Calif. Baptists weigh Focus 21 recommendations
Highlighting the California Southern Baptist Convention theme, "United: Every ethné, for Christ," the meeting featured three congregations involved in reaching an ethnic group other than their own:
-- Chinese Baptist Church of Orange County in Anaheim, which is involved in ministry on the Pala Indian Reservation near San Diego. The church also reaches Hispanics.
-- First Southern Baptist Church of Parksdale in Madera, in a community that transitioned 20 years ago from primarily Anglo to Hispanic. The Parksdale church started a Hispanic ministry and in 1997 gave the property to the Hispanic congregation, Iglesia Bautista Nueva Esperanza, which continues to serve the Madera community.
-- Fellowship Church of Burbank, a mostly Anglo congregation, which hosts six primarily ethnic congregations in its facilities weekly, including Afghani, African American, Arabic, Armenian, Hispanic and Korean. Sunday services begin at 10 a.m., are staggered throughout the day and conclude at 7:30 p.m. The Burbank congregation also is helping sponsor four church starts in the San Fernando Valley Baptist Association in northern Los Angeles County.
The CSBC Executive Board reported on the Focus 21 Task Force recommendations referred to the board in 2011 for implementation. The task force was appointed in 2010 and charged with discerning how California Southern Baptists could "most efficiently and effectively focus ... efforts for the glory of God in fulfilling the Great Commission."
Don Fugate, chairman of the CSBC Executive Board and pastor of Foxworthy Baptist Church in San Jose, said the board considered the recommendations and reported on four of the seven. He noted the remaining three recommendations would be studied and reported to the 2013 annual meeting.
About the task force's "clarifying cooperative churches" recommendation, Fugate said the convention will report only cooperating churches, which is currently defined in the CSBC constitution as those "in sympathy with the purpose of this Convention" and have contributed to the Cooperative Program and are in agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention.
Nearly 2,200 churches identify themselves as members of CSBC; however, as of Sept. 12 when the board's report was adopted, the number of churches meeting the definition of "cooperating" stood at 1,108.
Also reported to the convention was the recommendation dealing with "communicating more effectively." Fugate noted the avenues already in place and the new technologies being engaged by the CSBC communications group. He said the group would continue looking at ways to communicate and the Executive Board would seek to prioritize resources for communications initiatives.
He said the board was recommending a change in the CSBC Executive Board bylaws in relation to the "planning for the future" recommendation which addresses the process of electing an executive director. The CSBC Executive Board will consider the issue at its January 2013 meeting.
A task force recommendation from the board that messengers did consider was "enlarging California's influence," which dealt primarily with California Baptist University seeking a larger trustee board and a larger number of "global trustees" defined as members of Southern Baptist churches in the United States or churches cooperating with their respective Baptist conventions outside the U.S.
The recommendation called for an increase in the number of trustees from 36 to 40 and an increase in the number of global trustees from eight to 12 and added wording to the global trustee definition to allow "members of evangelical churches of like faith and order in California or worldwide."
Several messengers questioned the definition of "evangelical churches of like faith and order" while others questioned who would arbitrate such matters. However, other messengers affirmed the university for its growth from 1,200 students in 1995 to just over 6,000 in 2012 and said the trustees would be properly vetted by the university and the CSBC Committee on Board Nominations before being brought to the convention in annual session for election.
A voice vote was too close to call and a ballot vote was taken. Messengers defeated the motion by a margin of 53-47 percent of the ballots cast.
Another recommendation dealing with "enlarging California's influence" allowing the university to solicit direct funding from churches was approved without discussion.
The Executive Board will bring recommendations to the 2013 annual meeting addressing Focus 21 recommendations to "prioritize church planting," "prioritize global responsibilities" and "denominational overlap."
The church planting suggestion calls on changing or eliminating programs so that 25 percent of the CSBC Cooperative Program budget can be spent directly on funding church planters in California.
The global responsibilities suggestion calls for the state convention to move to a "50/50 split" of CP funds between the state and national convention within five years.
In other business, messengers approved a 2013 operating budget of $10,819,487 million, just $46,927 less than in 2012. The budget includes an anticipated $6.8 million in Cooperative Program giving from member churches, an increase of $360,000, or 5.6 percent, over the current year.
The CSBC increased its CP giving to the Southern Baptist Convention by 12.5 percent, earmarking $2,210,000, an increase of $245,800 over the 2012 allocation. The allocation represents 32.5 percent of the CSBC budget, a 2 point boost from the current year. The budget does not include any preferred/shared CSBC-SBC items in its allocations.
Messengers approved a motion to waive the 50/50 allocation of the CSBC challenge budget (in excess of the CP objective) in years when a distribution to the SBC Executive Committee would be made using accumulated surplus funds.
Messengers defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed churches to elect messengers based on CP giving rather than church membership. The amendment was modeled after the SBC constitution that allows the election of messengers based on either membership or the amount of money "paid to the work of the Convention."
A number of constitutional and bylaws amendments related to officers of the convention were adopted this year and in essence did away with the position of second vice president and gave the convention's planning committee the responsibility of appointing the music director for the annual meeting.
Garnering 78 percent of the vote, Mike Nolen, pastor of Southwinds Church in Tracy, was elected president for 2013 over Port Wilburn, pastor of Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship in San Pablo. Nolen replaces Steve Davidson, pastor of the host congregation who was ineligible to run having served two one-year terms, the maximum allowed by the CSBC constitution.
D.D. Alexander, pastor of Holy Tabernacle of God Baptist Church in Los Angeles, topped Daniel Cassels, pastor of Life Way Fellowship in Santa Maria, for vice president with 69 percent of the votes cast.
Roger Byrd, a member of Woodward Park Baptist Church in Fresno, was appointed music director. Byrd serves as CSBC music and worship specialist. Beth Downy, the executive assistant to Fermin A. Whittaker, CSBC executive director, was elected recording secretary.
Messenger count for the annual meeting totaled 400. The 2013 annual meeting is scheduled for Oct. 22-23 at Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon.
Terry Barone is editor of the California Southern Baptist (www.csbc.com/csb), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention.