LOGAN, W.Va. — Messengers at the 53nd annual meeting of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists (WVCSB) unanimously approved a new sexual abuse policy and accompanying handbook, following a two-year review of the organization’s policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct that was initiated at the 2021 annual meeting.
“Why would survivors trust us to care for their souls,” the policy asks, “if they are not sure if they can trust us to care for their wounds?” This resource, designed for ministry leaders and volunteers, provides guidance on addressing various forms of sexual misconduct, along with establishing clear guidelines for safe ministry environments and appropriate interpersonal behavior.
A total of 161 messengers and 46 guests, representing all 10 state Baptist associations, attended the Nov. 2-3 meeting at Chief Logan Lodge and Conference Center in Logan.
Back to the Coalfields
Due to space limitations, this marked the first time the WVCSB Annual Meeting was hosted in the Coalfields Association region of the state since 1971, the second year of the state convention’s existence.
The Coalfields region of West Virginia, once booming in the coal mining industry, is now a shadow of its former self, with closed storefronts and offices, as the industry succumbed to economic and regulatory pressures, resulting in significant job losses. Many residents live in poverty, and the opioid epidemic has profoundly impacted communities and families. A recent CDC report reveals that this area has the highest rate in the United States of adults diagnosed with depression, nearly double the national rate.
Nevertheless, there is a renewed missional focus on this area of the state. A day before the annual meeting, the WVCSB organized a Coalfields Vision Tour that took West Virginia Southern Baptist leaders to area churches and communities. Coalfields pastors shared challenges, needs, goals, and opportunities for West Virginia Southern Baptist churches to partner in ministry and make a gospel impact.
“God isn’t finished with the Coalfields,” encouraged Pastor Kris Baisden of Chattaroy Baptist Church, one of the churches on the Coalfields Vision Tour. “God sent a message of hope to the Coalfields through the annual meeting and Coalfields Tour,” Baisden said, “Through the partnering and cooperation of sister churches within the state convention, there is hope. We have a cheering section, a support network through the convention.”
NAMB Send Relief is hosting a Serve Tour stop in April 2024 to further ministry partnership, revitalization, and gospel impact in this region.
In and Through
The annual meeting and pastors’ conference shared the theme, “IN+THROUGH,” the second year of a three-year vision that emphasizes the WVCSB mission of “strengthening and sending churches to make Jesus known in and through West Virginia”
“It’s exciting to witness such a rapid transformation as West Virginia Southern Baptists continue the transition from seeing ourselves as a mission field to growing into a family on mission,” shared WVCSB Executive Director, Eric W. Ramsey. “Our recent annual meetings have been spiritually refreshing, full of celebration and thanksgiving, bringing joy to being part of something so significant that only God could accomplish.”
Dr. Bart Barber, SBC President, spoke at the WVCSB Pastors’ Conference and Annual Meeting, stating, “Forever touched in my heart, I am, by West Virginia Southern Baptists.” Barber prayed for messengers, “Lord, work not only in them but through them to reach far beyond this place and show the world the spectacular truth of what a church can do from West Virginia to wrap our arms around the world.”
Other annual meeting and pastors’ conference speakers included Jeff Canterbury, pastor of FBC Ceredo, W.Va.; Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Bill Henard, pastor of FBC Athens, Tenn., and former WVCSB Executive Director; and Aaron Sligar, WVCSB President and former pastor of Living River Chapel in Sutton, W.Va. Worship was led by Daniel Doss.
Prior to the annual meeting, Sandy Wisdom-Martin, National WMU Executive Director, spoke at the Pastors’ Wives Gathering, with Russell and Kristi Johnson leading worship during the gathering.
Messengers approved a 2024 budget totaling $1,561,230, representing a seven percent increase over the 2023 budget. The new budget allocates a total of 43 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program, with anticipated funding sources including $130,000 from NAMB.
Messengers also approved the affiliation of seven churches, including Cherry River Southern Baptist Church, Richwood, Pastor Joseph Twigg; Church at Morgantown, Morgantown, Pastor Jason Thomas, Hay Esperanza, Huntington, Pastor Henry Garcia; Legacy Church, Huntington, Pastor Hugh Murray; New Life Baptist Church, Barnesville, OH, Pastor Joe Thornton; Risen City Church, Charleston, Pastor Michael Farmer, and Wellspring Church, Berkeley Springs, Pastor Ricky Love.
Messengers adopted two resolutions. The first affirms the limitation of the pastoral office in WVCSB churches to biologically males meeting scriptural qualifications, per the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 Article VI. The second resolution extends gratitude to the annual meeting host, the Coalfields Baptist Association, and the WVCSB state staff, as well as Chief Logan Lodge.
Elected officers are president Jason Spade, pastor of First Baptist Princeton in Princeton; first vice president Ryan Navy, pastor of River Valley Church in Catlettsburg, KY; second vice president Jeff Canterbury, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ceredo in Ceredo; and recording secretary Andrew Gordon, associate pastor of Winfield Baptist Church in Winfield.
The 2024 WVCSB Annual Meeting is scheduled for November 7-8 at Simpson Creek Baptist Church in Bridgeport, W.Va.