JONESBORO, Ark. – Arkansas Baptists gathered in Jonesboro Oct. 24-25 for the 170th Annual Meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) at Walnut Street Baptist Church.
The theme for this year’s annual meeting, “Such as I Have” was taken from Acts 3:6, “Then Peter said, silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (KJV)
Several items of business were conducted such as the election of Convention officers and ABSC team, agency and institution reports. The Convention sermon was delivered by Rob Davis, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Harrison. Messengers also heard the Gospel shared by ABSC Executive Director Dr. Rex Horne, Brooklyn Tabernacle Pastor Jim Cymbala and then ABSC President Larry D. White.
Lewter elected as president
Messengers at the 2023 Annual Meeting elected Fort Smith pastor Brad Lewter to serve as president of the ABSC.
Lewter is replacing White, pastor at Woodland Heights Baptist Church, who has served the previous two years.
In addition to Lewter, messengers elected Laramie LeQuieu, pastor of Harvest Baptist Church in Paragould, as first vice president and Wade Totty, associational missionary of Liberty Baptist Association, as second vice president.
Messengers give initial approval of amendments to Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws of ABSC
Messengers at the annual meeting gave initial approval of a recommendation from the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws Committee amending and restating the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of the ABSC.
The proposed changes were presented at this year’s annual meeting and will be presented a second time at the 2024 annual meeting for a final vote.
One of the changes, in Article III Section 1 of the Articles of Incorporation, further defines “cooperating Baptist church” to include financial support of the Cooperative Program.
Additionally, in Article I Section 1 of the Bylaws the ABSC treasurer is now separated from executive director and established as a stand-alone officer position.
“What we’ve done is tried to create some clarity so that both the Articles and the Bylaws read consistently together. We’ve removed redundancies and duplication to bring clarity and consistency to our governing documents,” Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws Committee Chairman Jay Shell told messengers on Tuesday afternoon.
“We feel like this is a meaningful step forward for Arkansas Baptists, something that has needed to be tended to for some time,” Arkansas Baptist Foundation President/CEO Bobby Thomas said Tuesday. Thomas served as an advisor to the committee.
“The role that I play is to look out for what’s best for the entire Arkansas Baptist State Convention and that is what this committee is trying to do with the Articles and Bylaws,” Executive Director Rex Horne said during Tuesday’s session.
SARRT encourages implementation of strategies to protect against sexual abuse
Protecting those vulnerable from sexual abuse is a top priority for the ABSC.
During the 2023 Annual Meeting, the ABSC Sexual Abuse Response and Resource Team (SARRT) Chairperson Christa Neal, who serves as Title IX coordinator for Ouachita Baptist University and program advisor for the Community and Family Services academic program, gave a brief update and encouraged Arkansas Baptist churches to implement strategies to protect, report abuse and assist those in need.
“We want to be prepared to prevent abuse, to help you all respond appropriately, and to actively love those impacted by the evil of abuse,” Neal said.
At the 2021 Annual Meeting, the messengers unanimously voted to approve the formation of a Sexual Abuse Task Force purposed with the task of ensuring the policies and procedures of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention are above reproach in handling sexual abuse allegations.
In the Sexual Abuse Task Force’s report to the 169thsession of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention meeting in October 2022, the task force recommended that the ABSC president form a standing Sexual Abuse Response and Resource Team annually.
SARRT had its first meeting March 13, 2023. Members included Neal; Christi McQueen, First Baptist Church in Hope; Megan McFerron, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church; Aaron Chastain, Cornerstone Church in Fort Smith; and Josh King, Second Baptist Church in Conway.
“Please join us in prayer and action. Together, we can shine light into darkness and help victim survivors draw closer to God through their healing,” Neal said.
A Prepare and Protect Training is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2023, at the ABSC building in Little Rock.