An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

July 3 — Moderator Jack Glasgow, pastor of Zebulon Baptist Church in Zebulon, North Carolina, presided over a smooth business meeting Friday morning. The budget report, nominating committee report, and strategic goals were all adopted with no discussion or visible opposition.

Hal Bass, a professor at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. is moderator for 2010. Christy McMillin-Goodwin, associate minister for education and missions at Oakland Baptist in Rock Hill, SC was elected as moderator-elect, to serve in 2011.

Coordinator Daniel Vestal’s annual address focused on things that he believes hold CBF together. Vestal said Fellowship members share a common vision, common values, a love of freedom, congregational connections, participation in God’s mission to the world, and the providential grace of God.

CBF’s budget for 2009-2010, presented in a morning business session July 2, calls for $16.1 million, $400,000 less than the previous year’s budget. Due to a 20 percent shortfall in income during the first eight months of the fiscal year, CBF has been operating on a contingency plan of 80 percent of budgeted spending since March. Officials said spending would continue at 80 percent of the newly approved budget through fiscal 2010 unless income improves.

Registration for the 2009 meeting was at 1,637 persons as of Friday evening, compared to a total of 2,050 at last year’s meeting in Memphis. Holding the meeting on a holiday weekend, as predicted, had a negative impact on attendance. Registration should be considerably higher next year, as the meeting will be held in Charlotte, NC, on a more traditional date: June 24-25.

Host state Texas registered 780 participants. North Carolina had the second highest number at 194, and Georgia had 146 persons present (these numbers update and correct a couple of incorrect figures in an earlier post).

In a speech delivered at a dinner for Associated Baptist Press, Baptist historian Bill Leonard noted that the conservative reshaping of the Southern Baptist Convention began 30 years ago in the same city, when Adrian Rogers was elected president of the SBC at the 1979 Houston meeting. Leonard noted changes in Baptist life since that time, including the fragmentation of Baptists and numerical decline even among Southern Baptists, a decline that will become more precipitous in coming years.

As the number of Baptists decreases, and as younger Baptists feel less and less connection with denominational entities, the outlook for Baptists could diminish considerably by 2050. “If Baptist identity to be carried beyond mid-century,” Leonard said, “it must be reformulated – immediately.”

Baptists must decide if they want to continue the dissenting position of their ancestors, at the risk of being outsiders, or whether they want to be in the cultural mainstream, Leonard said. Baptist pioneers of the 17th century invented religious pluralism, he said, and current Baptists should understand and say what that means: it’s not syncretism or tolerance, but a belief that everyone has a voice that grows from their own conscience.

Leonard discussed the challenges of postmodernism and the importance of building connectionalism through new technologies and media. In the end, however, he said Baptists in America are now compelled to learn what Baptists worldwide have known for four centuries – how to live into and out of a minority position, learning to rediscover a witness in society from the minority, even if it does not prevail.

Worship on Thursday evening featured lively music from the Missouri City Baptist Church Mass Choir and was led by younger speakers who offered theme interpretations in support of the annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Offering for Religious Liberty and Human Rights.

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