Home | 2019 Annual Meeting | Upton Celebrates and Challenges Virginia Baptists in Executive Director’s Report

Upton Celebrates and Challenges Virginia Baptists in Executive Director’s Report

Posted: 11/19/19 at 1:55pm. Article by Will Cumbia.

ROANOKE, VA — During the Tuesday morning session of the 196th Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV), John Upton continued the meeting’s theme, “Renew,” in his executive director’s report. He thanked God for all he has done in this past year and for the exciting places he is leading BGAV in the future. Upton highlighted BGAV’s continued involvement in theological education, plans for the future of BGAV, and the ending of the “More Than Nets” missions partnership.

He began by recognizing that though many are still mourning the closing of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in the past year, BGAV is still committed to theological education through its many other ministry partners. 

Upton invited Katie McKown to the pulpit to spotlight BGAV’s partnership with the John Leland Center for Theological Education. McKown recently began her new position as Leland’s Associate Director of the School of Ministry, and she shared how the Leland Center is excited to connect with and to resource people who are “eager for training and eager to reach communities for Christ.”

Upton then noted new developments with BGAV’s educational partners including Averett University, Bluefield College, Fork Union Military Academy, Hargrave Military Academy, Oak Hill Academy, Campbell University Divinity School, Duke Divinity School, Gardner-Webb University, McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, and the Southern Baptist Convention seminaries.

Continuing with the topic of BGAV’s commitment to theological education, Upton invited William Shiell, President of Northern Seminary in Chicago, IL, to announce Northern Seminary as BGAV’s seminary partner for distance education. Through this new partnership, students from BGAV churches are able to apply for and complete online Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Christian Ministries degrees through Northern’s interactive live-streaming technology called Northern Live. Shiell welcomed students to apply for classes starting in January 2020. 

Upton moved on to discuss the future of the BGAV. He explained BGAV’s mission statement, which defines the BGAV as “a missionary movement unleashing the power of the resurrected Christ through the local church for the renewal of all things.”

Unpacking the mission statement and the name of BGAV itself, he showed how the BGAV is an open, relationship focused collective of autonomous churches, rooted in Baptist principles, that is and always has been movemental. He cited the story of BGAV’s first missionaries, Jeremiah Bell Jeter and Daniel Witt, who were sent out on horseback to the western frontier in 1823 to share the Gospel. 

“This is our base, these are deep roots,” Upton said, “Anything that is going to flourish has deep roots.” While the roots have always been in Virginia, the scope of BGAV’s mission has never been limited by geography. 

Upton emphasized BGAV’s continued support and commitment to the work of the local church while recognizing the ways BGAV is already working in new, movemental ways far past the borders of Virginia. He showcased the work of the V3 church planting movement, Fresh Expressions, and Missio Alliance, all BGAV ministries that have church plants, partners, and audiences across the US and even the world.

These are “green shoots coming from deep roots,” Upton observed. “We need to create a space where all our partners can be movemental with us.” He welcomed participants into a conversation over the next year to explore and discuss what BGAV will look like as it honors its commitment to both the local church and broader movemental ministries.

Upton wrapped up his report by inviting Dean Miller, BGAV Mission Development Staff Coordinator, to announce that the BGAV has reached the goal of a six-year partnership called “More Than Nets.” Participants celebrated by opening a mosquito net on stage, the last of 100,000 nets that have been purchased by BGAV members and distributed across northern Ghana in cooperation with the Ghana Baptist Convention. Through this partnership, 1,000 churches were planted and 5,000 people were baptized in conjunction with the distribution of the 100,000 mosquito nets. There was a 43% reduction of malaria incidents in the villages where the nets were distributed.

The Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) is a cooperative missions and ministry organization that consists of over 1,360 autonomous churches in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as churches from Seoul, South Korea, Toronto, Ontario, the District of Columbia, and the states of California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.