MEETING IN THE MOUNTAINS
72nd Annual Free Will Baptist Convention Meets in Charleston, WV
SEVENTEEN YEARS AFTER what many consider “the greatest national convention,” Free Will Baptists returned to Charleston, West Virginia, to see if God would do it again. The same genuine warmth and enthusiasm met Free Will Baptists at the door as nearly 6,000 delegates ignored $4 per gallon gas prices to meet deep in the Appalachian Mountains.
While the holy fire still glowed during worship services like it did in 1991, times had changed in other areas. The five-day convention now crowded into four; the $11 million 1991 convention budget zoomed to almost $26 million; and a growing convention filled every available space in the city beside the river.
The 2008 convention started with a bang as volunteers from Alabama, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Indiana, Alabama, and West Virginia arrived in the Greater Charleston area a day early to participate in Impact West Virginia. The annual outreach event gives convention attendees an opportunity to give back to the host city.
In spite of sizzling temperatures, excited volunteers participated in door-to-door evangelism, hosted a children’s festival, renovated a church, and shared their enthusiasm with churches across the area. “I can’t tell you how excited we are that you have come to help us today,” host Dan Kelly told volunteers at the Chesapeake FWB Church, located 20 minutes south of Charleston. “I can’t wait to see what God does!”
The excitement carried over into convention worship services where soul-stirring congregational singing, powerful preaching, and rousing special numbers left their mark on attendees.
Sunday morning, after a Sunday School lesson taught by Jim Hutchison (WV), Ivan Asbury, former home missionary and West Virginia pastor, spoke from 1 Corinthians on “Walking by Faith.”
Following a cordial welcome from Charleston Mayor Danny Jones (pictured, left), the Sunday evening service was punctuated by spirited music featuring the McCorkle FWB Church choir (WV). Their music brought the congregation to its feet. West Virginia native and Assistant Moderator of the National Association William Smith spoke on, “Preparing the Way.”
Monday evening, West Virginia native Jim Christian (currently pastoring in Florida) examined the topic, “Walking in the Truth.”
The sermon was preceded by a song service that featured the old hymn favorite, “Amazing Grace,” and other traditional songs of faith. As one attendee remarked, “The music selections seemed tailored for Jim’s message.”
Dr. Stanley Outlaw reminded the congregation to “Walk Carefully and Walk Circumspectly” during his sermon Tuesday evening following special music by the Temple Quartet.
The exciting services reached their climax during Wednesday evening’s annual missions service. Missionaries, both home and international, were introduced during a flag-studded walk across the convention stage. New missionaries from both agencies shared in a commissioning service before Moderator Tim York (TN) addressed the theme, “Walking as Children of Light.”
Throughout the week, Chris Truett, convention music coordinator, produced an inspiring program that featured a mass choir with more than 100 voices, an orchestral ensemble, and a vocal accompaniment group. Every service featured rousing specials and enthusiastic congregational singing.
Dr. Troy Bush addressed the 2008 Missions Rally on Monday. According to International Missions Director James Forlines, “Bush presents a compelling and practical message to motivate attendees to lead their local churches in reaching their neighbors with the love of Christ.”
The director of church starting for Embrace Baltimore, a project planting more than 20 new churches in the city, Dr. Bush has taught in seminaries and colleges across the United States as well as Eastern Europe.
Well-known pastor and author Dr. Bobby Welch spoke at Tuesday morning’s Pastors/Laymen Conference. A veteran of nearly 40 years in ministry, Dr. Welch co-founded F.A.I.T.H. Evangelism, the Sunday School-based outreach program that now extends to 14 countries, with materials published in four languages.
On Monday morning, the focus of the convention turned to business as the General Board (pictured below) set a record by blazing through eight department reports, two commission reports, and a final greeting from retiring WNAC Executive Secretary Treasurer Majorie Workman in just under five hours.
In addition to recommending agency budgets to convention delegates, the General Board recommended Little Rock, Arkansas, for the 2018 convention, recommended a proposed funding plan by the International Missions Department, and recommended that an overhaul of the “Election of Officers” section of the Free Will Baptist Treatise be tabled until 2009.
Business continued Tuesday afternoon when Moderator Tim York kicked off the 2008 convention business session with a brief devotional on the mind of Christ, the method of Christ, and the ministry of Christ.
Two and a half hours later, delegates had elected 20 board and commission members, adopted a Treatise change clarifying the meaning of marriage, tabled another Treatise change recommending that the nominating process be revisited in 2009, voted to meet in Little Rock (Arkansas) for the 2018 convention, and heard reports from four national agencies and two commissions.
Executive Secretary Keith Burden announced the hiring of Ryan Lewis, 25-year-old FWBBC graduate, who will join the Executive Office staff August 4, as executive administrator. Initially, Lewis will serve as a convention planner. Later, he will assume duties with the annual Leadership Conference, manage www.fwbpastor.com, assist with Disaster Response Team efforts, work with the Palmer Leadership Institute, and represent the Executive Office at denominational events.
The Executive Office is debt-free after “an incredible turnaround financially.” ONE Magazine, the denomination’s official publication added 6,100 subscribers in the past year, surpassing 60,000 readers.
Beginning this fall, the Executive Office plans to initiate the Palmer Leadership Institute, a program to provide resources for pastors and state leaders.
Gene Norris, General Board member from Michigan, was honored for serving four consecutive terms on the Executive Committee.
Master’s Men announced a new website at www.FWBMastersmen.org and a new logo. Director Ken Akers thanked delegates for a record Father’s Day offering. The department added 10 chapters this year as it celebrated 51 years of operation.
The department sponsored three work projects this year. They assisted a Home Missions church with landscaping (AK), roofed and shored up the historic Ridge Church (NH), and constructed a storage barn for a mission church (AR).
Board of Retirement
Director Ray Lewis paid tribute to Herman Hersey who founded the Board of Retirement in 1969 (and the FWB Foundation in 1980), calling him a visionary, a preacher, and a musician. Reverend Hersey died January 24, 2008.
The agency added 116 enrollees this year. The retirement plan now has 1,543 participants, including 1,054 ordained ministers. Twenty-four percent of Free Will Baptist churches now contribute to their pastor’s retirement, up from 13% just two years ago. The department reported assets of $43 million with an expense ratio below 1%.
Lewis explained that the 18.75% reported loss in returns for the first six months of 2008 resulted from a combination of current economic declines. He encouraged members to stick with their investments and ride out the dip in earnings.
Director David Brown also saluted the ministry of Herman Hersey who launched the department in 1980.
The department reported assets up $5.3 million to almost $40 million, citing large increases in permanent assets such as endowments (up $1.7 million) and planned gifts (up $500,000). More than $400,000 was generated for various Free Will Baptist ministries in 2007, and the agency is in contact with six families who have made commitments of $7 million in planned gifts.
The commission and Randall House are collaborating on a book project. Matt Pinson serves as project editor. The book will address current issues: postmodernism, terrorism, pop-culture theology, homosexuality/gay marriage, pornography, authority of Scripture, and more. This fourth volume of Integrity: A Journal of Christian Thought will be available later this year.
The commission sponsored a seminar in Charleston titled, “The Problem with the Big Bang Theory.” Bob Hill, a Free Will Baptist professor who teaches at Ball State University, led the seminar.
The Historical Commission presented the third in a series of historical pamphlets, Free Will Baptists and Church Government. The 16-page booklet was written by Matt Pinson.
Plans were announced to present the fourth historical pamphlet to delegates during the 2009 convention—Free Will Baptists and the Priesthood of the Believer.
Delegates were informed of a 2008 publication on the history of Free Baptists in Nova Scotia, The Early Years of Barrington’s Free Baptists. The book includes materials from several authors and presents the story of the rise of Free Baptists in Southwestern Nova Scotia in the late 1700s, to the formation of the Nova Scotia Free Baptist Conference in 1866. To order the volume, contact Michael Christie at: email@example.com or (902) 885-2691.
Photo: Milton and Melvin Worthington listen to business reports.
WEDNESDAY TO REMEMBER
Delegates by the hundreds showed up Wednesday morning, filling the Civic Center floor seating section. By noon, they had heard and approved three department reports, given two standing ovations, elected six board members, and settled in for an expected long debate—then the lunch gavel fell.
Director Larry Powell reported that home missionaries made more than 300,000 contacts last year. Six mission projects were launched in 2007 (New York, Michigan, Alabama, Virginia, Colorado, and Hawaii), and five new church planters were appointed. Cross-cultural outreach among Hispanics, Korean, Russian, and Native American groups flourish in North America
Free Will Baptists have invested $28 million with CELF, a loan fund to assist Home Mission churches. From 58 Hispanic graduates at the Gwen Hendrix Seminary in South Carolina to military chaplains in the armed forces, the department continues to impact the world. Three Home Missions churches became self-supporting this year.
Free Will Baptist Bible College
President Matt Pinson announced that FWBBC expects to close on a contract by mid-August to purchase a 66-acre site for a new campus in the Middle Tennessee area. The land is located 25 miles from the college’s current campus.
After a downturn in enrollment for the first time in six years, officials reported a 25% increase in studentapplications for the fall 2008 semester. The college will roll out a fully accredited online A.S. degree in Ministry this fall. An expanding academic program now includes degrees in biology education and pre-law studies to assist students who plan to enter the field of law.
Retired FWBBC employees Ralph and Margaret Hampton received a standing ovation for their service at thecollege. Ralph taught 50 years in the Biblical and Ministry Studies Department, and Margaret served 37 years as library manager.
Board members Gene Outland (IL) and Archie Ratliff (NC) received plaques in recognition of 12 years on the Board of Trustees.
Randall House plans to spend $500,000 in the next two years to promote D6—a program to involve parents in the spiritual growth and development of their children. A D6 conference in 2009 will feature a list of nationally acclaimed speakers. Director Ron Hunter said he expects 3,000-4,000 attendees at the conference.
Randall House won eight awards for excellence in the printing industry this year. The agency reported curriculum sales up 155% since 2001 and wants to develop a stronger relationship with state bookstores. Plans to upgrade product lines are underway. The department gave back more than $72,000 to the denomination.
Board members Nuel Brown (CA) and David Reece (TN) received plaques for 12 years of service.
“The Mission’s highest priority is to change the funding system,” reported General Director James Forlines to 2008 delegates, and asked the convention to endorse a sweeping financial plan to restructure agency funding.
Delegates debated the merits of the new plan of support from more than an hour, as 20 individuals stepped to the microphone expressing support or opposition. The spirit of the debate was brotherly and refreshing. Sharp dissension registered alongside ringing endorsements.
James Forlines and board chairman Danny Williams fielded questions from the floor as the 80-minute debate unfolded. When discussion ceased, delegates approved the new funding system by a vote of 375 to 58.
The vote was the culmination of 25 regional meetings between mission personnel and 600 pastors and leaders over the past two years. The program will go into effect January 1, 2010. The centerpiece of the new system will be a Global Evangelism Fund that pays all costs for keeping missionaries on their fields.
The agency report included a series of personal recognitions. Board members David Williford and Bill Van Winkle received plaques for 12 years of service. Retiring missionaries Jerry and Carol Pinkerton received a thunderous standing ovation as the longest-serving missionaries in Ivory Coast.
Former director Eugene Waddell, who died in 2007, was honored; his widow was presented an engraved Bible and a folded Christian flag, and learned that the “Eugene and Genevieve Scholarship Fund” will provide educational funds for all missionary children beginning in 2010.
Delegates heard brief reports from the Music and Media Commissions before giving a standing vote of appreciation to West Virginia for hosting the 2008 convention. The business meeting adjourned at 4:05 p.m. to meet in 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The theme for the 2009 convention will be “God’s Great and Precious Promises.”
2008 CONVENTION AT-A-GLANCE
Board members - 41
Licensed ministers - 34
Local church delegates - 15
Ordained deacons - 143
Ordained ministers - 652
State Delegates - 71
NAFWB Attendees - 2,336
WNAC - 892
NYC - 3,970
Total Registered 8,186
Actual Count - 5,741*
* Many attendees register for more than one convention.
Executive Office - $735,674
FWB Bible College - $6,432,800
FWB Foundation - $463,198
Home Missions - $5,000,000
Int’l Missions - $8,184,538
Master’s Men - $155,400
Retirement - $545,000
Randall House - $4,446,900
Commission for Theological Integrity - $4,120
Historical Commission - $4,100
Media Commission - $3,600
Music Commission - $5,615
Sunday Morning, July 20
Sunday School: Jim Hutchison (WV)
Sunday Morning, July 20
Ivan Asbury (WV)
Sunday Evening, July 20
William Smith (GA)
Monday Afternoon, July 21
Troy Bush (MD)
Monday Evening, July 21
Jim Christian (FL)
Tuesday Morning, July 22
Bobby Welch (FL)
Tuesday Evening, July 22
Stanley Outlaw (TN)
Wednesday Evening, July 23
Tim York (TN)
ELECTED IN 2008
FWB Bible College Board of Trustees
2014 Bob Bass (TN)
Rusty Russell (NC)
Richard Hendrix (AL)
International Missions Board
2014 Jeff Manning, (NC)
Paul Creech (GA)
Robert Morgan (TN)
Randall House Publications Board
2014 Steve Lindsay (TN)
Danny Dwyer (NC)
Randy Scott (AR)
Commission for Theological Integrity
2013 Matt Pinson (TN)
2013 David Crowe (TN)
2010 Travis Penn (IL)
2013 Mark Ousley (TN)
2013 James Stevens (TN)
2009 Brent Nix (NW District)
2010 George Harvey (AZ)
2011 Chris Clay (IN)
Jim Martin (IA)
Zane Brooks (KS)
Chris Sturgill (KY)
Bud Bivens (Mexico Association)
Gene Norris (MI)
Wayne Hale (Mid-Atlantic)
J.L. Gore (MS)
Gary Fry (MO)
William Brown (NJ)
Mark Shores (NM)
Chad Kivette (CO)
Moderator Tim York (TN)
Assistant Moderator William Smith (GA)
Clerk Randy Bryant (FL)
Assistant Clerk Ernie Lewis (IL)