Louisiana Baptists’ response to Hurricane Katrina and Rita was selected as the state convention’s top news story of 2005.
By Brian Blackwell
Louisiana Baptists’ response to Hurricane Katrina
and Rita was selected as the state convention’s top news story of 2005.
Hurricane Katrina devastated Southeastern Louisiana
when it made landfall in the New Orleans area on Aug. 29. One month
later, Hurricane Rita slammed into the southwestern part of the state.
Within days of both storms’ impact, Southern Baptists sent multitudes of volunteers to the affected areas.
By the end of the year, more than 9,000 Baptists
relief volunteers had responded in the largest disaster effort in
Baptist history, which included preparing a record 13 million meals for
hurricane victims and relief workers.
The state united behind the effort, as Louisiana’s
churches and camps opened their doors to hurricane evacuees.
Also, the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home accepted
displaced children while students from the state’s Baptist Collegiate
Ministries sacrificed weekends and holidays so they could minister in
The Louisiana Baptist Convention headquarters in
Alexandria offered congregations directly affected by the two
hurricanes hope through the Adopt-a-Church program.
The initiative asks churches to adopt congregations
whose facilities were badly damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina
More than 450 churches have indicated their desire
to adopt a Louisiana Baptist congregation. At least 150 Baptist
churches in the state have been in need of adoption.
Meanwhile, other stories ranked as top Louisiana Baptist news by the Baptist Message newspaper staff were:
2. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees vote to keep the seminary in New Orleans.
Despite sustaining $20 million worth of damage in
the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, trustees voted to keep the seminary
in New Orleans during a special Sept. 27 called meeting at its
temporary offices in Decatur, Ga.
Trustees said that the school will play a prominent
role in helping the city recover from the hurricane. They added that
the seminary will be needed to re-establish and re-launch churches in
Seminary officials also announced plans to hold December 2005 graduation and on-campus classes by early 2006.
3. Louisiana College is removed from probation.
The Baptist school had been on probation since
December 2004 following a visit by the Southern Association of Colleges
and Schools to the campus when association leaders cited concerns about
academic freedom and governance at the school.
Since that time, the school had worked to address
concerns and had involved administrators, faculty and trustees in the
process. A decision on whether to lift the school’s probation or take
other action was made at the association’s scheduled meeting Dec. 6 in
If SACS had not removed LC from probation at the
meeting, the school would either have undergone another year of
probation or had its accreditation removed.
LC President Joe Aguillard called the announcement
“miraculous,” since most colleges and universities in similar
situations normally endure a 24-month probation period.
4. Aguillard is elected Louisiana College’s eight president.
After numerous twists and turns, trustees elected
Joe Aguillard after an all-night session. Previously the head of the
college’s education department, Aguillard was chosen nearly two months
after Malcolm Yarnell withdrew his name from consideration as the
Yarnell, a professor at Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, noted contract negotiations
between himself and trustee leaders had been unsuccessful, citing
governance issues that would affect his ability to lead the college.
At their December 2004 meeting, trustees re-launched their search for a
new college president, this time with a blended search committee that
included the original members as well as new committee members.
Board members instructed the search committee to
consider Aguillard first as a nominee and then bring his name to the
board for action.
Some of the original search committee members
protested the moves, noting they went outside established procedure.
They believed that school bylaws stated that the search committee will
remain in place until the office of the president is filled.
Some committee members argued that since Yarnell
never signed a contract, the office never was filled. Other trustees
said that since Yarnell received compensation for attending Louisiana
College functions, the office was filled. Thus, they believed that the
original search committee was no longer in place.
In the end, Aguillard was elected the school’s president.
But in March 2005, several alumni and friends of Louisiana College
filed a lawsuit challenging the election of Aguillard. The judge
validated the election.
5. Louisiana Baptist Convention messengers vote to
keep the Baptist Message newspaper independent from the state
During the final session of the 2005 LBC annual
meeting in West Monroe, messengers rejected a plan to dissolve the
convention’s independent newspaper and bring it under convention
The matter dates back to earlier that year, when new
LBC Executive Director David Hankins proposed moving the Baptist
Message within the convention as part of a newly-formed communications
team. The move would provide an efficient, effective, coordinated way
to tell the Louisiana Baptist story, Hankins said.
Trustees initially rejected the idea, but then revisited it a few months later and approved it.
Under the plan, then-Oklahoma Baptist Messenger
Editor John Yeats would be elected director of the new state
communications team. In turn, Baptist Message trustees would propose
making the paper part of the communications team.
If the idea was approved by convention messengers,
Yeats then would become editor of the newspaper as part of his director
of communications duties.
The Baptist Message board would remain in place as an advisory committee until the 2007 annual meeting.
But messengers at the LBC annual meeting voted at
least two-to-one against the idea on a show-of-ballots vote. Approval
of the move would have required a two-thirds vote in favor.
6. The Baptist Retirement Center is dissolved.
After a couple of years of facing serious financial
difficulties, LBC messengers agreed to sell the facility and use the
proceeds to aid Louisiana Baptist retired ministers and/or their
widows. Baptist Retirement Center members unanimously adopted a final
plan of dissolution of the corporation during its June 30 meeting in
Under the adopted plan, the center’s assets were disbursed as follows:
• All debts and administrative expenses of the
corporation were paid and/or provided for, including the costs of
liquidating the corporation.
• A special distribution of $100,000 was scheduled
to be paid to the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home in Monroe.
• The remaining assets were placed in trust with the
Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Board for use in the Shepherd’s
Trust Fund. That fund will provide financial grants for the basic
necessities of life for active or retired Louisiana Baptist ministers
and/or their wives or widows.
7. Kelly Boggs is elected Baptist Message editor.
After a one-and-a-half year search, the newspaper
trustees unanimously elected the Oregon pastor to serve as the entity’s
editor. He succeeds Lynn Clayton, who will retire after more than 27
years as Baptist Message editor this month.
In presenting Boggs to board members, Baptist
Message Chair Larry Thompson cited the newly-elected leader’s
experience of presenting a Christian world view through newspaper
columns in one of the nation’s less-evangelized areas.
8. For the first time in 10 years, a pair of
candidates not endorsed by the Louisiana Inerrancy Fellowship are
elected at the LBC annual meeting.
The inerrancy group had endorsed presidential
candidates since 1999, proving successful in electing a trio of
pastors. But in 2005, supporters of the group differed on who should be
elected as president, first vice-president and second vice-president.
The election of Bill Robertson marked the first time
a presidential candidate not endorsed by the inerrancy group had been
elected to the office. By the end of the annual meeting, just one of
three candidates endorsed by the group was elected – Collin Wimberly,
who was chosen as second vice-president. Wayne DuBose was elected first
While both Robertson and his opponent, Jerry
Chaddick, agreed with the recent shift in the state convention to a
more conservative stance, Robertson said he had a problem with some of
the ways those changes were implemented.
9. Southern Baptist Convention messengers agree to
sole membership of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
During the 2005 SBC annual meeting in Nashville,
messengers voted that the national convention will secure its ties to
Sole membership relates to a legal structure
designed to specify ownership rights of the convention over the
The issue dates back to 1997, when the Executive
Committee asked convention agencies to make the convention the sole
member. The action was designed to prevent an agency from leaving the
By 2000, the seminary was the only holdout, with the
exception of the SBC Executive Committee, which promised to agree to
sole membership once the school did so.
Though seminary trustees rejected the model due to
concerns regarding increased liability under Louisiana law, they
promised to find an alternate way to secure the school to the national
But before that could happen, the Executive
Committee asked messengers to request New Orleans Seminary to adopt the
model at the 2004 SBC annual meeting.
Seminary trustees agreed, but continued to express reservations about the move.
Seminary trustees did so, while continuing to express reservations.
Despite Seminary President Chuck Kelley’s arguments
at the 2005 SBC annual meeting, the motion to make the national
convention the sole member of the seminary passed.
10. LBC messengers adopt a reduced 2006 budget.
For the third time in memory, messengers voted to
amend a proposed state Cooperative Program budget from the floor of an
annual convention. State leaders said the reduction was needed due to
the expected impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Messengers approved a $21 million budget – a
decrease of $1 million from the previous year – after voting to
restore a proposed cut for the Baptist Message. The approval of the
2006 budget also marked the fourth time in the last 20 years that
Louisiana Baptists were forced to reduce their annual giving goal.