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Alaska Baptists tap Baldwin as new executive director

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (BP)–Alaska Baptists elected David Baldwin as their new executive director and gave first approval to a new constitution during their Aug. 8-9 annual meeting at Rabbit Creek Community Church in Anchorage.

Baldwin, current director of evangelism/church growth for the Alaska Baptist Convention, was elected without opposition following a brief presentation from the search committee during the convention’s opening session.

Baldwin, a 20 year veteran of work in Alaska, served previously as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Fairbanks and as director of missions for the Tanana Valley Baptist Association before joining the Alaska convention’s staff. Baldwin received an enthusiastic reception as he was introduced to the messengers.

By the afternoon session on the convention’s second day, 157 messengers had registered, along with 57 visitors and five alternate messengers.

Tension marked the convention’s opening moments, as the credential committee’s routine motion to constitute the convention with the messengers present was challenged. A motion was made to exclude messengers from Faith Community Church in Anchorage, leading to a lengthy discussion.

Faith Community Church resulted from a merger between Faith Baptist Church, a longstanding member of the Alaska convention, and Parkside Christian Community, a nondenominational church. According to a local official, a number of members had left Faith Baptist Church because they disagreed with the pastor’s leadership style and vision for the church. As membership dwindled, the pastor, Walter Davidson, led the church to merge with the larger Parkside Christian Community. Davidson became associate pastor, and Steve Holsinger, pastor of Parkside Christian Community, became senior pastor. According to Davidson, the combined fellowship held a series of informational meetings and a study of the Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs prior to a vote, in which 90 percent favored affiliation with the Alaska Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The church continues to meet on both campuses. Maintaining a Southern Baptist identity is important, in part, because Faith Baptist Church still has legal and financial obligations to the North American Mission Board (NAMB), which provided a construction loan to the church.

The ABC’s executive board had rejected Faith Community Church’s request for affiliation during a meeting in May. After gaining further information and holding discussions with church officials, the board voted at its July meeting to reverse course and accept the church as a member of the state convention.

Former members of Faith Baptist Church were not pleased, leading to the challenge.

During the debate, Holsinger acknowledged that most members of Faith Community Church consider themselves to be nondenominational Christians rather than Southern Baptists, but he said the church’s doctrine was in line with those of Southern Baptists. He cited the benefits of the congregation becoming accountable to others and having the privilege of supporting cooperative mission causes through affiliation with the Alaska convention and the SBC.

One messenger asked whether Faith Christian Community had elected its convention messengers in a regular church session. Holsinger replied that the church’s leadership team had chosen the messengers.

After a secret-ballot vote, messengers approved the acceptance of Faith Community Church by an 84-54 margin.

In his executive director’s report, Cloyd Sullins, who will retire in October after five years in the position, reported that the Alaska convention currently has 66 churches, which sponsor 29 missions, 12 preaching points and numerous Bible studies. Total resident membership in 1999 was 10,096. The churches reported 659 baptisms and 783 other additions during the year, had $9,640,777 in total receipts, and gave $1,302,039 in Cooperative Program and various missions gifts.

Sullins said evangelism and missions are major priorities for the state convention, which has a partnership with Far East Russia.

Sullins expressed gratitude for support gained from previous partnerships with Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia Baptists. He noted that the new partnership with North Carolina Baptists had gotten off to a promising start, with up to 700 Tar Heel volunteers expected by the end of the first year.

In reflecting on the state convention’s 55-year history, Sullins said Alaska Baptists should look back with a “holy wow,” accept the challenges of the “holy now” and plan to meet the future with a “holy how.”

Jim Royston, executive director of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, delivered a $5,000 check from North Carolina Baptists and presented Sullins with a replica of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.

Royston said he had challenged North Carolina convention staff members to focus their efforts on winning the lost and strengthening believers. He pledged that the state’s Baptists would bring that same commitment to Alaska.

The convention’s second session included lengthy discussion on an extensive report from the constitution and bylaws committee, which recommended the adoption of new articles of incorporation for the convention and its two agencies, the Alaska Baptist Foundation and Alaska Baptist Family Services. The committee also proposed a new constitution to govern the convention and its agencies, as well as new bylaws for each entity. Jack Green, a layman from Grandview Baptist Church in Anchorage, presented the report. He said the need for new documents arose from a legal review of the existing documents, which are no longer compliant with Alaska law for nonprofit corporations.

The new articles of incorporation were approved, with minor amendments. The new constitution was given first approval, and will require a second affirmative vote at the next annual meeting.

The committee initially requested approval of the new bylaws for each entity (which requires only one vote), even though they would not become effective until the new constitution receives second approval in 2001. After several questions were raised, however, the committee withdrew the recommendation, choosing to seek further input and seek approval of the new bylaws in 2001.

Messengers re-elected Marvin Owen, pastor of First Baptist Church in Anchorage, as convention president. Owen defeated Greg Clark, pastor of Glacier Valley Baptist Church in Juneau.

Denver Copeland, pastor of North Kenai Baptist Church, won re-election as first vice president, defeating Bill Milewski, a layman from First Baptist Church in the City of Kenai.

Leon May, pastor of Greater Friendship Baptist Church in Anchorage, was elected without opposition as second vice president. Current second vice president Georgie Owen was not re-nominated.

Ken Chadwick, who serves as state missions/stewardship/men’s ministries director, appealed for church members who will pray daily for 200 Indian villages through a program called “GAP 200.” GAP is an acronym for “God answers prayer,” and recalls Ezekiel’s call for someone to “stand in the gap” and bring wholeness to an unrighteous land (Ezek. 22:30). “We have in Alaska all we need to do all we need,” Chadwick said. “Prayer must be the stack pole as we try to reach the Native Americans.”

Alaska Baptists also heard reports from SBC agencies, from each of its five associations (Chugach, Kenai Peninsula, Hatcher Pass, Tanana Valley and Tongass), from the Alaska Baptist Foundation and Alaska Baptist Family Services.

In other business, messengers voted to realign several convention committees and approved reports of the Committee on Committees and the Committee on Boards.

The ABC approved a budget $1,782,066 for 2001, anticipating receipts of $581,545 from Alaska churches’ Cooperative Program gifts and $1,071,339 in funds from NAMB.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Aug. 7-8 at First Baptist Church, Soldotna.

    About the Author

  • Tony W. Cartledge