Executive Board welcomes new staff, plans for executive director search

AUSTIN Executive Board members of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention welcomed new staff and received an announcement from Executive Director Jim Richards that 2021 would be his final year at the helm of the organization he has led since its founding.

Richards told the group assembled in person at Hyde Park Baptist Church, and members participating via Zoom, that he will complete his tenure at the end of 2021. While planning to announce his decision in April 2020, he said he chose to remain to serve the churches during the pandemic.

“Do not change who you are,” Richards cautioned those who will name the next leader of the convention, urging them to avoid doctrinal compromise. (See related article on this page.)

With the SBTC’s Vision 2021 restructure slated to start Jan. 1, the Executive Committee had acted to hire three full-time staff in the Church Health and Leadership department, introducing Jeff Lynn, pastor of Yorktown Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, as team leader; Shane Kendrix, pastor of First Baptist Church of Frederick, Okla., as Northwest Texas regional catalyst; and Paul Stohler, pastor of First Baptist Church of Arnett, Okla., as West Texas regional catalyst.

Richards also acknowledged additional part-time staff and a consultant, including Tony Mathews as the new interim senior strategist for Missional Ministries while continuing to pastor North Garland Baptist Fellowship; Ryan Fontenot as staff evangelist while continuing to serve as staff evangelist at Baptist Temple in McAllen; and Jane Rodgers of Brownwood, a long-time TEXAN correspondent, as incoming managing editor. 

Retiring staff members Mark Yoakum, director of church ministries, and Gary Ledbetter, director of communications, were recognized with special gifts and expressions of gratitude for their service. 

In other business, Joe Davis, SBTC chief financial officer, gave the 2020 financial report, noting total Cooperative Program receipts of $19,424,842, through September, a decrease of $691,940 from the same time last year.

Davis said the convention’s budget shortfall began in March (with the pandemic shutdowns) but was offset by the convention’s underspending the budget by $2,524,531 (26 percent), leaving a net operating income of $1,615,469 through September. 

The board report also noted decreases in Lottie Moon receipts from just over $9.03 million in 2019 to $8.17 million in 2020, and a decline in the Annie Armstrong offering from $2.86 million to $2.4 million for that same period.

In other business, 13 churches were approved for affiliation with the convention and six churches removed based on merging with other churches, disbanding or at the church’s request. The current number of affiliated churches is 2,676.

The relocation committee was authorized to continue pursuing the possible sale of the Grapevine building and move to a smaller facility with a non-binding listing agreement.

The board also authorized reserve funding grants to cover line item overages and year-end Christmas bonuses for staff.

Newly elected officers include Mark Hogan, lay leader at Mission City Church in San Antonio, as chairman; Caleb Turner, assistant pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church as vice-chairman, and Todd Kaunitz, pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church of Longview as secretary.

Members of the executive director search committee will include the three newly elected officers, as well as Nathan Lino of Humble, ministry relationships committee chairman; Robert Slavens of Cypress, administrative committee chairman; SBTC president Kie Bowman of Austin; and two at-large members, Loui Canchola, pastor of campus development and church planting at Baptist Temple in McAllen and Carol Yarber, a member of Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro.  

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