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February-March 2021

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news about the denomination

The following news items apply to (or affect) the Free Will Baptist denomination scattered across the nation and around the world.To read more about Free Will Baptists and the various departments that make up the national organization, visit

Read a brief history of Free Will Baptists in the United States.


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Leadership Conference Focused on "Refreshing" Struggling Churches


Antioch, TN—The 2020 Free Will Baptist Leadership Conference returned to Nashville Airport Marriott December 7-8 for an in-person meeting, carefully socially distanced according to local COVID requirements. Pastors, church leaders, and denominational leaders from 22 states gathered to explore the important theme “Refresh,” with a strong emphasis on church health and renewal.
Monday and Tuesday evening sessions were highlighted by encouraging messages from Dr. Thom Rainer, founder and CEO of, an online community and forum for church leaders. During the two sessions, the prolific author and former CEO of LifeWay shared strategies for reviving the church in a COVID and post-COVID culture.


Rainer challenged churches to create a new “scorecard” for church health centered around conversion, small group attendance, and congregational ministry involvement. “COVID is not just a crisis but an opportunity to reset, to rethink, to reimagine,” Rainer told listeners. “Following COVID, we’re all church planters, and we have an opportunity to make the necessary positive changes to move our churches forward.”


On Tuesday, 16 speakers presented a full day of training seminars and workshops on a broad range of topics essential to building and maintaining a healthy church. Topics ranged from “Creating a Strong Social Media Strategy” and “Best Practices for Better Boards” to “Faith and Science” and “Recruiting Volunteers.” Recordings will be released in the coming weeks on the Better Together Podcast.

The two-day conference provided more than training, however. Attendees also renewed friendships during banquet-styled meals. Tables limited to four people allowed for deeper-than-usual interaction, and often conversations continued long after the meal concluded. Louisville (KY) church planter Rodney Brazil expressed his thankfulness for the meeting: “This was a most encouraging conference for these very discouraging days of COVID.”

A number of national boards and committees also met in conjunction with the conference, including Board of Retirement; the Executive Committee; Free Will Baptist Foundation; IM, Inc; and North American Ministries. Other boards met online, including Welch College and the 2020-21 Nominating Committee.

Reflecting on the meeting, Executive Secretary Eddie Moody noted, “It was a great conference! We were so glad to welcome Thom Rainer. He is one of the leading voices regarding church health, and we encourage all Free Will Baptists, especially those unable to attend this year’s meeting, to make plans to attend the conference December 5-6, 2021, when Dr. Rainer will return as keynote speaker. We look forward to an event where registration won’t be limited by social distancing.”
Coming information regarding the 2021 conference can be found at



Commission for Theological Integrity Hosts Virtual Symposium


Antioch, TN—The Theological Symposium usually meets at either Welch College or Randall University. However, with the challenges associated with traveling and gathering amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission hosted a virtual event. Rather than presenting before an in-person audience, presenters spoke before a virtual audience and fielded questions from online participants. Hundreds of viewers participated in the event.


Although the 2020 symposium did not focus on a particular theme, a majority of the presentations engaged Reformed Arminian and General Baptist historical, systematic, spiritual, and ethical theology. Commission Secretary Kevin Hester remarked, “It was encouraging to see so many Free Will Baptists energized and engaged in investigating important theological questions from our past and present as we seek to build God’s Kingdom moving into the future.”

Presentations included:

  • Ben Campbell, “The Role of Spirituality in Sermon Preparation and Delivery”

  • Matthew Steven Bracey, “Exploring the Influence of Helwys’s Religious Liberty Ethic on the English Toleration Act and First Amendment”

  • Jeffrey Cockrell, “Paul’s Telos in Romans 10:4: Understanding the Unity of Jews and Gentiles”

  • J. Matthew Pinson, “Jacobus Arminius and the Diversity of Reformed Theology Prior to the Synod of Dort”

  • Matthew Honeycutt, “Does Arminianism Lead to Legalism?”

  • Jesse F. Owens, “Matthew Caffyn, Thomas Monck, and English General Baptist Creedalism”

  • Christopher Talbot, “A Free Will (Baptist) Defense: Reformed.”

© 2021 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists