"Who could doubt that we have wonderful, conservative leaders heading our seminaries after hearing Chuck Kelley from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as he presented the annual Bible study for each session?" Harper wrote to West Virginia Baptists after the Nov. 2-3 meeting, which drew 157 messengers and 51 guests from all 10 Baptist associations in the state.
"Some were unable to make it as a result of the effects of Hurricane Sandy and the power outages that resulted from the storm," Harper wrote.
"We are grateful for those who came to assist us here in West Virginia, especially the feeding teams from the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. We are also most appreciative for the contributions of so many of you to our disaster relief funds," Harper wrote, additionally commending the Baptist General Association of Virginia for sending relief workers.
An offering collected at the pastors' conference and the annual meeting yielded more than $2,000 for disaster relief related to Hurricane Sandy.
The annual meeting featured an emphasis on church planting, highlighting several new churches during a video presentation. A "tremendous missions challenge" was given by Steve Davis, the North American Mission Board's vice president for the Midwest region, Harper told Baptist Press.
Messengers approved a 2013 budget of $2,631,268, down about $280,000 from the current year. West Virginia anticipates forwarding $567,570 to national and international Cooperative Program ministries. The convention increased its Cooperative Program giving from 38 to 39 percent at the meeting. No shared expense with the SBC are designated in the budget. The North American Mission Board will provide $1,037,905 to the West Virginia convention.
Greg Varndell, pastor of Fairlawn Baptist Church in Parkersburg, was re-elected president of the convention. Also elected as convention officers: first vice president, Don Knotts, pastor of Wayside Baptist Church in Buckhannon; second vice president, John Freeman, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Chapmanville; and clerk, Jim Messenger, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in West Union.
Messengers approved a change to the convention's constitution now stating that the state Woman's Missionary Union president will serve as an ex officio, non-voting member of the Executive Board.
West Virginia Baptists signed a memorandum of understanding with the West Virginia National Guard in order to establish a framework for churches to partner with the guard to assist soldiers and their families.
Messengers passed a resolution on same-sex marriage, stating that marriage is "an institution established by God rather than simply a human social construction" and noted the growing trend in the United States to accept same-sex marriage.
In the resolution, West Virginia Baptists went on record opposing same-sex marriage and affirming marriage as between one man and one woman in an "exclusive union delineated in Scripture." They resolved to engage the culture on the issue while standing against hateful rhetoric toward homosexuals.
A second resolution emphasized the importance of ministry to college students and stated that the convention would re-establish onsite collegiate missionary positions on certain West Virginia campuses "as soon as it is fiscally feasible" in order to influence and disciple the next generation.
A third resolution commended local churches, associations, committees and other volunteers who helped "bring about a meeting characterized by grace, evangelism, worship, encouragement, cooperation, and purpose."
Based on reporting by Greg Wrigley of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists.
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