News for the week of Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 — The Year in Review
By Lonnie Wilkey
editor, Baptist and Reflector

BRENTWOOD — One of the top news stories of 2012 was the proposed sale of the Baptist Center in Brentwood that was scheduled to take place early in 2013.

Instead, Franklin Land Associates notified the Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention on Feb. 14 that they were opting out of the contract.

But as it turned out the property did sell after all, making it one of the top stories of 2013 as well.

The TBC received a contract for $8,750,000 from H.G. Hill Realty in late October and officially closed on the property on Nov. 8. With funds saved from not having to pay broker’s fees and from earnest money from the sale that did not materialize, the convention will have about $9 million for its relocation, according to TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis.

In addition, H.G. Hill Reality is allowing the TBC to remain in its current location for up to a year, rent free, until temporary office space is secured.

Other top stories of the year included a convention-wide emphasis on 1-5-1 Harvest Plants and changes in leadership among entities affiliated with the TBC.

1-5-1 Harvest Plants refers to off-campus efforts of churches aimed at gathering lost people for the purpose of sharing the gospel, according to Bobby Welch, associate executive director of the TBC.

The effort officially was launched at the The Summit in Chattanooga and focused on churches which had already begun Harvest Plants.

“Plants” can consist of branches (extensions of existing on-campus Bible studies), groups (similar to branches but not connected to any other program of the church), or churches (a new work that will carry out all the functions of a church).

1-5-1 is a commitment of a church to starting no less than one plant in the next year, making an effort to reach, win, and baptize five people through each plant, Welch observed.

“All of these plants will be focused on reaching lost people where they live, work, and play,” Welch said last summer.

Three TBC entities — Union University, Tennessee Baptist Foundation, and Baptist Memorial Health Care System — faced leadership changes last year.

Union University President David S. Dockery announced last January that he will transition into the role of chancellor this year. In December, he said that his new role would be honorary. The Union search committee is expected to announce a candidate early this year.

In December trustees of the Foundation elected Bill Gruenewald as the ninth president of TBF, which also celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2013. Gruenewald will succeed Gary Coltharp who will retire on March 31 after 15 years on the TBF staff. Coltharp has served as president since 2010.

Also in December, BMHC, based in Memphis, announced that President Stephen Reynolds will retire in May of this year. He has served as president since 1994. Reynolds will be succeeded by Jason Little, current executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Other top stories in the TBC in 2013 included (in no particular order):

• Tennessee Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union celebrated its 125th anniversary last year during its annual Missions Get-Together and Connection in Gatlinburg. A highlight of the meeting was the announcement of the conclusion of a five-year effort to raise $300,000 to begin construction of a missionary house on the property of the Missions Mobilization Center in Mount Juliet. WMU members raised $306,811.05, according to Candy Phillips, who also was recognized on her 10th anniversary as executive director.

• Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes announced it is developing a foster care ministry to be carried out in and through Tennessee Baptist churches. In cooperation with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, which manages the state’s foster care program, TBCH will be training families  to be foster parents, according to TBCH President Bryant Millsaps.

• Randy C. Davis, TBC executive director, announced plans to travel to each of the 95 counties in Tennessee to hold a prayer rally and to ring the “Salvation Bell.” The effort was to have started Jan. 6 in Sevier County, but the rally was postponed due to weather and will be rescheduled. Other rallies were to be held as planned. The idea is to bathe the state in prayer, he said. A schedule of the rallies can be found in the Dec. 18 issue of the B&R.

• Tennessee Baptists dedicated their new Missions Mobilization Center in Mount Juliet on June 1. The center, which houses the TBC’s disaster relief operations, was built on 18 acres of land donated by Don and Ann Davis of Mount Juliet. The 30,000-plus square foot facility is valued at $2.4 million. It was constructed and furnished without any Cooperative Program funds.

• The TBC annual meeting received a “face lift” in 2013. The Summit is now the name for both the annual meeting and all the activities and events associated with the convention, including the Pastors Conference.

• In 2013 Boy Scouts of America announced it would change its membership requirements to allow openly gay members. A group within Boy Scouts who opposed that decision led an effort to begin an alternative organization called Trail Life USA.  Several TBC churches which sponsored Boy Scout troops are disbanding those and exploring the new Trail Life organization.

• The Vision 2021 Transition Team, which was scheduled to present a major report for consideration of messengers at the annual meeting in November, voted to delay a vote on their report for another year. The team made a presentation at the annual meeting. Chuck Groover, chairman of the Transition Team, said team members wanted “to address the concerns that people have before we ask messengers to make a final decision on this report next year.”

• Clarksville pastor Larry Robertson of Hilldale Baptist Church was elected without opposition as president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. In an interview with the B&R, Robertson said he will be a “cheerleader” for the convention’s evangelism and missions efforts.

• In what is believed to be a first for the TBC, a standing president of the Southern Baptist Convention spoke at the annual meeting. New Orleans pastor Fred Luter challenged Tennessee Baptists to preach, sing, teach, and live the gospel so that unbelievers can know the difference its transforming power can make in their lives.

• In another matter related to the annual meeting, the 2013 Summit drew 1,333 messengers from 532 churches, the largest number of messengers since 2007.


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