Virginia Baptists set new missions course
May 17 2002 by Robert Dilday and Robert O'Brien , Associated Baptist Press

Virginia Baptists set new missions course | Friday, May 17, 2002

Friday, May 17, 2002

Virginia Baptists set new missions course

By Robert Dilday and Robert O'Brien Associated Baptist Press

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Virginia Baptists overwhelmingly endorsed a new missions vision May 10 at a called meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) that drew more than 2,500 messengers and visitors to First Baptist Church in Charlottesville.

Executive Director John Upton, who introduced the plan called "Kingdom Advance" about a month earlier, said it would prepare the BGAV to minister more effectively in the 21st century while offering "a seat at the table" for its diverse 1,440 affiliated congregations.

The vote authorizes an ad hoc committee to draw up recommendations to implement the plan. Messengers will consider those recommendations at the BGAV's regular annual meeting, scheduled Nov. 8-9 in Virginia Beach.

A separate motion also approved at the five-hour Charlottesville meeting authorized the Alma Hunt Offering for Virginia Missions to include allocations for Kingdom Advance, if the BGAV opts to tap the offering for funds.

Upton has estimated that about $1 million annually in new money is needed to fund Kingdom Advance. The BGAV budget committee will consider - and recommend to the BGAV - how to finance the plan.

Fewer than 100 messengers voted against the Alma Hunt offering expansion, according to estimates by observers. About two dozen voted against Kingdom Advance entirely.

The unusual called meeting tallied the largest attendance of any BGAV meeting since 1994, when about 3,375 met in Salem. Preliminary figures indicate 2,452 messengers registered at the called meeting, along with 110 visitors. About 385 congregations were represented.

The new plan calls for funding and administering several categories of mission workers in Virginia, the United States and around the world. It would also focus on church planting and revitalization, identifying and developing leaders for the next generation and helping pastors and churches to minister effectively.

But details are still developing, said Upton, who presented the vision to messengers in Charlottesville.

"There is no program or structure yet," he said. "This is a process, not a program. You are invited in at the beginning of the process. ... Everything you say will be video taped and written down and will be taken into consideration. You are at the front end of this piece."

Upton said he has already talked with hundreds of church leaders and laypersons about the plan. He said he plans to continue to travel across the state for more discussion. "I hope to have talked to one thousand pastors by the end of the year," he said.

Upton said Kingdom Advance comes at a time when the state population is outstripping Christian growth, when there is a growing crisis in church leadership development and when ministries are opening up all around the world.

It envisions a flexible approach to missions that would avoid competing with other Baptist bodies, such as the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) International and North American mission boards, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or the Baptist World Alliance.

Instead, it would expand current cooperation with these and other entities and open up opportunities for Virginia Baptists to partner with other Baptists around the world. Upton and other leaders have insisted they will not launch an effort to lead Virginia Baptists out of the SBC or undercut the SBC's Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong missions offerings.

"BGAV local churches will decide, in the Baptist way, what they will support. We will offer options and opportunities to all of them who wish to participate," Upton said.

During his discussions across Virginia, Upton said he got three consistent questions: (1) Can you give us something bigger than us to excite our church? (2) Is there a place for us at the table? (3) Is there any way to lift ourselves out of this denominational controversy and get on with the gospel and ministry of Jesus Christ?

"Kingdom Advance says, 'Yes' to all three questions," he said.

Although approved overwhelmingly, critics of the plan predicted it would be doctrinally lax and loosen ties to the SBC.

"Today is a sad day for the Southern Baptist Convention and many Virginia Baptists," said Rick Sadler, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Charlottesville. "What we have is not 'Kingdom Advance' but a kingdom divided."

Upton replied that his prayer is that history books would one day record that "Baptists divided became Baptists united" because of the historic vote. Messengers responded with a standing ovation.

"We all may disagree about some things," Upton said, "but we are going to find things we can agree on and get on with the main thing - the gospel and ministry of Jesus Christ."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Robert Dilday is associate editor of the Religious Herald. Robert O'Brien writes for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.)

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5/17/2002 12:00:00 AM by Robert Dilday and Robert O'Brien , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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