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Alabama Baptists enjoy growth, travel new pathscomment (0)

January 2, 2003

By Erin Webster

Significant growth in membership and ministries seemed evident in 2002 as several Alabama Baptist churches upgraded facilities or broke ground for new buildings. A few churches across the state even built in a different location in order to meet the demand to expand.

One church changing locations is First Baptist Church, Gardendale. Church officials launched the construction of a $53.4 million sanctuary and campus on 130 acres of property beside I-65 North off the Fieldstown Exit early in the year.

The 7,200-member church voted in December 2001 to build a 3,500-seat sanctuary and outlying buildings by the end of 2003 to solve space problems caused by their extensive growth over the past five years.

And while they were building their own church, First, Gardendale, members joined with other Alabama churches to help First Baptist Church, Center Point, build a second campus 12 miles away in Argo. Volunteer workers also came from several of the 25 churches across the nation First, Center Point, has built over the years to return the favor.

The new campus is not a separate church, rather it is an extension of the original church campus and a base from which First, Center Point, intends to reach the surrounding multiethnic community. It is similar to what New Hope Baptist Church, Birmingham, and Pastor Gregory Clarke started in 2001 with a “one church, two campus” ministry.

Church news also captured headlines with the installment of two pastors in particular in 2002.

Michael Satterfield, pastor of the two-year-old Church at Shelby Crossings in Pelham, became the first black senior pastor of a predominantly white church in the Alabama Baptist State Convention (ABSC).

Sarah Shelton, pastor of Birmingham’s Baptist Church of the Covenant, became the church’s first woman pastor and only the second reported woman pastor within the ABSC’s history. Shelton previously served as the church’s interim pastor.

Women in Alabama Baptist life were again the topic when Beverly Miller, longtime executive director of Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union, retired and when the Alabama Singing Men expanded its program to include women. The Alabama Singing Women made its debut at the ABSC annual meeting in November. The two groups will perform together as well as ­separately.

Meeting in Birmingham Nov. 19–20, messengers to the ABSC annual meeting adopted a record Cooperative Program (CP) base budget of $40,427,480 for 2003 and extended its partnership with Venezuela through 2005.

Daniel Rodriguez, general administrator of the National Baptist Convention of Venezuela, was on hand to sign the partnersihp agreement.

While the major evangelistic event planned for Alabama Baptists in Venezuela was canceled in 2002 due to a governmental coup and political unrest in the country, plans for events in 2003 are ongoing.

Missions trips associated with the Impact Northeast partnership also continued during the year. As part of the partnership, The Alabama Baptist sponsored its inaugural “Baptist Beginnings” tour of the New England area.

Other convention news included the election of officers and approval of resolutions.

Joe Godfrey, pastor of Taylor Road Baptist Church, Montgomery, was elected ABSC president in the first contested race since 1998. He defeated Gerald Hallmark, pastor of First Baptist Church, Alexander City. Elected with Godfrey were first vice president Henry Cox, pastor of First Baptist Church, Bay Minette, and second vice president Roger Willmore, pastor of First Baptist Church, Boaz.

Messengers also approved a resolution on racial fairness calling for the elimination of all racially exclusive language in Alabama public laws and documents, including the constitution.

Constitutional reform continued to be a hot button issue across the state, with Samford University President Thomas E. Corts helping lead the effort. Tax reform also captured headlines in 2002, and Alabama Baptists joined that effort as well. Mike McLemore, ABSC president for 2001-2002, joined with leaders from Alabama’s Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal denominations to urge the revision of Alabama’s tax laws to promote tax fairness. The group met numerous times on the issue, published a Bible study related to tax reform and held a press conference emphasizing its concern and cohesiveness on the debate.

In the midst of the many bustling activities, Alabama Baptists also said goodbye to some of their own, including Vernon G. Davison, Norman Henry “John” McCrummen Jr., Hobson Shirey and Howard “Happy” Goodman.

Along with memorializing individuals, Alabama Baptist churches across the state also organized a variety of memorial and remembrance services for the one-year anniversary of 9/11. In the midst of the services, as well as other times during the year, patriotism found a renewed spirit among Alabama Baptists in 2002.

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