With “Wake Up!” as their theme, messengers to the annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention approved a report from their Sexual Abuse Task Force, honored their retiring executive, and elected a Columbia pastor as president-elect.
Gathering at Riverland Hills Baptist Church in Irmo, Nov. 14-15, the 703 registered messengers also adopted a $26.5 million budget and approved eight resolutions. President Wayne Bray, pastor of First Baptist Church of Simpsonville/Upstate Church, presided over the sessions.
Willie McLaurin, interim president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, kicked off the meeting by challenging South Carolina Baptists to move “outside these walls” and embrace the church’s calling to “take the gospel to the nations and the neighborhoods.”
Observing that from Acts 1 to Acts 28 the church is witnessing, McLaurin said, “They understood the power of what it meant to get outside the walls of the church.” He said, “Every church and every believer is called, commanded and commissioned to move beyond the walls of the church.”
SEXUAL ABUSE TASK FORCE
D.J. Horton, chairman of the state Sexual Abuse Task Force, told messengers, “Our commitment to the Word and to the gospel means we need to emulate our Savior. Our Savior loved the vulnerable. This is a subject about protecting the vulnerable.”
Noting that many in the room carried the title of pastor, which comes from a Latin word for “shepherd,” Horton, pastor of Church at the Mill in Moore, said the task force wanted every shepherd, every ministry leader, to ask, “What can my church do more faithfully to protect every child, every sister in the Lord, and every person with a special need?”
The nine-member task force recommended creating a convention staff position for someone trained in trauma-informed care who would provide support, equip, and be a point of contact for pastors and churches in dealing with suspected or witnessed abuse. They proposed a broader definition of sexual abuse and challenged pastors, churches, associations and the state convention to further resource the handling and prevention of sexual abuse.
The task force also requested a resolution calling for strengthening and clarifying laws that remove any legal barriers which prevent pastors or churches from disclosing certain information regarding sexual abuse to future employers.
The report included some best practices for prevention, monitoring and response of churches to sexual abuse, and a list of additional resource materials.
Messengers approved the task force staying in place until next year’s annual meeting to monitor and assist in the implementation of the SCBC’s response. Kathy Robinson, strategy director at First Baptist Church, Simpsonville/Upstate Church, was named co-chair.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS
Wes Church, pastor of First Baptist Church of Columbia, was elected by unanimous consent as president-elect of the state convention. He was nominated by Tim Williams, pastor of Roebuck Baptist Church, where Church had attended prior to accepting a call into the ministry. Church is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and Liberty University.
In nominating Church, Williams highlighted his great heart for the Lord, for God’s Word, and for the church, missions, evangelism, and discipleship. “Wes is a godly man, a tremendous leader. Yet one of the things that stands out to me is his humility,” Williams said. “I can say with confidence that if we elect Wes Church, … we will be doing a great service to our churches and to our convention.”
Also elected by acclamation to serve as officers were Ryan Goodroe, pastor of Utica Baptist Church, as vice president; and Brian Sherwood, pastor of First Baptist Church of Darlington, as registration secretary.
Albert Allen, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Newberry, will preside at next year’s annual meeting, which will be held at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, Nov. 13-14.
EXECUTIVE’S FINAL REPORT
In his last address as South Carolina Baptists’ executive director-treasurer, Gary Hollingsworth urged them to think about why the mission matters.
Hollingsworth suggested three main reasons: 1) because lost people will spend eternity separated from God in hell; 2) because the gospel is still Good News; and 3) because the church is still God’s plan for fulfilling the Great Commission.
“We can focus on, we can fret over the challenges, … or we can embrace those opportunities for new, fresh and creative ways to share the hope of the gospel,” he said. “Good news brings hope, and people need hope now more than ever,” he added, in urging God’s people to continue to blaze new trails for the gospel.
During Monday evening’s session, Hollingsworth was recognized with several resolutions of appreciation from Southern Baptist and South Carolina Baptist leaders and the state Senate. He also was presented the E.A. McDowell Award, recognizing individual service in politics, government and community affairs, by the SCBC’s Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee.
Messengers approved a Cooperative Program budget of $26.5 million for 2023. The budget does not reflect an increase from the preceding year.
Of the total, the budget designates 25.16 percent, or $6,669,545, for international missions; 20.34 percent, or $5,387,955, for national missions, and 54.5 percent, or $14,442,500, for in-state missions and ministry partners.
In addition to the two resolutions proposed by the Sexual Abuse Task Force and expressing appreciation for their retiring executive director’s service and to the host church, messengers adopted resolutions on:
• Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Baptist Campus Ministries in South Carolina.
• Supporting Christian Higher Education and its three Baptist universities — Anderson, Charleston Southern and North Greenville.
• Rejecting the use of preferred gender pronouns.
• Encouraging passing laws to protect minors by prohibiting transgender surgery, puberty blockers, and cross-hormone therapies.
(Full text of the resolutions may be found online at www.baptistcourier.com.)