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Colo. Baptists’ land sale to preserve retreat center

THORNTON, Colo. (BP)–At their 48th annual meeting, Colorado Baptists ensured the future of the Ponderosa Retreat and Conference Center by selling 577 acres as a conservation easement. Messengers also celebrated with the International Mission Board as nine couples were commissioned.

In the historic vote, messengers decided almost unanimously to sell a conservation easement of the Ponderosa Retreat and Conference Center to the Conservation Fund for $1.6 million.

The sale follows a decade of non-compliance with Douglas County standards for wastewater disposal. Sandwiched between the rapidly growing cities of Colorado Springs and Denver, Ponderosa is located in one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation with strict standards. A new wastewater system to meet county standards will cost more than $800,000 and further delays in rebuilding the system would cause the camp to cease functioning.

“This is the biggest decision made since I’ve been executive director and the biggest decision we’ve made in several years,” said Mark Edlund, CBGC executive director. “A decision not to sell is a decision to close the camp.”

Za Johnson of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs and chairman of the Ponderosa Management Committee reported that the committee studied various options for raising the money needed for the new wastewater system.

“An offer by the Conservation Fund has provided the camp with the most obvious and workable solution,” Johnson said.

The Conservation Fund’s mission is to protect the “view shed” along the Interstate 25 corridor from Monument north to Castle Rock. The purchased portion of the Ponderosa represents the last piece of this view shed.

The easement limits development on the portion of the Ponderosa visible from the interstate, but the camp’s present activities will not be affected. The new wastewater utility system and proposed new buildings within the easement will be allowed.

In another highlight of the meeting, Colorado Baptists celebrated with 18 new International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries appointed for service.

Messengers were joined by several hundred guests from area churches as the nine couples were commissioned for service in Latin America, Africa and Asia. IMB President Jerry Rankin spoke of international missions and people groups.

Messengers approved a 2004 budget of more than $3.7 million, a 1.75 percent increase over last year. More than $2 million is expected to be given to missions by Colorado’s Southern Baptists. Twenty-nine percent of that will continue to be forwarded to Southern Baptist Convention international and national missions causes through the Cooperative Program.

In a first for Colorado Baptists, messengers voted to remove fellowship and association from First Southern Baptist Church of Hudson. The move followed similar action earlier this year by the Longs Peak Baptist Association. Carl Rider, director of missions of the High Country Baptist Association and chairman of the credentials committee, said it was “with great sadness” that the committee brought the recommendation. But, he stated, the FSBC Hudson pastor “has a lifestyle inconsistent with the Bible.”

Rider said the credentials committee had given prayerful study to the matter and had come to the same conclusion as the Longs Peak Baptist Assocation. However, Rider said he did not want to go into the details on the floor of the convention.

Tobey Williams of Vista Grande Baptist Church in Colorado Springs was elected to his first term as convention president. Charlie Jones, pastor of Fellowship of the Rockies in Pueblo, was elected as first vice president and Darrin Crow, Baptist Campus Ministries director at Mesa State College and pastor of Heart of Junction Church in Grand Junction, second vice president.

Messengers passed a resolution expressing gratitude and appreciation to William Crews, who has announced plans for retirement, for his “devoted, effective and faithful service at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary” as president. Another resolution expressed appreciation to Jerry Rankin and the IMB for the “excellent job they do in advancing the cause of Christ.”

Two hundred-sixty messengers, representing about one-fourth of Colorado’s churches and missions, gathered at North Metro Church in Thornton for the Oct. 21-22 annual meeting under the theme of “Penetrating Lostness: Colorado and Beyond.”

Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 19-20 hosted by Bookcliff Baptist Church in Grand Junction.
Allen Spencer is communications director of the Colorado Baptist General Convention and editor of the “Rocky Mountain Baptist.”

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