California Baptists celebrate diversity/partnership under “Better Together” annual meeting theme

Written By Terry Barone

California Baptists celebrate diversity/partnership under “Better Together” annual meeting theme

WEST SACRAMENTO—Under the banner of “Better Together” messengers to the 81st meeting of California Southern Baptist Convention celebrated diversity and partnership, approved a  one percent increase in gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention, heard a report from the CSBC Sexual Abuse Task Force, and learned about a renewed partnership with the North American Mission Board. 

Meeting at Bryte Church, Oct. 25-26, California Southern Baptists displayed diversity from the opening gavel when CSBC President Victor Chayasirisobhon greeted messengers and guests in English, Spanish and Thai. Chayasirisobhon, who also serves as a pastor, director of missions and first vice president of the SBC, is of Chinese/Thai descent, born in Canada and reared in the United States. 

Budget includes 1% increase to SBC 

Without discussion, messengers approved a 2023 proposed budget of $6.3 million which includes a Cooperative Program objective of $6 million, unchanged from the 2022 budget. The recommendation increases gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention to 36 percent, up 1 percent. The increase could provide an additional $60,000 to the SBC. As part of the “Better Together” theme, CSBC Executive Director Pete Ramirez said he wants to move the Convention’s percentage to 40 percent by 2027. 

In the proposed budget, the allocations for The Baptist Foundation of California and California Baptist University were unchanged and remain at 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively. The 1 percent increase to the SBC was offset by a 1 percent decrease to CSBC Executive Board ministries from 62 percent to 61 percent. 

The CSBC allocation remains the largest amount in the proposed spending plan at $3.66 million followed by the SBC at $2.16 million, CBU at $120,000 and BFC at $60,000. These allocations are only valid if the CP objective is realized. The proposed financial plan calls for gifts more than the goal to be administered at the discretion of the Executive Board. 

Sexual Abuse Task Force Report 

A Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) appointed by Chayasirisobhon in accordance with a motion passed by messengers at the 2021 annual meeting presented its report. 

In the opening pages of the 17-page report, the task force acknowledged, survivors of the past and present while seeking to “implement prevention actions to limit sexual abuse in our churches in the future.”  

Flanked by SATF members, Chayasirisobhon set the stage by saying “Sexual abuse in the church is a fundamental theological issue – not merely a legal, psychological, economic or political reality.” 

The report offered three areas of emphasis in developing and designing policies and procedures that meet the unique requirements of CSBC congregations. They are prevention, detection and restoration. 

In all cases of abuse, Chayasirisobhon reminded those attending their first call in reporting abuse “is to the police, not your association office nor your Convention office, but to the police.” 

He noted the California Legislature passed AB506, a law sets new requirements for youth serving organizations (including churches) in three areas: screening, training, and policies. He said, “Comply with AB506. It’s the law.” He added, “It’s a good thing.” 

He concluded the report saying, “The children and the youth are the most important part of our churches. Let’s do our best to keep them safe.” 

Send Network California premiered 

A panel of six introduced the new partnership between CSBC and NAMB while rolling out CSBC as one of the newest state Baptist Conventions to join the Send Network.  

Shane Critser, the Send Regional West Coordinator for NAMB, said Send Network California means the state Convention has “adopted the assessing and church planting process” of NAMB. He explained the change makes it easier for pastors, churches and planters to have one process for church planting, rather than having one for NAMB and another for the state Convention. “We are ‘Better Together,’” he said. 

Critser emphasized that NAMB employees and church planters are missionaries serving in California. He said missions “runs on the rails of relationships. It’s not about systems, processes and money. It’s about relationships.” 

He encouraged those attending to look at a Send Network booklet that was distributed to learn more about NAMB missionaries serving in California. 

Ramirez encouraged California Southern Baptists to “pray that we work together the way God has called us to work because “Satan is not happy. He wants division and discord.” 

Establishing SEND Network California signifies the return to an important gospel partnership and “makes us Better Together,” according to Ramirez. 

Slavic churches celebrated/encouraged with gift 

To celebrate the diversity and partnership CSBC heard testimonies from pastors of the host congregation – Igor Dronov of Bryte (aka Russian Baptist) Church – and Vadim Dashkevych of Spring of Life Church in Orangevale, both of which have been instrumental in ministering to Ukrainian refugees in the Sacramento Area. . 

To support the congregations, CSBC presented the congregations each with a $5,000 gift. An offering for the two Slavic congregations also was taken which garnered an additional $4114.28 for the two churches. 

CSBC/BFC undergird Mission:Dignity for California recipients 

Jonathan Jarboe, president of The Baptist Foundation of California, announced that BFC and CSBC are partnering with Mission:Dignity of GuideStone Financial Resources to provide a 13th check to more than 50 California Mission:Dignity recipients in California. To accomplish the task in 2022, both CSBC and BFC contributed $10,000. 

Jarboe also announced that BFC has created the Mission:Dignity California Endowment and seeded it with $50,000 to provide long-term funding for the cause. 

Messengers re-elected Chayasirisobhon and Sam Gray as president and vice president, respectively. Chayasirisobhon is pastor of First Baptist Church in Anaheim and director of missions for Orange County Southern Baptist Association. Gray serves as pastor of Prosperity Avenue Baptist Church in Tulare. Elected music director was Denise Nicholes, minister of worship, Soma Christian Fellowship, Clovis. 

Beth Ketcheside and Deanna Villegas were elected recording and assistant recording secretaries, respectively. Both serve as executive assistants at CSBC. 

Convention business 

Messengers approved persons to serve on Convention Committees, CSBC Executive Board, BFC and CBU. Chayasirisobhon appointed members to serve on the Convention on Nominations. They are Wayne Templeton, New Creation Bible Fellowship, Tracy representing Region 2; Joshua Kim, Harvest Mission Church, Santa Clara representing Region 3; Meghan Bennett, Fellowship Baptist Church, Bakersfield representing Region 4; and Carola Manriquez, Eleventh Street Baptist Church, Upland representing Region 5. 

Messengers approved three constitution and one bylaws amendment to delete references to “The Denominational Paper” and The California Southern Baptist,” which was the official CSBC news journal until it ceased publication in May 2020. 

A motion for a special report on “all current SBC work among Tribal communities within California” to be presented at the 2023 annual meeting was referred to the Executive Board. The motion was made by Ethan “Red Eagle” Lawton, community pastor, New Heart Community Church, McKinleyville. 

The results will “give us reasons to celebrate and rejoice with our fellow tribal brothers and sisters. And it will give everyone here a specific reminder to keep them in prayer and to possibly come alongside them and their efforts,” Lawton said. 

If the results are minimal, he suggested it “may be time to re-evaluate this Convention’s level of effort toward ministering to tribal communities” which could give rise to beginning new work. 

A resolution in appreciation of the host congregation and the City of West Sacramento was also approved. 

Speakers address “Better Together” using Acts passages 

All speakers used the Book of Acts for their sermons and spoke to the “Better Together” theme. 

Bogdan Kipko, pastor of Forward Church in Irvine, speaking of the Holy Spirit as the “Power of the Hour” said, “We are a bunch of failures looking to the One who will never fail us. We are family. We are better together.” 

Shawn Beaty, pastor of Clovis Hills Community Church in Clovis, preached about the “Gospel of Grace” from Acts 15 while drawing differences between belonging and behaving. He challenged messengers and guests to remember people “don’t have to belong to believe in Jesus. They may not have their theology in place, but the moment you believe, you belong to Jesus.” 

He challenged those attending to “cooperate for the next generation. We have to figure how to get along for the sake of the mission. I know the world has their narrative of who we (Southern Baptists) are.” Holding up his Bible, Beaty said, “We have the real narrative.” 

In his first message to the Convention as executive director, Ramirez used the church at Antioch which demonstrated five characteristics to help California Southern Baptists achieve the “Better Together” theme. They include being spiritually-functioning, spiritually-hearing, self-sacrificing, people-sending and Savior-proclaiming. 

He said, “Great Commission work only happens when take these principles and apply them to our churches. If we do this missional work, we will be ‘Better Together’” and have the desire to reach the 35 million in California who don’t know Jesus. 

As the first California-born CSBC executive director, Ramirez paid homage to the previous two executive directors – Bill Agee and Fermin A. Whittaker – whom he said influenced him to be the leader he is today. 

Chayasirisobhon said CSBC churches should be like the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2 by repenting and returning to its first love. He said to “repent and return to Jesus.” He exhorted churches to “unite in Jesus to be ‘Better Together.’” 

A total of 506 – 330 messengers from 236 California churches and 176 guests – registered for the annual meeting. 

The 2023 meeting is slated Oct. 24-25 at Clovis Hills Community Church in Clovis. 

About the Author

Terry Barone
CSBC Special Projects Coordinator

Terry Barone served as communications director for California Southern Baptist Convention for 30 years before retiring in December 2021. He now serves the state Convention as special projects coordinator. A graduate of Baylor University, Terry served as a Southern Baptist journalist for more than four decades. He and his wife, Linda, are members of Trinity Southern Baptist Church in Fresno.

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