DULUTH — A new era in Georgia Baptist missions begins at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31 as January ushers in 2016.
The first day of the New Year will witness the Georgia Baptist Mission Board being brought into existence, setting the course for more effective ministry, better use of personnel, and a greater commitment to reaching the state for Christ.
Messengers to the annual meeting held in November at Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta affirmed the reinvention of the 186-year-old Convention.
The Executive Committee of the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia was chartered in 1830 as the legal entity of Baptist churches throughout the state. While the name may have been slightly modified through the years, its newest moniker – Georgia Baptist Mission Board – harkens back to a precedent for the new name.
GBC Executive Director J. Robert White, in sharing the new direction with messengers at the Marietta gathering, noted that 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 that it has become.
Name has historic precedent
He then referred to page 27 of the May 15, 1919 issue of The Christian Index which reported “in 1879 a resolution was passed, changing the name from the State Mission Committee” to “The Board of Missions of the State of Georgia ….”
GBMB staff, who return from Christmas break on Jan. 4, will be commissioned in a special chapel service the following day. Mark Hearn, pastor of First Baptist Church of Duluth, will be the guest speaker.
While the 11 a.m. service will be closed to the public due to lack of seating, it will be streamed live. The event can be viewed by going to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board website at gabaptist.org and clicking on the commissioning link on the top upper right hand corner of the page.
The Board will begin the year with a 2016 budget of $40,600,000, a modest $200,000 increase over the current year’s budget and the first increase in six years.
Budget reflects 2% increase to CP
An important part of that budget will be a full two-percentage point increase in Cooperative Program gifts to Southern Baptist Convention ministries. The total giving to national ministries including designated funds is 53.95%.
A portion of the annual Cooperative Program budget includes funds allowed by the SBC to remain in the state. These funds, frequently referred to as “shared causes,” include the promotion of the Cooperative Program by state convention employees and media as well as the bookkeeping expense of collecting the funds, recording them, and sending one check each month to the SBC. That process, shouldered by state conventions, avoids individual churches sending thousands of checks each month to the SBC Executive Committee.
53.95% forwarded to SBC Executive Committee
GBC Executive Director J. Robert White reported that Georgia Baptists gave a total of $62,096,469 in mission gifts – including Cooperative Program and designated gifts such as Mission Georgia and the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon missions offerings throughout the Oct. 2014-Sept. 2015 church year. The state convention forwarded $33,498,449 (53.95%) to the SBC.
“We are so thankful for our churches who support missions in Georgia and around the world,” White said.
White noted 55% of the debt servicing line item, which was no longer needed due to the debt on the Missions Center being retired through a gift of the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation, was being added to the state’s Cooperative Program funds that are forwarded to the SBC.
Those new funds, which equal two percentage points, will result in an additional $429,493 to the International Mission Board, $194,171 to the North American Mission Board, $188,803 to the six seminaries, $25,475 to SBC operations, and $14,508 to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
New identity for GBC
The reinvention of the GBC could result in the eventual sale of the 10-year-old Baptist Missions and Mission Center on Sugarloaf Parkway whenever a suitable offer is received, with minimal staff relocated to a much smaller facility. The Board will slowly move toward field-based personnel and practitioners to save on overhead costs and bring state missionaries closer to the field.
For a more detailed description of the new Board visit the Index website and search for the Sept. 15, 2015 story.