ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP)–The Cooperative Program and the Bible will be the criteria used to determine New Mexico Baptist churches’ eligibility for seating messengers at annual meetings of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, if BCNM messengers approve a recommendation of the BCNM executive board.
Meeting July 17-18 at the Baptist Building in Albuquerque, executive board members approved a recommendation of a special credentials study committee to amend the BCNM’s bylaws to identify churches that “are sympathetic with the convention’s purposes and work.”
The proposed amendment will be voted on during the BCNM’s Oct. 23-25 annual meeting in Gallup.
The study committee was appointed by executive board chairman John Hinze of Carlsbad earlier this year in response to a motion approved by messengers to last fall’s BCNM annual meeting in Las Cruces, which directed the executive board to study making the Baptist Faith and Message the criterion that would be used by the convention’s credentials committee to determine which churches were eligible to seat messengers.
Hinze, pastor of Carlsbad’s Hillcrest Baptist Church, and BCNM President Joe Bunce, pastor of First Baptist Church, Bloomfield, further assured board members the committee had carefully and prayerfully considered the motion and come up with the following amendment to the bylaws instead:
“As an autonomous Baptist group, the Convention reserves the right to determine what constitutes a cooperating Baptist Church. Churches shall be considered in friendly cooperation who are sympathetic with the purpose and work of this Convention, having demonstrated cooperation by contributing a minimum of $250 to the Cooperative Program through the BCNM during the fiscal year preceding the annual or special meeting of the Convention. The faith and practices of each cooperating church, in the opinion of the Convention in session, shall not be in conflict with Scripture. The Convention in session shall be the final judge of the qualifications of its members.”
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ primary method of supporting missions and ministry efforts of state and regional conventions and the SBC.
At the top of the page on which the recommendation was printed was a statement from the preamble of the Baptist Faith and Message approved in June by messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla. The statement read, “Baptists … deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches.”
The statement was a portion of a last-minute addition to the BF&M’s preamble before it was considered by SBC messengers June 14.
On the back of the printed proposal was an article from the June 24 issue of the Baptist New Mexican newsjournal, which also highlighted the statement.
Also printed above the proposal was criteria used by the SBC in determining who is qualified to serve as SBC messengers.
Taken from Article III of the SBC Constitution, the document read:
“Messengers of the convention are members of missionary Baptist churches cooperating with the Convention as follows:
“1. One (1) messenger from each church which: (1) Is in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work. Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. And, (2) Has been a bona fide contributor to the Convention’s work during the fiscal year preceding.
“2. One (1) additional messenger from each such church for every two hundred and fifty (250) members; or for each $250 paid to the work of the Convention during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting.
“3. The messengers shall be appointed and certified by the churches to the Convention, but no church may appoint more than ten (10).
“4. Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he is appointed.”
Bunce told the Baptist New Mexican that the statements from the BF&M preamble and the SBC Constitution were the rationale used by the committee in developing its proposal.
Hinze, who chaired the special study, said committee members had prayerfully and carefully considered the issue since being appointed in January, and they had studied the bylaws of several other state conventions.
Bunce told the board the criteria listed in the BCNM proposal are three-fold: “financial support, belief and practice.”
Albuquerque pastor Bernie Moraga expressed his concern about low-income churches that could not come with the $250 per year to give to the Cooperative Program.
Hinze noted that the financial “floor” being established for BCNM participation amounted to only about $20 per month.
When a question was raised concerning how many BCNM churches are below the $250 level, Hinze said that four churches that seated messengers at last year’s BCNM annual meeting “didn’t give a dime.”
The meeting adjourned at 9:45 Monday evening and reconvened at 9 the following morning, with Bunce presiding over that portion of the meeting so Hinze could present the motion.
“This says if you’re going to drink the milk and enjoy the butter, you’re going to have to help feed the cow,” Bunce said.
He further noted, “Everything in the Baptist Faith and Message is in Scripture, but not everything in Scripture is in the Baptist Faith and Message.”
There was no further discussion on the merits of the recommendation and it passed with no opposition.
Bunce said that if BCNM messengers approve the executive board’s recommendation on Tuesday morning of the state convention, Oct. 24, it will go into effect immediately.