DALLAS—“COVID-19 will not defeat or define us, it is going to make us better,” Convention President Michael Evans, Sr., said, pointing to the promise of Romans 8:28 that God works all things together for the good of those who love him.
Evans addressed Board Directors during the May meeting of the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. During the two-day meeting May 18-19, Directors celebrated the disbursement of more than 320 Pastor Relief Grants to assist bi-vocational and small-church ministers in Texas, and approved a voluntary retirement offer for eligible BGCT staff members. The meeting was held online via a video conferencing platform due to COVID-19 restrictions and broadcast from the Convention’s Dallas office.
On Mon., May 18, Executive Director David Hardage shared about 320 bi-vocational Texas Baptist ministers who were provided with Pastor Relief Grants from March through May. Ministers who applied for the need-based grants demonstrated economic hardships through the loss of employment or decreased salary due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grant dollars were provided through fundraising efforts of the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation, which included many generous donations from churches and individual ministers, as well as the allocation of endowment funds.
“I am thankful to report that we were able to help many Texas Baptist pastors who are experiencing extremely difficult days,” said Hardage. “I have received many notes and comments of gratitude from these pastors saying ‘thank you for helping in a difficult time.’ We hope as things open back up a little more, as giving increases and jobs return, that things will stabilize for them. I’m thankful we got them through April and May.”
Hardage went on to detail how additional donor funds were made available to River Ministry missionaries currently serving along the Texas/Mexico border, and pastors in Mexico, Peru and Sierra Leone. He noted that Texas Baptists were able to assist nearly 1,000 pastors around the world over the last two months, which was a significant blessing made possible through cooperative giving and the generosity of Texas Baptist churches.
The generosity of Texas Baptist ministry partners was evident during Tuesday’s Board Session as TBM Executive Director Mickey Lenamon and WMU of Texas Executive Director/Treasurer Tamiko Jones each brought reports detailing the donation of masks and other personal protective equipment to healthcare workers in the midst of the pandemic.
“In the darkest of times, light shines the brightest,” said Lenamon.
Voluntary retirement opportunity approved for staff
During an Executive Session on Tues., led by Chair Donna Burney, board members approved a proactive plan to provide a generous voluntary retirement package to eligible staff in response to recent declines in giving and investment income experienced by the Convention. Eligible employees will be notified of the details on Wednesday.
Texas Baptist leaders described the plan as an opportunity to bless those who have faithfully served in ministry positions for many years, some for decades.
“As has been said by so many recently, we are experiencing unprecedented times and what is ahead of us all is somewhat uncertain,” said Texas Baptists Executive Director David Hardage. “As a part of our response to these times, the BGCT is providing a positive and proactive offer for many of our longtime, faithful staff to retire if they feel like this is the right thing for them at this time.
“This offer is a generous but completely optional aspect of our plan,” he continued. “We are preparing to reset the BGCT for great days ahead as we emerge from this pandemic and prepare to do even greater missions and ministry work."
Burney affirmed the opportunity, and shared, “We are thankful to all Texas Baptist employees for their service, experience, and wisdom. We pray in the days ahead for those staff members who will make decisions that may be difficult or challenging regarding their future plans.”
Vice Chair elected, reports on CP giving, PPP loan, and encouragement from President
Clint Davis, pastor of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, was elected to serve as Vice Chair for the remainder of 2020. Davis fills a vacancy left by Ward Hayes when he was elected CFO/Treasurer for Texas Baptists in February.
Hayes reported on Cooperative Program giving which reflected a positive increase for the first quarter of the year at 104% of budget compared to first quarter giving for 2019. Giving in April, however, reflected a 17% decline in receipts as a result of the spread of the novel coronavirus, with similar shortfalls expected in the months to come. Investment income also decreased by 9.3% in the first quarter of 2020, reflected in a $16.5 million decline.
Hayes also updated the board on the Convention’s approval and funding of a $4.7 million Small Business Loan obtained through the CARES Act Payment Protection Plan (PPP) to assist with payroll costs and related expenses due to decreased revenue. The board previously approved the application for the funding in March.
President Evans provided encouragement to the board, drawing from Deuteronomy 31:6. Detailing times throughout history when mankind faced situations similar to the present pandemic, Evans noted that through it all God was still on the throne.
“Our future is uncertain, but our God is faithful,” said Evans. “Be strong and courageous...for it is the Lord our God who goes with us.”
An additional recommendation from the Administration Support Committee was approved for the creation of a Special Projects Fund for use when occasions arise outside normal budget allocations that necessitate Executive Leadership attention.
Christian Life Commission Director Gus Reyes gave a Public Policy Update and introduced Michael A. Evans, Jr. as the new Director of Public Policy for Texas Baptists. Reyes outlined involvement with a Friend-of-the-court brief jointly filed by the BGCT, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBCT). The CLC also assisted Governor Greg Abbott’s Office with information related to Texas Baptist camps.