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Developmental Disabilities Ministries creates self perpetuating board, removes itself from GBC

 

In a letter to the Georgia Baptist Convention dated Nov. 3, Georgia Baptist Developmental Disabilities President Richard Davis announced the agency's intention to separate from the GBC.

The letter first cited an action taken Oct. 14 by the DDM's board to amend its bylaws to remove the right of the convention to elect DDM trustees. Secondly, the letter indicated that the DDM board of trustees elected two new trustees, each for a five-year term commencing in January 2005.

Article VIII, Section 1 of the Georgia Baptist Convention states that "A (Georgia Baptist) institution is a body whose governing board is elected by the Convention."

By independently amending its bylaws and creating a self-perpetuating board the DDM essentially removed itself from being an institution of the GBC.

 

A safe environment

The DDM was established in 1981 to provide a safe environment for adults with developmental disabilities. Originally, this ministry operated under the auspices of the Georgia Baptist Children's Homes. For more than 20 years the ministry has flourished and presently has 14 community-based group homes/apartments capable of serving 76 adults.

In 1999, DDM became an independent agency. Both the Georgia Baptist Children's Homes and Family Ministries and the Georgia Baptist Developmental Disabilities Ministries were growing and the decision was made to separate into two entities. The Children's Home trustees affirmed the decision and voted to give two million dollars to insure the success of the new agency. The last portion of that monetary gift was received by the DDM last year.

In commenting on the recent turn of events, Kenneth Dobbs, president and CEO of the Georgia Baptist Children Homes and Family Ministry, remarked, "Today there are more than 10,000 adults in our state diagnosed with developmental disabilities who rely on the support of ministries like DDM. We are saddened by their recent decision, but pray that their ministry will continue onward and meet the needs of the residents who need their loving care."

The decision of the DDM trustees was reported to the Administration Committee of the GBC on Nov. 9 and the Executive Committee on Nov. 15. It was reported to the convention in annual session Nov. 16.

DDM has been requested to cease from using any name, information or materials, which state or infer that it is an institution of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

 

Disappointment with decision

In reflecting on the decision of the DDM trustees J. Robert White, executive director of the GBC, commented, "I was greatly disappointed to learn that Developmental Disabilities Ministry decided to withdraw from the Georgia Baptist Convention by choosing to elect their own trustees. Unlike Shorter College, their articles of incorporation do not prevent them from doing so.

The convention has been cooperative and supportive of this ministry from its inception. It is a much-needed ministry that expresses the very heart and soul of Georgia Baptists. This being the case, it hurts to see them withdraw. Personally, I feel the decision to be unwise and short-sighted, though not illegal."

White continued, "I sincerely pray for the future success of Developmental Disabilities Ministry and wish them the very best. The Task Force on Institution Relations is currently active to determine how best to secure the relationships and investments that Georgia Baptists have with their institutions. The balance of our institutions seems to be committed to the mission and values of the Georgia Baptist Convention."

Tony Dickerson, who was elected to a second term as GBC president, expressed his disappointment over the DDM trustee decision, saying, "It is regrettable that they have chosen not to continue to cooperate with the convention. I believe that our election process serves the convention and our family of churches well."

Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville and chairman of the convention's Administration Committee, voiced his concern: "It is always sad when a ministry or institution feels they no longer need the denomination that brought them into existence."

Cox continued, "It is my belief we can always do ministry better together under the Georgia Baptist tent. This is the cooperative way. Evidently, the trustees of DDM hold other thoughts. While I believe it is a mistake for them to leave the Georgia Baptist fold, my prayers go with them. My prayers also go with the DDM residents to whom so many Georgia Baptists have ministered. May God bless them."