Arkansas Baptists address gender, sex abuse, politics
Messengers approved resolutions affirming God's design on gender, marriage, sexuality and personal identity; opposing pornography, sexual abuse, legalized casinos and recreational marijuana, and reaffirming a commitment to scriptural integrity in political engagement.
Themed Fulfill Your Call, the meeting recorded fewer than 500 registered messengers for the first time in 40 years. Officials with the ABSC reported 465 registered messengers, representing 199 churches across the state. In 2016, when the annual meeting was last held in Little Rock at Immanuel Baptist Church, 543 messengers attended. In 2005, the last year the meeting was held at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church, 939 messengers attended.
Greg Sykes, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Russellville, presided over the meeting ending a second term as president.
Manley Beasley, Jr., senior pastor of Hot Springs Baptist Church in Hot Springs, is the newly elected president. Other officers are first vice president Ken Shaddox, senior pastor of Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock, and second vice president Jamar Andrews, lead pastor of Word Baptist Church in Jonesboro.
Messengers approved a 2020 budget of $21 million, with 45.42 percent going to national Southern Baptist missions and causes.
ABSC Executive Board (EB) teams and ministries shared reports including testimonies about God's work throughout Arkansas, the nation and world, along with ABSC agencies and institutions.
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and former senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, was guest preacher.
Based on Colossians 4, Floyd said that a "spirit of willingness should always captivate and dominate the heart of the Christ-follower."
"To the oldest of you in this room, you still need to say to God, 'Here am I, send me.' To the most discouraged of you in this room, you still need to say to God, 'Here am I, send me,'" Floyd said. "What I am saying to you today is this, 'Always be willing to go anywhere, at any time, to go any place that God wants you to go to. Always be willing.'"
Floyd told messengers to never forget that the greatest need that we have is for God to bring about the "next great spiritual awakening." He encouraged Arkansas Baptists to seek the Lord, reach the lost and impact the future.
Floyd also encouraged pastors to devote an entire Sunday morning service to prayer. "There is no great movement of God that has ever occurred that is not first proceeded by the extraordinary prayer of God's people," Floyd said.
ABSC executive director J.D. "Sonny" Tucker, Sykes and Andrews also preached.
Worship times were led by Robert Ramsey, worship pastor of First Baptist Church, Russellville; the Ouachita Baptist University worship team, and Jon Skelley, worship pastor of the host church.
Don Moore, state prayer ambassador and former ABSC executive director; Tucker and Sykes led attendees in periods of focused prayer.
In a resolution on Gender, Marriage, Sexuality, and Personal Identity, messengers affirmed "God's good design for persons' gender identity based on biological sex at birth" and God's model for marriage and family. The resolution exhorts Christians not to "label themselves" in a way that would affirm sinful desires or unbiblical social constructs.
Messengers also extended love and compassion to those struggling with gender identity and invited all transgender persons to trust in Christ. Messengers called on Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction to forsake "any self-conception or personal identity that is contrary to God's good and holy purposes."
Messengers further affirmed that God provides pardon and power so that Christians can "subdue sinful desires and walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel."
A resolution on sexual abuse condemned "all forms of sexual abuse as sinful," compelled churches and institutions to strengthen their cultures to care for victims, and encouraged churches and church leaders to cooperate with organizations that serve the abused and to call on government officials to "strengthen laws to achieve justice and protection for the vulnerable."
Pastors and ministers representing various ministries from across Arkansas participated in a commissioning service.
Exhibits from numerous ABSC teams, agencies and institutions, as well as several SBC affiliates, were set up in the church gymnasium, and a church hosted a block party. Disaster relief volunteers hosted a complimentary lunch. Other activities included an ABSC Pastors' Conference.
The 2020 annual meeting will be held Oct. 20-21 at First Baptist Church, Rogers.