of the Year Award for their contributions on pending religious freedom legislation. It was the first time such an award was given.
Receiving the awards were Sen. Josh McKoon and Rep. Sam Teasley. Cochran was also recognized for his stance for biblical truth, which cost him his job.
Messengers then granted the Georgia Baptist African-American Fellowship a seat on the Executive Committee, the first for an ethnic group. Jean Ward, president of the Fellowship, told The Index that the historic moment moved the denomination toward a more inclusive membership and opened the door for other ethnic fellowships to follow in the future.
An interview with Ward will posted after the Convention ends.
Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, AR, brought the morning message.
“The Number 1 need for spiritual awakening to occur in Georgia is prayer,” he said.
He noted the lostness of Georgia with 10 million residents – of which 7 million are considered lost – and two-thirds of all 322 million Americans without faith in Christ.
“A great awakening was always proceeded by a powerful movement of prayer among God’s people,” he affirmed.
“Satan has really done number on us, convincing us that it is more about what clothes we wear or what songs we sing on Sunday than about seeking the power of God.
“How much do you want the power of God in your life,” he concluded.
Shortly after the session ended messengers learned that 28,306 backpacks for children in Appalachia had been collected statewide in the past few weeks, with several thousand arriving at the Convention meeting on Monday and Tuesday. The record number surpasses this year’s goal of 25,000, with the likelihood that the total will increase slightly in the coming days as backpacks continue to arrive at collection points statewide.