ST. LOUIS–The National Fellowship of Hispanic Southern Baptist Churches has amended its constitution and bylaws to embrace the current version of the Baptist Faith & Message as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention.

The action was among several constitutional changes adopted by participants during the fellowship’s annual meeting June 8-9 at Fee Fee Baptist Church in St. Louis. The Hispanic Fellowship meets prior to the SBC annual meeting.

The group’s constitution committee proposed substituting the words “2000 Baptist Faith & Message” for “1963 Baptist Faith & Message” in the constitution’s section on doctrine.

However, Raul Vazquez, director of language missions for the Florida Baptist Convention, offered an amendment to delete reference to any year, meaning the fellowship would embrace the Baptist Faith & Message as adopted by the SBC.

Vazquez’s amendment was adopted with little opposition, as was the amended recommendation on the constitutional change.

“What has been approved is that we submit to the Baptist Faith & Message that is approved by the Southern Baptist Convention regardless” of any year, explained Herberto Becerra, pastor of First Hispanic Baptist Church of Plantation, Fla., and outgoing president of the group.

Two Texans were among those arguing for and against the constitutional change.

John Silva, a regional church starter for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, spoke against the change, arguing that adopting the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message as the fellowship’s doctrinal statement would exclude some people.

Although overwhelmingly adopted by messengers to the 2000 SBC annual meeting, the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message has been controversial in some state conventions, associations and local churches because of its language on Scripture, Jesus, the priesthood of the believer, the autonomy of the local church, the family and the role of women. The BGCT, for example, has rejected the 2000 faith statement in favor of retaining the 1963 Baptist Faith & Message.

Silva’s viewpoint was countered by David Galvan, a Dallas-area pastor whose church has left the BGCT to affiliate with the new Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Galvan also is a trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a former second vice president of the SBC.

Since missionaries of the SBC International Mission Board and North American Mission Board have been asked to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, it would be appropriate for the Hispanic Fellowship to adopt it as well, he said.

In other business, the Hispanic Fellowship elected new officers: President Augusto Valverde, pastor of Resurrection Baptist Church in Miami; First Vice President Moises Rodriguez, pastor of Primera Bautista Iglesia of Fort Worth, Texas; Second Vice President Richard Vara, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Edgewater, Colo.; Secretary Samuel Gonzales, a NAMB church starter in Missouri; Treasurer Andres Panasiuk, a member of Blackshear Place Baptist Church of Gainesville, Ga.; and Executive Secretary Julio Fuentes, minister of education at Northside Baptist Church in Hialeah, Fla.

In an address to the group, outgoing President Becerra said he has seen many changes in his four-year term of office, the most important being strengthened ties between the Hispanic Fellowship and the SBC.

“The organization has been able to get visibility among the churches and convention leaders,” Becerra said. “This is the first time that the state convention leaders and the SBC agency staff members are noticing the fact that evangelism is happening in the Hispanic churches.”

The SBC “looks to this group as a unifying force to focus on evangelism and church planting,” Becerra said. “We … are committed to being strong supporters of the SBC’s evangelistic and church planting goals.”

Written by Mark Wingfield based on personal interviews and on reporting by Baptist Press reporter Joni Hannigan, who worked with translators Eliseo Aldape and Julio Fuentes.

Share This