WACO–During the first business session of the 137th Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) Annual Meeting, messengers elected new officers, approved the 2023 budget and heard reports from the Executive Director Search Committee and Gen Z/Millennial Task Force.
New officers elected
Julio Guarneri, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, was elected president of the Convention. Guarneri has served as first vice president for two years and as a chair at Buckner International, chairman of Stark College and Seminary and on the BGCT Executive Board. Gary Cook, chancellor of Dallas Baptist University, nominated Guarneri. He highlighted Guarneri’s passion for discipleship and prayer and his dedication to Texas Baptists.
“He’s of the highest character and integrity, and he loves his family … We need a praying president, and I believe we have one with Dr. Julio Guarneri,” Cook said. “It is my privilege to nominate him as president of our Convention.”
Nebiye Kelile, pastor of Pathway Church in Dallas, was elected first vice president and was nominated by David Foster, Jr., groups and connections pastor of Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church in Dallas.
“He is a strong biblical preacher, has a passion for the lost and has a desire to make disciples,” Foster said.
Finally, Ronny Marriott, pastor of First Baptist Church of Burleson, was elected second vice president. He was nominated by Cory Hines, president of Howard Payne University. Hines said of Marriott, “He is a true leader, the model pastor and someone who can cultivate strong relationships.”
All officers ran unopposed and were elected following a vote by the 1,101 messengers in attendance.
Business reports and recommendations
Clint Davis, chair of the Executive Board, gave an update on business conducted by the Executive Board during 2022. He shared that the board elected Bobby Contreras, current Executive Board vice chair and pastor of Alamo Heights Baptist Church in San Antonio, to serve as chair in 2023. Janice Bloom, current board representative of Sectors 9-11 and member of First Baptist Church of Garland, was elected to serve as the vice chair. He also introduced David Mahfouz, who serves as the chair of the Executive Director Search Committee.
Mahfouz shared the committee’s progress, explaining they are hosting listening sessions to best understand the needs, expectations and desires of churches for the new executive director. Following the listening sessions, a job profile will be written and released in January 2023, when the committee will begin to receive nominations.
He called for prayer during this time.
“Join us in praying that God will call out that individual and that God will guide this committee in the coming days,” he said.
Messengers heard an update from the Gen Z/Millennial Task Force, which outlined five recommendations based on their research. The task force was assembled following a motion at the 2021 Annual Meeting in Galveston to study and recommend ways to increase millennial and Generation Z involvement in Texas Baptists life and churches.
Chris McLain, pastor from First Baptist Church in Bandera, presented the task force’s recommendations, which included hosting listening sessions, supplementing Texas Baptists’ communications, setting an attendance goal at Annual Meeting, launching a statewide initiative to encourage and equip churches to reach emerging adults and creating a residency task force. A full report can be found here.
“As our state grows and changes, engaging with and resourcing emerging adults to follow their unique callings will both revive churches and help establish new churches,” McLain said.
Later in the business session, in conjunction with these recommendations, Scotty Swingler, associate pastor of students at Sugar Land Baptist Church, submitted a motion on behalf of the task force. The motion was to create a task force to study the creation of a residency program whereby young ministers are mentored and trained by established ministers. The task force will present its findings to the new Executive Director, Executive Board and the messengers of the Convention no later than the 2024 Annual Meeting.
The 2023 budget was introduced by Ward Hayes, treasurer and CFO for Texas Baptists. He explained how the money given to the Cooperative Program was being used to help the pastors and churches of the Convention. Hayes highlighted the Inflation Relief Grants and Pastor Sabbatical Grants, which helped a combined total of 272 pastors. He also highlighted the Hispanic Education Initiative, which has provided over $700,000 in scholarships since its inception 20 years ago.
“God has been good to us. He remains faithful, our churches have remained faithful and I want to make sure the glory goes to him during this report,” Hayes said.
Messengers approved the proposed 2023 Texas Baptists missions and ministry $35.46 million budget. This is the second consecutive year the budget has increased. The percentage allotment of the adopted budget was approved to continue at 79% BGCT and 21% Worldwide, with each church selecting the recipient(s) of the Worldwide portion. The recommendation for the 2022 Texas World Missions Initiatives and Partnership Allocation was $1 million.
Other business included the approval of nominations from the Committee on Committees, the Committee on Nominations for Boards of Affiliated Ministries and the Committee to Nominate Executive Board Directors.