By Robert Dilday
The Baptist General Association of Virginia elected a new president Nov. 11 in a voting process which featured two candidates for the first time in 15 years, during an annual meeting which also included adoption of a reduced budget for 2016 and approval of resolutions on sexual orientation and same-sex marriage.
About 550 messengers, meeting at Second Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., also approved a “partnership mission covenant” with the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., the second such agreement with an educational institution outside of Virginia.
Nancy Stanton McDaniel, pastor of Rhoadesville Baptist Church near Fredericksburg, Va., was elected president 460-123 in a contest with Brad Hoffmann, pastor of Cool Spring Baptist Church in suburban Richmond.
McDaniel had been serving as the BGAV’s first vice president. Since 2000, serving BGAV first vice presidents have been nominated — and invariably elected — as the organization’s president. The practice, not required by bylaws, was established to enhance the experience of BGAV presidents, whose terms are restricted to one year and are not renewable.
During those 15 years, the process was widely accepted and only one person was nominated for president each year. That changed this fall with the nomination of Hoffmann, whose church is among the top five financial contributors to the BGAV. He has publicly expressed concern about what he perceived as a decline in BGAV effectiveness, which he said could be reversed with “transformational leaders.”
McDaniel’s election is consistent with a more than 50-year-old practice of rotating the BGAV presidency between ministers and laypersons — another well-established tradition that isn’t required by bylaws. She succeeds Ann Brown, a mission activist who is a member of First Baptist Church in Gretna, Va.
Elected without opposition were Stu Crow, a retired businessman and member of First Baptist Church in Waynesboro, Va., for first vice president, and Adam Tyler, pastor of Grace Hills Baptist Church in Appomattox, Va., for second vice president. Fred Anderson, executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, was elected to a 33rd term as clerk.
For the first time, the BGAV elected a chair of its Executive Board, an entity created last year in a governance restructure. The 21-member Executive Board replaced the former 97-member Virginia Baptist Mission Board as the policy-setting authority, though most actions still require approval by the BGAV in annual meetings.
Previous bylaw provisions required the BGAV president also to be elected chair of the policy-setting body. New provisions eliminated that requirement, though during the first of the revised structure outgoing president Brown was elected chair, in part to provide a seamless transition. This year the BGAV elected Carl Johnson, a retired mission administrator and member of First Baptist Church in Richmond, to the position.
The $10.5 million budget adopted for 2016 is $1 million less than this year’s budget. BGAV treasurer David Washburn said it reflects the budget committee’s “accurate prediction of what receipts will be in 2016.” Earlier he reported that financial contributions at the end of October were running about 5.4 percent below the previous year’s contributions. The current budget is about $700,000 less than what was allocated in 2014.
“This decision was made after great discussions, discernment and prayer,” he said. “We’re all being affected by reductions in Cooperative Missions giving.”
But he added that the 2016 budget has “enough growth edge to it that we can live into what God has for us.”
The 2016 budget continues to offer churches three pre-set giving tracks and a fourth customized option, all of which divide funds between BGAV ministries and national and international causes. The percentage divisions are unchanged from previous years:
• The World Missions 1 track provides 66 percent for Virginia ministries and 34 percent for Southern Baptist Convention ministries.
• The World Missions 2 track provides 72 percent for BGAV ministries and 28 percent for a combination of Virginia, SBC, CBF and other ministries.
• The World Missions 3 track provides 72 percent for Virginia ministries and 28 percent for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ministries.
Messengers adopted two resolutions addressing sexual identity and same-sex marriage. The first reaffirms two earlier BGAV statements on the issue, one adopted in 1993 calling “homosexual behavior … sinful and unacceptable to Christians,” and another in 1998 describing marriage as “a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman.”
The second resolution, responding to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, asks government to “respect religious liberty and to make reasonable accommodations to the religious practices of churches, ministers, individuals and religious organizations without erring into the establishment of religion.”
Both resolutions passed without discussion on a hand vote by a wide margin.
A third resolution on abortion failed to achieve the necessary three-fourths majority for passage, though a majority of 330-200 supported it. Parliamentarians said 398 votes would have been required for adoption.
The resolution called abortion “a serious moral and spiritual problem” which “destroys fetal life, dulls our society’s moral sensitivity and leads to a cheapening of all human life.” It called for the BGAV to stand for “the absolute, God-ordained right to life of every unborn child.”
Baptist House at Duke
The partnership with the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School aims to connect it and the BGAV “through a web of relations that promote the formation of a vital and flourishing Christian ecosystem which produces healthy and vital congregations and pastors.”
The agreement, which will not involve BGAV funding or nomination of trustees, notes that a number of students from BGAV churches have graduated from Baptist House and many are currently serving BGAV churches.
“The theological vision at Duke and the formation students receive through the [Baptist House] have deep resonance with Virginia Baptists,” says the agreement.
Last year the BGAV forged a relationship with Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C., which also operates a divinity school. It was the first time the BGAV had developed direct ties to an educational institution outside Virginia.
The BGAV has long identified as partners five Virginia-based schools: Averett University, Bluefield College, Fork Union Military Academy, Hargrave Military Academy and Oak Hill Academy. It also partners with and funds Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and the John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Arlington, Va. The BGAV’s contributions to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Southern Baptist Convention also provide funding for those entities’ theological education institutions.