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Alaska Baptists seek new leader

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (BP) — The Alaska Baptist Convention is searching for an executive director to succeed Michael Procter, who will retire next May after 30 years of service in the frontier state.

A call to the unique environment of Alaska is essential for a candidate, Todd Burgess, chairman of the search committee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Eagle River, told Baptist Press.

“There’s nothing like it anywhere in the United States,” Burgess said. “We have anywhere from modern cities to a third world country in Alaska. We have cities with Walmart and cities without running water.”

The weather is unique because some parts of Alaska can experience a 130-degree difference in temperature between summer and winter. “In Fairbanks right now it’s 90 degrees, and in the wintertime it can get 40 below zero,” said Burgess, who grew up in the state.

Alaska’s road system, he said, only covers about a quarter of the geography. “You’ve got to either fly in or take a boat up the river to get to some of these villages,” he said.

In a southern state like Georgia, Burgess said, a denominational worker might drive a few hours from one side of the state to the other to meet with someone. Not so in Alaska.

“To do that in Alaska, it would be almost like going from Los Angeles to New York. That’s the distance you’re covering,” he said, “and to travel within the state could cost you $1,000 just to get from one village to the next by air.”

In terms of spiritual maturity, Burgess estimates as little as 3 percent of the population is saved and goes to church. “They are very independent, and most people who come to Alaska want to get away from everybody. That tends to be the mindset.”

Getting into Alaskan villages with the Gospel is challenging, Burgess said, because people are apprehensive about organized religion given their history with the Russian Orthodox Church that preceded Alaska’s statehood.

“There’s a lot of heritage we have to work with to get people to know the Gospel,” Burgess told BP.

Villages range from 50 to 100 people, and they’re scattered throughout the massive state. “We actually have villages in Alaska that are unengaged, unreached people groups,” Burgess said.

“The person we’re looking for to lead our state convention has to be able to cross all those barriers,” he said.

Alaska’s executive director is responsible for managing the convention’s programs, properties and personnel according to the organization’s policies. He supervises convention staff, appropriates expenditures, coordinates programs and maintains relationships with local churches, associations and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Resumes may be submitted by email to Burgess at [email protected] by Sept. 21. The committee requests a one-page statement of faith including the candidate’s philosophy of ministry and at least three personal and professional references. Burgess also may be contacted by email to supply a job description for the position.

Alaska’s search committee is looking for a candidate with a “deep commitment to and understanding of the Cooperative Program,” “experience in new work areas,” and “family supportive of the ministry to which he is being called,” among other qualifications, according to the job description.

Procter has served as Alaska’s executive director for nearly five years and will turn 66 years old next year. He said he feels led to clear the way for the next generation.

“I remember when I was young and submitting my resume for ministry opportunities, only to be told that I needed more experience and that a person who was older was called,” Procter said. “It was a frustrating experience, and I must admit that I wondered why those ‘old guys’ just did not retire and make room for the younger guys who had new ideas.”

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  • Erin Roach