California Baptists encouraged to “RE-ENGAGE” with communities, church members, and state convention

California Baptists encouraged to “RE-ENGAGE” with communities, church members, and state convention

By Terry Barone

CLOVIS, Calif. (BP)— After a 24-month hiatus due to COVID-19, messengers to the 80th meeting of California Southern Baptist Convention were exhorted to “RE-ENGAGE” with communities, church members, and the state convention, approved a motion to look into sexual abuse among California Southern Baptists, passed a resolution on race and racial reconciliation and elected new officers.

Meeting at Clovis Hills Community Church, Oct. 26-27, California Southern Baptists spent about an hour debating a motion to form a task force related to sexual abuse within CSBC, although allegations related to sexual abuse have not surfaced within the state Convention. The motion was introduced at the opening session of the two-day meeting by Christopher Cole, pastor and messenger of Redeemer Baptist Church in Paso Robles.

The motion was like others introduced in several state convention annual meetings (Arkansas, Mississippi, and Missouri) during the same week and conformed to a motion passed by messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee currently is under scrutiny related to the issue of sexual abuse. Nationally, an independent third-party review of the SBC Executive Committee is already underway by Guidepost Solutions. The investigation centers on “any allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, mistreatment of victims, a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates, and resistance to sexual abuse reform initiatives” by the staff and members of the Executive Committee from Jan. 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021. 

Cole’s motion was ruled out of order by CSBC President Shawn Beaty, senior pastor of Clovis Hills Community Church. Cole moved for messengers to overrule the chair. After about 20 minutes of debate, the motion failed, and the chair’s ruling was sustained.

After a flurry of other motions and procedural points, messengers approved a motion by Andrew Watkins, pastor and messenger from Unity Community Christian Baptist Church in Stockton that “the new president appoint a committee to look into the issue of sexual abuse in California Southern Baptist Convention and report back to the Convention in 2022.”

After the adoption of the recommendation, Port Wilburn, pastor of Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship in Richmond, and director of missions for the San Francisco Peninsula Baptist Association, reminded messengers and guests they are “mandatory reporters” for sexual abuse allegations.

In a tweet, D.J. Jenkins, pastor of Anthology Church in Studio City, said, “The vast majority of messengers and CSBC leadership expressed deep desires to tackle these issues together, despite our differing opinions on how best to do that. I’m grateful for the expressed unity and hope as we move forward together.”

Jenkins also co-authored a resolution with Cole on “The Sufficiency of Scripture for Race & Racial Reconciliation” which messengers adopted without debate. The CSBC resolution was patterned after a resolution adopted by SBC messengers at the 2021 annual meeting in Nashville.

The resolution repudiated “any theory or worldview that sees the primary problem of humanity as anything other than sin against God and the ultimate solution as anything other than redemption found only in Christ.

After its adoption, Jenkins tweeted, “California Baptists stand with the national messengers.”

Messengers also elected new officers. Since the 2020 annual meeting was canceled, officers elected in 2019 served an additional year. Victor Chayasirisobhon, the pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Anaheim, was elected president. He defeated Steven Lennertz, pastor of Eagle Ridge Church in Menifee.

Left: Victor Chayasirisobhon, Right: Sam Gray

Chayasirisobhon is the first Asian American elected CSBC president. A leader among California Southern Baptists he has served as CSBC vice president and chairman of the CSBC Executive Board. Chayasirisobhon also served as a member of the SBC Young Leaders Advisory Council appointed in 2017.

Other officers elected were Sam Gray, pastor of Prosperity Avenue Baptist Church in Tulare, as vice president, and Eric Schumacher, pastor of worship, Laurel Ridge Church, Oakley, as music director. Gray was elected unopposed, and Schumacher was recommended by a Convention committee for the music post.

Messengers approved without discussion a 2022 budget of $6,717,620, which includes a Cooperative Program objective of $6. million.

If the $6 million is realized, SBC missions and ministry will receive $2,100,000 or 35 percent, unchanged from 2021.

The California portion of CP receipts for mission causes is 62 percent, or $3,720,000. The Baptist Foundation of California will continue to receive 1 percent and California Baptist University will receive 2 percent. Percentage allocations for CSBC, BFC, and CBU remain the same as in the 2021 budget.

Theme interpretations by Pete Contreras, pastor of New Vision Church in San Diego; Juan Castellon, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Soledad, and his wife, Alma; and Alan Chan, pastor of Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles in Alhambra, informed messengers how their respective congregations re-engaged either their communities or churches during the pandemic.

Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, was the keynote speaker who encouraged pastors and other church leaders to re-engage by not “giving up” and “standing firm” in challenging times.

Pete Ramirez, CSBC associate executive director, reported for CSBC in the absence of Bill Agee, CSBC executive director, who is on medical leave for a “shattered” foot. Although not present, Agee addressed the annual meeting via video to assure messengers and guests of his prayers during the two-day event as they considered “important” business items.

Agee also encouraged those attending about the importance of re-engaging California communities to win the more than 35 million in the state who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus.

In his report, Ramirez introduced four staff members who have joined the CSBC staff since the 2019 annual meeting. They are Jason Blankenship, Evangelism Initiatives Team leader; Francis Chung, Missions Initiatives Team leader; Cathie Smith, women’s ministries specialist; and Sarah Graham, director of the Office of Communications.

A total of 315 messengers registered, along with 87 guests.

The 2022 meeting will be held Oct. 25-26 at The Russian Baptist Church in West Sacramento.

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