HED: Baptists vote not to rebuild conference center on Coast

n A memorial for aborted children was recognized at the Mississippi convention.

By Charity Gordon

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mississippi Baptists decided not to rebuild its largest conference center that Hurricane Katrina destroyed 14 months ago.

At their 171st annual convention this week in Jackson, 95 percent of Baptist representatives, dubbed messengers, chose not to reconstruct the former three-story conference facilities in Pass Christian.

“It was a sad moment,” said the Rev. Jerry East, pastor of First Baptist Church in Verona. “But it was the right thing to do. With the increased cost of rebuilding on the Coast, with the new codes and the increased cost of insurance, it would be poor stewardship.”

Larry Otis, former mayor of Tupelo, chaired the committee that studied whether to rebuild the Gulfshore Baptist Assembly facilities. The committee recommended the convention sell the land and never rebuild on the Coast. Messengers from more than 2,100 affiliated churches participated in the decision.

Dr. Marc Howard, director of the Lee County Baptist Association, says the proceeds from selling the Pass Christian property will go to other Baptist camps in the state.

He also said Mississippi Baptists will build another conference center, since they are in need of a large meeting site. However, where they will relocate requires study.

Giving increases

The Mississippi Baptist Convention also unanimously passed a $33.2 million budget for its Cooperative Program, which combines church contributions for local and international missions.

Howard says there was concern that their missions giving would drop this year because of the many Baptist churches razed by Katrina.

“But really it increased,” he said. “That’s a sign of God’s blessing.”

Most of the convention was positive and peaceful, Howard says. Perhaps the most upsetting issue was the dismissal of 35 Baptist pastors from their leadership positions over the past year, 20 more than the previous year.

“That was disturbing for us,” said Howard, who attributes most of the conflicts to leadership style.

Howard said the convention also recognized a Memorial to the Missing, a glass container in which Baptist churches amassed 50 million pennies.

“Each penny represents a life of a child aborted,” he said, referring to the 50 million legal abortions performed since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade. “We have it there as a testimony. Later that money will be used for right-to-life causes.”

The memorial sits a block away from First Baptist Church in Jackson, which hosted the convention.

Contact Daily Journal religion editor Charity Gordon at 678-1586 or charity.gordon@djournal.com

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