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A Promise Fulfilled

The 2009 Free Will Baptist convention lives up to expectations.

When the National Association of Free Will Baptists returned to Cincinnati on July 19-22, 2009, after a 12-year absence, the meeting held great promise. Like 1997, delegates filled downtown hotel rooms, laughed and swapped stories in the hallways, overflowed the exhibit hall in the Duke Energy Center, shouted amens through the services, and sat through almost nine hours of business.

The denomination returned to Cincinnati with a vision to reach the world and the courage to adopt a $25 million denominational budget during the worst recession in nearly a century. They adopted resolutions, elected 35 board and commission members, and honored the pioneers who put Free Will Baptists on the global map.


National Association of Free Will Baptists


After four days of powerful preaching, heart-stirring music, passionate business discussions, and renewed fellowship, nearly 6,000 attendees left Cincinnati knowing that the convention lived up to expectations.

Powerful Preaching

Free Will Baptists from across the nation arrived in Cincinnati ready to hear great preaching, and they were not disappointed. Ohioans Bob Bouts and Mark Price kicked things off Sunday morning as they tag-teamed their way through Sunday School and morning worship. Bouts, an adult Sunday School teacher at Porter FWB Church, set the stage for his pastor’s message to follow. Price, moderator of the Ohio State Association and a member of the FWB Foundation Board, spoke from 1 John 2:25, on “The Promise of Eternal Life.”

Soft-spoken Jeff Sloan took the stage Sunday evening, and the Oklahoman’s words hit with the authority of a 16-pound sledge hammer as he spoke from 1 Corinthians 10:13 about “The Promise of God’s Faithfulness.” The former Home Missions church planter chairs the Pastoral Ministries Department at Hillsdale FWB College (OK).

Church historian Paul Harrison manned the pulpit Monday evening. The Tennessee pastor delivered a timely message from 2 Corinthians 12, in which he examined “The Promise of Sufficient Grace.” Harrison, adjunct professor at FWB Bible College and editor of Integrity: A Journal of Christian Thought, reminded listeners that God’s grace is most evident during times of great weakness.

Fiery preacher Henry Horne drew thunderous response Tuesday night when he unlocked “The Promise of His Coming,” found in 2 Peter 3. The North Carolina pastor urged listeners to live in light of Christ’s imminent return despite the skeptical nature of the surrounding culture.

On Wednesday, veteran pastor and evangelist Fred Warner spoke from Acts 1, “The Promise of His Power.” His passionate call to evangelism seemed natural from the man who once served as promotional director for FWB Foreign Missions. The altars filled, and the meeting ended in the best way possible—with Free Will Baptists on their knees.

Services throughout the week featured enthusiastic congregational singing and rousing special music from the Convention Choir and Orchestra, directed by Convention Music Coordinator Chris Truett. Numerous talented individuals, families, and groups lent their voices to the music and led the congregation into worship.

In addition to evening services, convention attendees enjoyed the annual Tuesday morning Preaching Conference featuring pastors Steve Berry (FL) and Ken Simpson (MO) and a variety of workshops, seminars, and resource demonstrations.

Serious Business

When Moderator Tim York’s gavel landed on the podium, delegates picked up their copies of Digest of Reports and took care of business.

Marathon Monday

The General Board met for seven hours and heard reports from 13 national boards and commissions. By 2:45 p.m. Monday, when Moderator Tim York declared the meeting adjourned, board members had voted to recommend a $25 million denominational budget and passed along three motions to the convention business session. One motion suggested penalties for hotel room cancellations, another requested the FWBBC Board of Trustees to present a clear plan for getting college audits to delegates in a timely manner, and the third recommended that the Executive Committee study the need for all national boards to present current audits.

A fourth motion recommending that the Home Missions Board meet with the Illinois Home Missions Board to discuss the recent dismissal of a home missionary was defeated. The moderator appointed four national committees—Credentials, Nominating, Resolutions, and Obituary.

Tabled Until Tuesday

The lengthy Tuesday business session resulted in a Treatise change regarding election of officers (tabled during the 2008 convention), approval of a motion authorizing convention hotels to place a non-refundable charge of one room night on individual credit cards (effective June 1, 2010); notice of an ongoing study that may result in future conventions meeting in select cities that best fit the convention.


National Association of Free Will Baptists


The day ended with an earnest 30-minute discussion following the Randall House Publications report, centered on the use of pollster George Barna as a speaker during the September 2009 D6 Conference sponsored by Randall House. Seven people spoke after Charles Cook (NC) read a lengthy statement questioning the wisdom of allowing Barna to speak. Randall House Board Chairman Tim Owen and General Director Ron Hunter explained the rationale for including Barna as a resource for family-related statistics before delegates voted to approve the Randall House report.

In additional business, delegates heard national agency reports from the Executive Office and Randall House.

Executive Office

Executive Secretary Keith Burden indicated that the Executive Office remained in solid financial footing but cautioned that future conventions must address greater funding needs. He praised first-year convention manager Ryan Lewis and the other members of his staff for their work.

“My job as your servant,” Burden said, “is to provide stability, leadership, and focus.” He announced plans to move the annual Leadership Conference to the Nashville’s Airport Marriott Hotel in December.

Randall House

“What we’re doing now [church methods] is not working,” General Director Ron Hunter said during his opening remarks. “It’s time to return to Scripture, to powerful preaching, and to solid small-group teaching.” He introduced a number of new resources in both electronic and print format that Randall House hopes will reconnect the local church with the home and parents with children.

The agency reported a $61,000 profit in 2008, and Randall House won 11 Awards of Excellence from the printing industry. The purchase of a digital press allows the agency to personalize curriculum for local churches, print books on demand, and print state papers at a reasonable cost. Hunter also introduced a new book by the late Jonathan Thigpen titled Teaching Students, Not Lessons.

Winding Down on Wednesday

International Missions

International Missions revealed extensive plans to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the department at the 2010 convention in Oklahoma City. Into the Darkness, a 196-page coffee table-style book is being prepared for distribution. A number of pre-convention events will be observed in conjunction with the triennial meeting of the International Fellowship of Free Will Baptist Churches when the organization meets in Oklahoma.

The department has plans for a walk-through museum at the convention featuring artifacts from the Mission’s history. In addition, missionaries and international leaders from around the world will be flown to Oklahoma City to participate in the celebration.


Riggs Family

Photo: Family members of the late Raymond Riggs listen intently as the missions pioneer is remembered for his life's work.

General Director James Forlines announced that Free Will Baptist missionaries are in place for the first time in creative access countries such as Muslim North Africa and Buddhist Southeast Asia. His report to delegates included a tribute to Raymond Riggs, the agency’s first full-time director who died in April 2009. International outreach now includes 1,081 churches and mission works with an average attendance of 37,851.

Free Will Baptist Bible College

President Matt Pinson indicated that plans are moving forward to relocate the college to Gallatin, Tennessee. A Nashville real estate development firm is working with officials to sell the current campus. Forty-one donors have pledged $2.1 million to pay for the Gallatin property while another $1 million in gifts-in-kind has been committed.

The college introduced a five percent salary reduction for all personnel in 2009, and instituted a new accounting procedure for pension liabilities. Since the college was unable to provide an audit for the first time in 67 years, the Board of Trustees presented a statement to delegates indicating that the audit would be completed by December 15, 2009, and mailed to denominational leaders. The audit will also be placed online for viewing. Several questions arose regarding a $200,000 real estate loan made by the college to a member of its Board of Trustees.

Home Missions

The Home Missions Department reacted to the financially challenging year by downsizing but reported no deficit missionary accounts. General Director Larry Powell reported three new church planters appointed (Canada, New York, Colorado) and three mission churches that have achieved self-supporting status (Tennessee, Texas, Colorado). Church planters now serve in 65 cities, and 14 Hispanic churches have been established across the U.S.

Outgoing board members Loyd Locklear (MI) and Jim Puckett (OK) were honored for their work—Locklear for 12 years of service and Puckett for 18 years. Powell explained to delegates that heritage trips sponsored by the agency were funded through interest earned by endowments, not by the North America Missions Offering gifts. The Church Extension Load Fund (CELF) reached $35 million in 2008 and is used to fund construction of new churches.

Historical Commission

The Historical Commission distributed copies of their third pamphlet in the Heritage Series, Free Will Baptists and Church Government, written by Matt Pinson. The Commission plans to distribute a fourth pamphlet during the 2010 national convention, Free Will Baptists and the Priesthood of the Believer, by Kevin Hester.

The first three pamphlets have been translated into French; the first pamphlet (feet washing) has been translated into Portuguese.

Commission for Theological Integrity

The Commission for Theological Integrity sponsored a convention seminar featuring Robert Picirilli speaking on the subject, “Is the Gift of Tongues for Today?” The 12th annual Theological Symposium met at FWB Bible College in October 2008; the 13th Symposium will meet October 19-20, 2009, at Hillsdale FWB College.

The Commission published the fourth issue of Integrity: A Journal of Christian Thought, and has a joint book project with Randall House Publication featuring a volume edited by Matt Pinson.

Music Commission

The Music Commission conducted three seminars during the 2009 convention featuring James Stevens and Monte McKenzie, in addition to the Wednesday afternoon Music Ministry Summit focusing on networking and ideas for music and worship in the early church. The agency also planned the music for the national convention.

The Media Commission

The Media Commission adopted a new motto: “Providing Tools for Excellence in Media.” The group re-launched its website as an interactive, blog-style site which also publishes short, informative articles. In an effort to pool media knowledge among Free Will Baptists, the commission surveyed 200 people during the 2008 convention.

Master’s Men
General Director Ken Akers pointed out that the purpose of Master’s Men is to encourage and equip men in local churches and beyond. Sports events—such as golf and softball tournaments—rallies, retreats, and work projects brought men together in 2008. In addition, the department sponsored projects in New Hampshire and Russia, and partnered with Home Missions in a Pennsylvania outreach project. Tom Harmon (IL) was named “Man of the Year” by the department.

Board of Retirement

“We believe we are coming out of the present crisis,” General Director Ray Lewis told delegates regarding the recent economic upheaval that resulted in the agency reporting a 32% ($10 million) loss in 2008. He reminded listeners that over the life of the plan, the agency has averaged a 7.5% annual increase.
The department marked 40 years of service to the denomination on June 30, 2009. Assets the first year (1969) were $11,707. In 2008, they topped $34 million. Seventy-four individuals joined the retirement plan last year, bringing the total number of participants to 2,394.
This year’s achievements include changing from semi-annual to monthly allocations of earnings and losses, and launching an interactive website. Outgoing board members William Ferguson (MI) and Jim Lowe (OH) were recognized for their service.

FWB Foundation
The FWB Foundation reported assets of $35 million in 2008, a period Director David Brown called challenging. The endowment pool reported a 22% loss, and planned gift assets suffered a 25-30% loss.
The agency cut spending by $20,000 in 2009, cut the 2010 budget by seven percent, and froze all salaries. Director Brown reminded attendees that the Foundation is like an olive tree—planted for the next generation to enjoy.

2009 Convention Overview


Board members - 42
Licensed ministers - 29
Local church delegates - 9
Ordained deacons - 117
Ordained ministers - 599
State Delegates - 72
NAFWB Attendees - 3,111
WNAC - 776
NYC - 4,186
Total Attendees 5,664*
*Many attendees register for more than one convention.

2009 Budgets

Executive Office - $740,111
FWB Bible College - $5,457,425
FWB Foundation - $431,112
Home Missions - $5,000,000
Int’l Missions - $8,500,000
Master’s Men - $155,417
Retirement - $460,000
Randall House - $4,664,800
Commission for Theological Integrity - $4,100
Historical Commission - $2,715
Media Commission - $3,000
Music Commission - $5,215
Total $25,423,895


Sunday Morning, July 19
Sunday School: Bob Bouts (OH)
Sunday Morning, July 19
Mark Price (OH)
Sunday Evening, July 19
Jeff Sloan (OK)
Monday Evening, July 20
Paul Harrison (TN)
Tuesday Morning, July 21
Pastors/Laymen Conference
Steve Berry (FL)
Ken Simpson (MO)
Tuesday Evening, July 21
Henry Horne (NC)
Wednesday Evening, July 22
Fred Warner (AR)

Elected in 2009
Randall House Board
2010 Joe Wilson (TN)
Executive Committee
2012 Mike Wade (OK)
             Glen Johnson (VA)
             Keith Woody (TX)
General Board
2010        Florida: Donnie Hussey
2012        North Carolina: Billy Keith
               Northeast District: Jim Nason
               Northwest District: Brent Nix
               Ohio: Mike Stokes
               Oklahoma: Mike Wade
               South Carolina: Todd Smith
               Tennessee: Glenn Poston
               Texas: Keith Woody
               Virginia: Glen Johnson
               West Virginia: Luther Morgan
Board of Retirement
2015       Jack Daniel (GA)
              Rick Dement (MO)
              Mark Ousley (TN)
Home Missions
2015       Earl Hanna (SC)
              Ron Parker (LA)
               Tim Stout (OH)
Master’s Men
2015       Eddie Hodges (TN)
              Johnny Fowlkes (AR)
              Rick Stone (KY)
FWB Foundation
2015       Len Blanchard (GA)
              Rick Locklear (MI)
              Phil Whitaker (AR)
Commission for Theological Integrity
2014        Steve Ashby (OK)
Historical Commission
2014        Robert Picirilli (TN)
Media Commission
2014        Keith Fletcher (TN)
Music Commission
2014        Daron Dwyer (NC)

General Officers
Moderator: Tim York (TN)
Assistant Moderator: William Smith (GA)
Clerk: Randy Bryant (FL)
Assistant Clerk: Ernie Lewis (IL)


Convention News, Sunday, July 19

Convention News, Monday, July 20

Convention News, Tuesday, July 21

Convention News, Wednesday, July 22



©2009 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists