NORTHBORO, Mass. (BP)–James Wideman has been named as the new executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England.
Wideman, currently director of missions for the Green Mountain Baptist Association, which covers the state of Vermont, was selected by the New England convention’s board of directors. He will begin in his new position June 1.
When Ken Lyle retired as executive director last spring, Wideman was chairman of the search committee to recommend a successor. The committee brought a candidate before the executive board last September, but after being approved, the candidate decided that God wasn’t calling him to New England and declined the position.
Wideman began receiving phone calls from various individuals toward the end of the year encouraging him to consider the position, and he began to feel a growing sense that he should.
During a search committee meeting in January, committee members were going through applicants’ resumes, and a letter recommending Wideman was in the stack of resumes. When asked what he thought about that, Wideman responded and said he had become open to being a candidate.
He then resigned from the committee. After submitting his resume, he was called by the committee for an interview and was then recommended to the administrative committee of the executive board, which interviewed him April 26.
An executive board meeting was called on May 8, during which Wideman was presented and interviewed again. The members of the board then voted by mail-in ballot, and Wideman gained the necessary two-thirds majority vote.
This will be Wideman’s fourth position serving in New England. He and his wife, Sandy, have served in and out of New England since 1970.
“New England was never out of our hearts,” he said.
“The Holy Spirit has placed in us a passion for New England. … People are going to hear me say this over and over, but we are on the front lines of ministry situations and it’s such a privilege.”
The passion Wideman has for New England is evident when he talks about the region. It’s in his eyes and it’s written across his face. He becomes emotional when talking about the joy he has had serving in New England, in what the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board has defined an emerging region.
“I see it as a humbling privilege that God would think I’ve got the stuff to do this, to be here on the front lines,” he said. “It is so hard and so discouraging, but I love it and I am so glad God put me here. To have this job is almost more than I can stand.”
Wideman came to New England during his seminary days and served at Screven Memorial Baptist Church in Portsmouth and also in Hampton Beach, N.H., in 1970 through the US-2 program of the then-Home Mission Board. He and Sandy had met and dated at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and had decided to go their separate ways. She was assigned to Hampton Beach as a summer missionary that summer.
When Wideman received his US-2 assignment to the same place, he almost turned it down, but was encouraged to pray about it. He prayed about it and felt that God was leading him to New England. Sandy returned to Fort Worth to finish her degree and returned to New England, where they were married in 1971.
The Widemans returned to Texas, where Wideman finished his master of divinity degree in 1973 and his doctor of ministry degree in 1975. During that time, he served as a home mission intern in Tarrant County and as an interim youth director at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
After seminary, he became an interim pastor at several churches, for a period of about six months each, before serving as director of counseling and community services for the Waco Baptist Association in Texas.
The Widemans then returned to New England a second time in 1979, where he served as pastor at Screven Memorial Baptist Church, where he had served before through the US-2 program several years earlier.
He served as pastor there until 1991 when he left to become the pastor of First Baptist Church in Enid, Okla.
Wideman returned to New England a third time to become director of missions for the Green Mountain Baptist Association.
(BP) photo to be posted Friday, May 25. Treadwell is a semester missionary working as a journalist and collegiate minister with the Baptist Convention of New England.