By Tom Mitchell, President • BMA of Arkansas
When I began writing these articles last November, the choice for a masthead was “Just Thinking.” Oh, my! When it comes to dealing with the difficult decision of having the annual session of the BMA of Arkansas, I (as well as several others) have had to do a lot of just thinking… only to realize that this is not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination.
We Have a Culprit!
Many epidemics have been encountered during the course of the history of the United States. However, I don’t believe any has been as disruptive to the American way of life as has the Coronavirus, tagged as COVID-19.
I also don’t think that church life has ever been disrupted as it has in 2020. As a result of a knee-jerk response to how churches have attempted to deal with this, churches in California have been ordered to not meet together and lawsuits are being filed to protect the churches’ Constitutional rights. Local churches are having to face difficult decisions across our continent as never before.
We Have a Conundrum
As November gets closer, time to make decisions about the BMA of Arkansas meeting is running out. I had really hoped to give a definite answer as to whether or not we will have the meeting Nov. 5-6, but your associational officers and Central Baptist College’s administration & staff are truly facing a conundrum. The desire to meet is great, but the obstacles, at this point, seem to be greater. As we have pitched ideas to each another, we have realized there are basically five options to choose from:
• Cancel the meeting. This would require the association to allow this year’s slate of officers to continue to serve into next year and still maintain the ability to moderate and clerk the following years according to the Statement of Principles of Cooperation. This is, by no means, our favorite option.
• Have a one-day meeting, likely on Friday, Nov. 6. Our brothers and sisters in the BMA of Texas have opted for this approach. The drawback is that we may have to cancel State WMA and State Brotherhood meetings, and these are integral parts of the meeting for so many. Some may ask why this is any easier than having a Thursday evening session and a Friday session. It has to do with the culprit — everything would have to be disinfected in a short amount of time, and time is limited from the evening to the next morning.
• To not have an in-person associational meeting. Instead, have the department leaders and missionaries will produce video reports, recommendations and prayer requests. While this may accomplish the basics for the association, the facts are that very few actually watch the videos.
• To have the two-day meeting. We would do our utmost to meet every requirement set forth by the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force and Health Department Guidelines and have a two-day meeting like we have always done. I personally favor this option. My reasoning is that we can get everything ready prior to the meeting, utilizing the CBC staff, associational officers, state missionaries and other local volunteers. My dad always told me that anything worth having is worth working for. I believe we have something worth working for.
The question may arise, “When will the difficult decision be made?” In conferring with CBC’s Director of Church Relations, Duffy Guyton, and First Vice-President, Dr. Gary O’Neal, the plan is to put off the decision until mid-September. This will give us time to evaluate what effect is evident once CBC students return to campus and have had a couple weeks interacting with each other, going to classes and resuming college life. Prayerfully, no outbreaks of COVID-19 will take place, and this will give us an idea as to whether it will be safe to have the meeting at all.
Another aspect of this conundrum is that the present guidelines for meetings like ours is that they are supposed to be limited to 100 attendees. This may prove to be one of the most problematic scenarios as we focus on the logistics of meeting together. How do we determine who attends and who does not?
We Have a Champion!
We have a God who has provided a champion who goes to battle for us and with us. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, our Counselor, our Champion for overcoming the conundrums we face on our right and on our left.
We also have Christ’s promise: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14 NIV).
I know some may be disappointed that we are postponing a decision, but please try to see it from where we are. This is really a difficult decision! So, may I humbly request that you pray for your officers, CBC President Terry Kimbrow and Duffy Guyton? We want your support in prayer, and we also welcome any suggestions that may enable us to best accommodate the needs of the BMA of Arkansas.