More than 1,800 messengers and guests gathered in Waco, Texas, to take part in the 137th Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Drawing from Galatians 6:9, the theme of the three-day event was “Unwavering.” Attendees participated in worship celebrations, business sessions, rallies and workshops.
In his final Annual Meeting executive director’s report, David Hardage spoke to attendees, celebrating milestones and encouraging steadfastness. Hardage shared his hope that Texas Baptists protect the unity and harmony the convention enjoys. Calling it rare and a treasure, Hardage passionately urged churches to take up the responsibility to guard that unity.
“It has to be the gospel above all else, and around that we build our harmony, around that we build our unity, around that we stay together, and around that our best days are yet to come,” Hardage said.
Hardage will retire at the end of 2022.
During the Nov. 13–15 meeting, Hardage was honored for his years of service. Associate executive director Craig Christina shared some of Texas Baptists’ greatest accomplishments under the leadership of Hardage — including the reorganization of the convention into five ministry centers and a refocusing on sharing Christ and showing love.
Christina also announced the inaugural David W. Hardage Run With It, a virtual race named in honor of Hardage and his years of service to the churches of the convention. The Dec. 3 race will benefit the newly established David and Kathleen Hardage Endowment Fund at the Baylor University Baptist Student Ministry.
Officers elected, increased budget
Messengers elected new officers to serve for the 2022–2023 term during a morning business session.
Julio Guarneri, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, was elected president; Nebiye Kelile, pastor of Pathway Church in Dallas, was elected first vice president; and Ronny Marriott, pastor of First Baptist Church of Burleson, was elected second vice president. All officers ran unopposed and were elected following a vote by the 1,101 messengers in attendance at the time of the first business session.
Clint Davis, chair of the executive board, gave an update on business conducted by the executive board during 2022. He also introduced David Mahfouz, who serves as the chair of the executive director search committee.
Mahfouz shared the committee’s progress, explaining they are hosting listening sessions to best understand the needs, expectations and desires of churches for the new executive director. Following the listening sessions, a job profile will be written and released in January 2023, when the committee will begin to receive nominations.
Messengers heard an update from the Gen Z/Millennial Task Force, which outlined five recommendations based on their research. The task force was assembled following a motion at the 2021 annual meeting in Galveston to study and recommend ways to increase millennial and Generation Z involvement in Texas Baptists life and churches. Chris McLain, pastor from First Baptist Church in Bandera, presented the task force’s recommendations. A full report can be found here.
Later in the business session, in conjunction with these recommendations, Scotty Swingler, associate pastor of students at Sugar Land Baptist Church, submitted a motion on behalf of the task force. The motion was to create a task force to study the creation of a pastoral residency program, whereby young ministers are mentored and trained by established ministers. The task force will present its findings to the new executive director, the executive board and the messengers of the convention no later than the 2024 annual meeting. The motion was later passed.
The 2023 budget was introduced by Ward Hayes, treasurer and CFO for Texas Baptists. Messengers approved the proposed 2023 Texas Baptists missions and ministry budget of $35.46 million, the second consecutive year the budget has increased.
Four resolutions were approved during the meeting, including one thanking the Hardages for their years of service, one regarding cultural engagement, one about religious liberty and one thanking Waco for hosting the event.
The 2023 Texas Baptists annual meeting will be held on July 16–18 in McAllen, Texas.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Bonnie Shaw and originally published by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.