BAKERSFIELD — With the theme, “Until It’s Finished,” California Southern Baptists celebrated 75 years of ministry in the Golden State, adopted a budget with an increased percentage to the Southern Baptist Convention and re-elected Randy Bennett as president.
The California Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, held Oct. 27-28 at Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, was dotted with historical references to the beginning of the Convention at First Southern Baptist Church in Shafter in 1940. The Tuesday evening session celebrated the anniversary with an 11-minute historical documentary followed by vignettes from CSBC agencies — California Baptist Foundation, California Baptist University and Jenness Park.
The CBU choir and orchestra traveled from Riverside to present a pre-session concert for messengers and guests, while Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, challenged California Southern Baptists to look to the future along with celebrating the past.
Each year the California Baptist Historical Society presents the Heritage Award to those who have provided “rare and dedicated service” to the Convention. This year’s awards, presented during the Tuesday night anniversary celebration, were given to Robert Rooks and Sid Peterson, longtime pastors who also served in a variety denominational roles. The two joined more than 70 who have received the Heritage Award since its inception in 1982.
Messengers at the annual meeting approved a 2016 CSBC budget of $15.9 million, which includes a Cooperative Program objective of $6.8 million. The total budget is an increase of $29,485, or .2 percent, over the 2015 spending plan.
The new budget includes a half-percent increase for the Executive Committee, bringing its portion to 34 percent, or $2,312,000, if the goal for 2016 is achieved. The CP objective also allocates 5 percent for California Baptist University, 1 percent for California Baptist Foundation and 60 percent, or $4,080,000, to CSBC ministries for church starting, missions/discipleship and promoting healthy congregations.
- Randy Bennett, director of missions for Kern County Southern Baptist Association and a member of Daybreak Baptist Church in Bakersfield, was re-elected as president. He was challenged by Joe Slunaker, associate pastor of Hemet Valley Baptist Church in Hemet and an adjunct professor at CBU. Bennett received 223 votes, with 63 for Slunaker.
- Abel Galvan, family life minister at First Southern Baptist Church in Anaheim, and Bob Gallina, pastor of Green Hills Baptist Church in La Habra, were nominated as vice president. Galvan was elected with 152 votes over Gallina’s 137.
- Mark Nunn, minister of music at First Baptist Church in Grass Valley, was elected music director for the 2016 annual meeting, scheduled for Russian Baptist Church in West Sacramento.
Others bringing sermons at the convention were Fermín A. Whittaker, CSBC executive director; Roger Spradlin, co-pastor of the host church; and Bennett.
Messengers and guests also heard from Peteris Sprogis, bishop of the Union of the Baptist Churches in Latvia, with which the Convention recently began a partnership. He encouraged the Californians to join Latvian Baptists in a “church planting movement.”
Worship leader for the 75th anniversary gathering was Hector Jimenez, who recently resigned as minister of music at the host church to become an assistant professor of music at CBU.
During a business session, messengers addressed a motion referral from 2014 directing the committee on resolutions, credentials and membership to propose a “clear and open review process” for congregations wanting to affiliate with CSBC. Committee chairman Alan Littlejohn, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Desert Hot Springs, presented recommendations for the application process and the application itself.
Discussion centered on information being posted on the Internet, and the role of the local association in CSBC membership. A few voiced objections to posting personal information online about churches or staff.
David Wilson, pastor of Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Redondo Beach, said, “I’m trying to understand some of this. Normally (churches) affiliate through the association.”
Littlejohn responded, “We’re not trying to circumvent the process at all. A lot of times churches don’t come through associations. Several churches have come (directly) to the state convention to associate. The affiliation process at various associations is by no means the same.”
He noted the committee’s preference is for churches to affiliate with an association, but pointed to Baptist polity whereby associations, state conventions and the national convention all are autonomous and a church can choose which entity or entities with which to affiliate.
The intent of the recommendations was for CSBC to get “a process in place,” Littlejohn explained.
Messengers approved three resolutions: one thanking the host church for its hospitality, and another for Sherri Bridges, who served the Convention for more than 30 years before her death Nov. 10 from complications of pancreatic cancer. She was 58. The third resolution called for “Christians to avoid lawsuits,” referring to Christians or Christian entities suing other Christians or Christian entities. The resolution, which passed with no discussion, called for those involved in lawsuits to “pursue Christian mediation and/or arbitration” and asked the CSBC staff to develop “a systematic way for referring individuals and entities to Christian mediators and/or arbitrators.”
The 75th anniversary meeting drew 427 messengers and 188 guests.