BGCT elects diverse officers

WACO, Texas (BP) -- Texas Baptists elected what a news release called "the most diverse officer panel in the 129-year history" of the Baptist General Convention of Texas during their annual meeting Nov. 16-18 at the Waco Convention Center.

The 1,240 messengers also adopted a resolution vowing "to genuinely love and respect all people regardless of religious, political, or cultural perspectives they may hold" and to treat others in a manner that "will reflect that love and respect."

Elected as the convention's 2014-15 officers were: president, Kathy Hillman, a member of Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Waco and director of Baptist collections at Baylor University; first vice president, René Maciel, president of the Baptist University of the Américas in San Antonio; second vice president, Bedilu Yirga, pastor of Ethiopian Evangelical Baptist Church in Garland; secretary of the BGCT corporation, Bernie Spooner, a member of Plymouth Park Baptist Church in Irving and a retired BGCT employee; and registration secretary, Doug Powell, minister of education at First Baptist Church in Garland.

Hillman is the second woman to be elected BGCT president, and Yirga is the first Ethiopian to be elected as an officer.

Ron Lyles, chair of the BGCT Executive Board, reported that the board's Ad Hoc Building Committee accepted an offer from Baylor University to purchase the Baptist building in Dallas, with the transaction expected to be complete in January 2015. The board assisted Baptist University of the Américas by purchasing the BUA campus for $4.173 million by paying off two notes. The board recommended that Texas Baptists enter into a special agreement with the Christian Education Activities Corporation.

Two motions were presented from the convention floor, both by Ed Jackson, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Garland. The first motion recommended that the Evangelism Committee of the Executive Board study the feasibility of an annual statewide Evangelism and Missions Conference starting in 2017. The motion was approved by messengers. The second motion called for a study of remote voting in multiple locations during BGCT annual meetings and was declined by the messengers.

Executive Director David Hardage reported on the commitment of BGCT staff to serve Texas Baptists and said BGCT churches must give equal emphasis to the Great Commandment of Matthew 22 and the Great Commission of Matthew 28.

"We love Texas Baptists, and we are here to serve you," Hardage said of the BGCT staff. But he added, "It's not really about you ... It's about them. It's about that 45 percent [of Texas residents] out there who don't know the God you know, who don't have a personal relationship with Jesus like you have."

Jill Larsen, BGCT treasurer and CFO, reported that at the end of 2013, the assets of the convention were $141.5 million, an increase of $14 million from 2012.

Messengers adopted a 2015 Texas budget of $35 million to fund state-level ministries with $37,784,297 in anticipated revenue, down 6.4 percent from 2014 revenue. The anticipated revenue includes $32.4 million in cooperative giving from Texas churches, $2.6 million in investment income, $300,000 from the North American Mission Board and about $2.5 million from other sources.

As in previous years, the convention will allow each church to designate what percentage of its gifts will be used for BGCT ministries and what percentage will be forwarded to one of three worldwide partners: the Southern Baptist Convention, BGCT Worldwide and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The convention recommends that congregations designate 79 percent of their cooperative gifts for BGCT ministries and 21 percent for a worldwide partner, but the 79-21 split is not mandatory.

Larsen told Baptist Press that the 2015 budget anticipates a significant number of churches choosing to direct approximately $11.2 million to the SBC, while other churches will direct about $1 million to the CBF. Anticipated figures for BGCT Worldwide were not given but are projected to be less than last year's $1.8 million.

Messengers adopted resolutions expressing appreciation to their hosts; expressing appreciation to convention officers and staff; and vowing to love others, make disciples and pursue justice.

To conclude the final business session, Hardage participated in a mock Bible Drill with several local drillers.

Next year's annual meeting will be Nov. 8-12 in Frisco.

Compiled from reports posted at the Baptist General Convention of Texas website,, and information provided by the BGCT.
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