The Baptist General Association of Virginia commemorated its 200th anniversary with a three-day celebration of history, thankfulness and diversity at its 2023 annual meeting, which took place at Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond.
Highlights of this year’s business proceedings included passing a motion to support and advocate for women in ministry and utilizing for the first time an electronic voting method, which enabled all messengers to vote — whether they attended the event in person or via livestream.
More than 1,000 people attended the Nov. 13–15 event, including 578 registered messengers, 286 guests, and 153 exhibitors and staff members.
2nd year of hybrid format
This year’s annual meeting was the second year in a truly hybrid format, in which messengers and guests could participate in person or online.
In 2022 messengers voted to pass an amendment to the constitution and bylaws that allowed for remote voting in subsequent years, so electronic voting took place starting with this year’s business sessions.
Messengers in all locations participated in voting using their smartphones, tablets, or desktop computers; those in person who needed or preferred paper ballots were issued those on site.
To represent online messengers who had questions or comments during discussion, a designated proxy was present to bring those statements to the floor verbatim in person.
David Washburn, BGAV treasurer, presented the 2024 budget during a morning business session.
Next year’s budget total is $7,061,860, and messengers approved it with no opposition. Before his initial presentation, Washburn explained that BGAV has a surplus of $235,566 for the current year.
Washburn also introduced four revised giving plans for BGAV-participating churches.
The first plan is BGAV only, where all money given will support BGAV and its ministries. The other three options split churches’ gifts between BGAV and other ministry partners, allocating 72% for BGAV ministries and 28% for the other groups as specified in each plan.
Women and ministry
There also was a motion from the floor regarding women in ministry.
Kristin Adkins Whitesides, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Winchester, presented the motion, which read, “I move that the Executive Board of the Baptist General Association of Virginia appoint a seven-member task force to explore programs, resources, policies, initiatives and relationships which further support and advocate for women in pastoral, ministerial and leadership roles among Virginia Baptists.”
Dozens of supporters approached the microphone, prepared to speak in favor of the motion, but when no messengers spoke in opposition, President Herbert Ponder closed the motion for discussion and called for a vote.
The motion passed with 84% voting in favor of it.
The meeting’s theme, “Called to Be,” highlighted the rich history of Virginia Baptists and demonstrated the wide scope of its reach throughout the Commonwealth and beyond.
In his executive director’s report, Wayne Faison introduced Renew Virginia, a new initiative that will launch in January 2024. For 40 days, Virginia Baptists will pray together for the future of the BGAV and its churches — focusing in 10-day increments on renewal, revitalization, progress, and fulfillment.
BGAV’s 201st annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 11–13, 2024, at First Baptist Church Alexandria.
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EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written and originally published by the Baptist General Association of Virginia.