Beside the sparkling blue water of the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa, Florida, the National Association of Free Will Baptists met for its 77th Annual Convention. The calm, rippling water did not reflect the carefully organized bustle of nearly 5,000 convention attendees swarming inside the Tampa Convention Center. They were all hurrying (after stopping to chat with 25 different people) to their respective seminars, luncheons, business meetings, competitions, service projects, and a myriad of other opportunities.
The 2013 convention theme was both timely and challenging, asking “How in the World Should We Live?” Speakers, seminars, services, and panels focused on practical application of biblical living in a world filled with rapidly changing ideas and values. In both business and worship, convention events delivered a much-needed fresh perspective for pastors, ministry teams, and laity.
We Should Worship
Convention services were moving, from the convention orchestra and praise team to congregational singing and unforgettable special numbers, as Kevin Justice led the convention into worship. Congregations—from preschool to the main auditorium, and every age between sang, prayed, and worshiped enthusiastically each night, engaging in authentic fellowship and corporate devotion to God. The speakers challenged and encouraged convention attendees to live peaceably, in the Spirit, godly, by every Word of God, and by faith.
Florida native Tim Owen, board member for Randall House Publications, moderator of the Florida State Association, and pastor of Piney Grove FWB Church in Marianna, Florida, taught Sunday School. Randy Riggs, moderator of the Tennessee State Association, and pastor of Good Springs FWB Church in Pleasant View, Tennessee, encouraged proactive peacemaking, based on Romans 12:18, which exhorts us to live peaceably among all men. Riggs reminded the congregation that Christ would have us bless, not curse, our enemies, that it may lead our enemies to conviction, grace, and salvation.
On Sunday evening, the congregation heard from Donnie Miles, pastor of Peace FWB Church in Florence, South Carolina. The Galatians 5:25 sermon on living in the Spirit urged listeners to not only walk in the Spirit, but to be led by the Spirit. Though obedience can be a struggle, walking is liberating; while sin enslaves us, living in the Spirit frees us. Miles’ message reminded congregants that being in step with the Spirit is fundamental to living and walking by faith.
On Monday evening, Will Beauchamp (pictured below) challenged his listeners to live a godly lifestyle. Beauchamp, another Floridian, pastors his home church, First FWB Church of Tampa. He spoke from Titus 2, the passage from which John Newton drew inspiration for “Amazing Grace.” As he focused on grace and the salvation, education, and anticipation it brings, Beauchamp pointed to grace as the essential component of living a godly lifestyle.
The Tuesday afternoon Preaching Conference highlighted speakers Oral McAffee and Tim Stout. McAffee, pastor of Bristol FWB Church in New Brunswick, Canada, is moderator of the Atlantic Canada Association. Stout pastors Heritage FWB Church in Columbus, Ohio.
The Tuesday evening congregation heard from Larry Clyatt, long-time minister and current pastor of Harmony FWB Church in Lake Butler, Florida. He encouraged convention attendees to live by every Word of God, based on Jesus’ response to temptation in Luke 4:4.
The closing Wednesday night service was a powerful time of worship, as missionaries were honored, commissioned, and appreciated. After a stirring number by the 60-voice Hispanic choir from Ebenezer FWB Church in Miami, Florida, Larry Powell, retiring general director of Home Missions, spoke from Romans 1:16-18, challenging Free Will Baptists to step out in faith to continue reaching a lost and dying world, both home and abroad. The altars flooded in response.
We Should Serve
This year, both Impact Tampa and Reach That Guy (sponsored by the National Youth Conference) facilitated local outreach and service, as 318 participants volunteered in the Greater Tampa Bay area, impacting over a thousand families from the Gulf to Central Florida.
While Reach That Guy students worked at food pantries and homeless shelters, and packed school bags for needy kids, Impact volunteers distributed more than 500 flyers and made improvements tp Camp Eagle in central Florida. In addition, many convention-goers donated blood during the Wednesday Red Cross Blood Drive.
We Should Remember
The 2013 convention was marked by transition, as a number of long-time convention staffers stepped down from their positions. Dari Goodfellow (pictured below with husband Sandy), convention registration coordinator since 2000 relinquished her position to Debbie Burden (TN) in light of her upcoming October 31 retirement. Joining her in “retiring” from the convention team were husband Sandy Goodfellow (convention computer support) and Mike and Sherry Anderson (TN), husband and wife duo who have served as convention recording coordinators and technical support since 2000.
Convention Music Coordinator Chris Truett also stepped aside from his position to focus on his new role as executive pastor at Bethel FWB Church (NC). Kevin Justice (NC) stepped in to coordinate the music in Tampa. He is music minister at Unity FWB Church, Greenville, North Carolina, and a member of the Music Commission.
Jack Williams, convention staff writer (and long-time convention manager), missed his first convention in 43 years, as he continues to recover from a stroke suffered in November 2012.
We Should Do God’s Business
General Board 2013
On Monday, July 22, the General Board heard reports from nine national agencies and four commissions as Moderator Tim York guided board members through the four-hour, 40-minute meeting to adjournment in the Grand Ballroom of the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel.
Along the way, General Board members approved several recommendations, including a 2013 denominational budget of $24.5 million, and a resolution reaffirming the denomination’s commitment to biblical marriage.
They also approved a recommendation from the Executive Committee stating that all ordained ministers, ordained deacons, and one lay delegate will be allowed to represent their church at the national convention when the church pays the representation fee. This will encourage participation by local church delegates.
The board also recommended an amendment to the charter of the Board of Retirement and Insurance, making it possible for the board to offer the retirement plan to Free Will Baptist groups that are not part of the National Association and do not have a plan of their own.
Clerk Randy Bryant read the names of 22 appointments to 2014 national committees: Credentials Committee (5), Nominating Committee (7), Resolutions Committee (5), and Obituary Committee (5).
Free Will Baptist Executive Office
After giving attendees a “warm welcome,” to sunny Florida, Executive Secretary Keith Burden shared a solid financial picture for the Executive Office, despite ongoing economic uncertainty. He celebrated the continuing success of ONE Magazine, which reaches more than 55,000 Free Will Baptist households.
He thanked Convention Registration Coordinator Dari Goodfellow for 22 years of work in the Executive Office and introduced Debbie Burden as her replacement as convention registration coordinator. He also thanked Mike Anderson, Sherry Anderson, and Sandy Goodfellow for providing many years of computer support and recording and gave a nod to outgoing board member Rick Cash for 12 years of work on the Executive Board.
He urged delegates to make hotel reservations within the room block to help the convention meet contractual obligations and avoid crippling attrition fees.
Free Will Baptist Foundation
Foundation Director David Brown rejoiced over an increase of $6.75 million in 2012, the second highest annual increase in the department’s history, resulting in assets of more than $48 million at the end of the year. The upward trend continues into 2013, with projected growth of $5 to $7 million. In light of these increases, the Foundation will begin setting aside realized gains to establish a grant program to benefit Free Will Baptist ministries, projected to begin by 2018.
Brown announced a partnership with Cornerstone Estate Planning to provide comprehensive estate planning for Free Will Baptists. The two organizations are sponsoring ongoing seminars for churches and associations. The Foundation will add Doug Little as a full-time employee in 2014, to serve as a field representative.
Retiring General Director Larry Powell marked 2013 as a milestone 75th year for Free Will Baptist Home Missions. From humble roots, the department has grown to include works in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and nine chaplains serving in the Armed Forces. This year, nine churches reached self-supporting status. Rev. Powell encouraged Free Will Baptists to reach out to the new immigrant population exploding in the United States, taking advantage of the nations on our doorsteps.
Powell expressed praise for his staff: “I must express my profound appreciation to our faithful staff members…I appreciate their servant spirit, commitment, and excellent work.”
He introduced David Crowe, current director of development, as new general director, effective January 2014. Home Missions Board Chairman Randy Wright thanked Powell and his wife Wanda for 12 years of strong leadership for the department. Brad Ransom (OK) will replace Richard Atwood as director of missionary assistance.
Director Ken Akers shared a long list of Master’s Men activities in 2012-13: IMPACT Memphis, joint marriage enrichment conferences with WNAC, disaster response in Eastern Kentucky, CMI (Count Me In) conferences, and several sports fellowship activities.
He announced the publication of A How-To Manual for Christian Living, the latest in the Direction Bible Study Series, and encouraged Free Will Baptists to get involved in the ongoing relief efforts in Moore, Oklahoma. President Tim Eaton commended Master’s Men and the denomination for the “heartwarming response” to ongoing relief efforts.
Board of Retirement
Retirement assets grew 9.5% in 2012, to more than $45 million, according to Director Ray Lewis, and the department received more than $2 million in new contributions.
Lewis honored outgoing board members Craig Cook and Jack Ward for 12 years of service on the Retirement Board. He proposed a change to the Board’s charter that will “allow us to offer our plan to Free Will Baptist groups that are not part of the National Association and do not have a plan of their own.”
The Board of Retirement will partner with Guidestone Financial Services, benefit agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, to provide affordable health insurance to Free Will Baptists. The organization includes more than 12,000 churches and 67,000 ministry employees, and pays out more than $200 million annually.
He also encouraged delegates to participate in the Labor of Love Endowment, established in 2012 to help Free Will Baptist ministers who do not have enough funds set aside to retire.
Director Clint Morgan (pictured below) compared Free Will Baptist International Missions to a battleship, armed and ready to sail into dangerous waters to take the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth. He emphasized the department’s continuing mission to labor with the body of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission.
Morgan celebrated a two-year financial turnaround that allowed missionaries to return to their fields, thanks in part to a record-breaking World Missions Offering (WMO) of more than $1 million in 2012. The faithful giving continues in 2013, as the current WMO totals passed $650,000 in July.
During 2012, the Mission recorded 1,425 converts, 45 new churches, and 1,100 baptisms as more than 36,000 international Free Will Baptists met across the globe on any given Sunday. Many new missionaries are currently preparing to go to the field.
Director of Financial Operations Rob Conley shared continuing financial challenges for the Mission and appealed to delegates for increased monthly giving, the staple of missions funding.
Jeff Turnbough, director of field operations, celebrated complete transition to national leadership in Panama in 2015. “This is not the end of missions in Panama,” Jeff stressed, “but the beginning of a new partnership.”
Morgan honored Carlisle Hanna (SC) for 60 years of missionary service, and saluted retiring missionary Patsy Van Hook (AR) for faithful service in France.
Women Nationally Active for Christ
WNAC Executive Director Elizabeth Hodges shared exciting updates about the department’s work in 2012. Four $1,000 scholarships were awarded to women in Free Will Baptist colleges in honor of Dr. Mary Ruth Wisehart. Recipients included Rebekah Gedeon (Welch), Amber Wilson (Gateway), Jessica Potter (California Christian), and second-year recipient Bre Rierson Lee (Hillsdale).
The Cleo Pursell Foreign Student Scholarship was awarded to Myriam Le Louarn (France). Le Louarn is sister to missionary Lydie Teague and leads the youth program at the Nantes Church.
WNAC also sent $3,000 to help complete women’s restrooms at the Bible Seminary (IBLAC) in Altamira, Mexico. They partnered with International Missions to refurnish the Missionary Guest House in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and purchased a keyboard for the mission church that meets on the campus of Seminary of the Cross (SEBLAC) in Reynosa, Mexico. Free Will Baptist women also provided conference fees for Cuban women to attend marriage retreats in Cuba.
Hodges praised the 4,090 WNAC members from 22 states who gave $497,225 to missions and ministry causes, including $37,024 in gifts to the Steward Provision Closet.
Randall House Executive Director Ron Hunter celebrated publication of 63 digital books this year, with 2,300 titles sold. Fall 2012 marked the highest sales quarter of curriculum in the history of the department, and the publishing house is debt-free for the first time in a decade. Randall House won eight awards from the Evangelical Press Association and nine awards from PIAS (Printing Industry Association of the South).
Hunter reassured delegates that Randall House will continue to provide resources using the King James Version of the Bible, acknowledging the special place the translation holds in the hearts of Free Will Baptists. He updated listeners on the progress of D6 Digital Curriculum, currently delayed due to the difficulty of developing a complex-yet-simple interface that will provide ease-of-use for customers.
Hunter made note of extensive remodeling of the Randall House facility to update the aging property and add needed office space for the growing staff. “Our building still had fashionable looks from the ‘70s,” he quipped. “But the changes will provide a more open work environment and enhance accountability and teamwork.”
He shared the following vision: “Randall House remains dedicated to helping churches and families. The future of our denomination depends on working together on the generational issues of evangelism, family, and discipleship.”
President Matt Pinson shared several challenges facing the college: a decrease in students willing to travel out of state, more competition by community and local state colleges, and the unstable economy. In addition, he explained the development of a “pension crisis” resulting from government-imposed rules on the college’s pension plan. The new regulations cost the school $850,000 over a five-year period. To avoid continuing losses, the college borrowed $2.3 million in 2012 to terminate the program and fully fund participants.
In spite of the challenges, Pinson expressed gratitude. He celebrated the highest general fund gift total in the school’s history at $1.26 million. He pointed to increased freshmen retention, increased graduation rates, growing numbers of young men preparing for and excited about the ministry, a faithful and excellent staff, and a continued ranking as one of the top 50 southern colleges by U.S. News and World Report. He announced the launch of a new four-year degree program that will enable professionals to complete their degrees online. The program, along with a new website (www.welch.edu), gives the college a boost in the arena of educational technology.
In addition, the president updated delegates on exciting developments regarding the sale of the existing property on West End Avenue. The first stage of campus liquidation has been completed with the sale of the Cook Building, Ennis Residence Hall, the Missionary-in-Residence Home, and the President’s Home. He also shared breaking news that the college has received a formal letter of intent from a buyer to purchase the rest of the campus.
Matt Pinson, chairman of the Commission for Theological Integrity, announced plans to publish a new issue of Integrity: A Journal of Christian Thought by early 2014. The commission will sponsor the 17th annual Theological Symposium, October 28-29, 2013, at Hillsdale College in Moore, Oklahoma.
The Historical Commission launched a revised history website (www.FWBHistory.com) in February, according to Eric Thomsen (pictured below), commission secretary. The site includes important historical documents available for download, including biographies, periodicals, minutes from national conventions, and more. The commission will distribute copies of “Free Will Baptists and the Sufficiency of Scripture,” seventh pamphlet in the Heritage Series at the 2014 convention.
During the report for the Music Commission, Doug Little and Keith Burden thanked Chris Truett (NC) for 10 years of work as convention music coordinator. Truett stepped aside from the position this year, and resigned his post on the Media Commission.
The Free Will Baptist Media Commission continues to improve and expand live streaming of convention services, including services from the National Youth Conference for the first time in Tampa. The commission will offer an online archive of convention services from previous years, beginning in 2014, with convention audio available for streaming at www.FWBmedia.com. The commission recognized Mike Anderson for many years of work with convention media.
For convention photos: www.nafwb.yerbyphotography.com
Convention at a Glance 2013
National Association – 3,206
National Youth Conference – 3,581
Women Nationally Active for Christ – 653
Total* – 4,850
*Individuals. Some attendees register for more than one convention.
Theme: How in the World Should We Live?
Sunday School – Tim Owen (FL)
Sunday Morning – Randy Riggs (TN)
Sunday Evening – Donnie Miles (SC)
Monday Evening – Will Beauchamp (FL)
Preaching Conference – Oral McAffee (Canada), Tim Stout (OH)
Tuesday Evening – Larry Clyatt (FL)
Wednesday Evening – Larry Powell (TN)
Live Streaming Totals (Through Tuesday)
Total Visitors – 6,479
Unique Visitors – 3,720
Executive Office – $853,200
FWBBC (Welch) – $5,188,988
FWB Foundation – $714,759
Home Missions – $5,000,000
International Missions – $7,250,000
Master’s Men – $148,443
Retirement and Insurance – $475,000
Randall House – $5,016,500
Theological Commission – $8,850
Historical Commission – $3,860
Media Commission – $3,000
Music Commission – $3,575
Total – $24,666,175
Elected in Tampa
2019 Donnie Miles (SC), Wendell Walley (CA), Hubert Stafford (GA)
Board of Home Missions
2019 Jeff Jones (NC), Frank Wiley (OK), Frank Webster (MO)
Board of Master’s Men
2019 Ken Oleson (OK), Jason Vinson (AL), Sam Lucky (FL)
Board of Retirement
2015 Larry Clyatt (FL)
2019 Rick Cason (GA), Mike Gladson (TN), Randy Wilson (OK)
Commission for Theological Integrity
2014 Randy Corn (TN)
2016 Jackson Watts (TN)
2018 Matt Pinson (TN)
2018 David Crowe (TN)
2015 Bryan Hughes (NC)
2018 James Stevens (TN)
2018 Stephen Lopes (TN)
General Board 2018
Alabama: Rick Cash
Arizona: George Harvey, Jr.
Arkansas: Tim Campbell
Assoc. of Mexico: Luis Felipe Tijerina
Atlantic-Canada: Oral McAffee
California: Rick Scroggins
Colorado: Mark Thomas
David Marks: Tom Jones
Florida: Jim Christian
Georgia: Wayne Miracle
Idaho: Gene Kissinger
Illinois: David Shores
2014 Wayne Hale (DE)
2016 Tim Campbell (AR), David Shores (IL), Wayne Miracle (GA)
Moderator: Tim York (TN)
Assistant Moderator: William Smith (GA)
Clerk: Randy Bryant (FL)
Assistant Clerk: Ernie Lewis (IL)
The following boards did not elect members in 2013: Board of Randall House Publications, Board of International Missions, and Welch College Board of Trustees.
Convention News Coverage Team
Editorial: Danny Conn, Emily Faison, Sarah Fletcher, Dari Goofellow, Ida Lewis, Stephen Nelson, Deborah St. Lawrence, Eric Thomsen, Jack Williams, and Phyllis York.
Photography: Sandra Akers, Victoria Thomsen, Rodney Yerby