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Md./Del. Baptists focus on connecting

TOWSON, Md. (BP)–The 174th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware convened with 343 messengers and 70 guests at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson, Md., Nov. 9-10.

With a theme of “Connect … A conference celebrating the Great Commission,” speakers focused on connecting to God, to one another, to the community and to the world.

Ron Sylvia, pastor of The Church at The Springs in Ocala, Fla., told messengers that church planting is an extreme sport, pointing to Jesus sending His disciples out in the storm, sending them as sheep among wolves and calling them to die for their faith.

“God is good, but He’s not safe,” Sylvia said, recounting his own hardships.

Charles Roesel, presidential ambassador for the North American Mission Board, discussed how to pray like Jesus, referring to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6.

“You can’t pray the first word unless the love of God is in your heart,” Roesel said, urging Maryland/Delaware Baptists to share the Gospel with those around them.

Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, preached from Acts 1:8 and said the early church was made of ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things because they were empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Byron Day, president of the Maryland/Delaware convention, preached from Mark 5, urging messengers to take time to connect with people one life at a time. Jesus wants to resurrect lives, marriages and families, he said, and believers have a role to play in making the connection.

David Lee, the convention’s executive director, said discontent is related to being disconnected from God, and he encouraged believers to reconnect with God in 2010. One of his goals, he said, is to see every church in the convention connected with another church — praying, fellowshipping and ministering together. Lee was recognized for 15 years of service with the two-state convention.

Larry Steen, pastor of Westminster Baptist Church in Westminster, Md., delivered the annual sermon from Romans 15, noting how the Apostle Paul was a model missionary who viewed his service to God as an act of worship.

“What we do for Jesus is an act of worship,” Steen said, adding that such service could include setting tables for a meeting or ministering to shut-ins. “We must never lose sight of who we’re doing this for and to whose glory it is to be credited.”

Keith and Kristyn Getty, modern hymn writers, led in worship at the annual meeting and hosted a music workshop.

Messengers gave an offering of more than $1,400 to Embrace Wilmington, a new partnership initiative to reach the city with the Gospel.

Several breakout sessions during the annual meeting addressed issues such as helping hurting people; ministries that impact; stewardship; building an evangelism strategy; discipling believers; impacting culture and leading worship.

Messengers re-elected Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., president, and Gayle Clifton, pastor of Upper Seneca Baptist Church in Germantown, Md., as recording secretary.

They also elected Harold Phillips, pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, Md., first vice president, and Jim Burcham, pastor of First Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Md., second vice president. All officers were elected by acclamation.

Messengers approved an overall budget of $6.2 million for the coming year, down from $6.4 million in 2009. Anticipated Cooperative Program giving from churches in the two-state convention remains at $4,600,000. Maryland/Delaware Baptists will continue to forward 41 percent of CP receipts to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries.

A question arose regarding $100,000 for strategic resources included in the 2010 BCM/D budget. Lee explained that the pending sale of a portion of the Baptist Mission Resource Center will enable the convention to invest the principle which has the potential to produce annual interest in the range of $100,000 per year.

The earned interest will be used to start and strengthen churches, assist with missions and develop leaders. Lee recalled that messengers already had approved entering into a contract for the sale of about 9,000 square feet to Straughan Environmental Services. The unanimous approval of the sale came at a special called meeting on Oct. 20.

Members approved a bylaw change to Article IV section 2 and 6, removing the requirement that the BCM/D attorney serve as an ex-officio member of the General Mission Board and the administrative committee. Lee explained that the convention’s longtime lawyer is stepping down and the new attorney would rather not be a voting member of the board.

Lee honored Alan Stocksdale for 46 years of service as the convention’s attorney, noting how he interpreted the law with the heart of Christ.

Also during the annual meeting, Lee presented a plaque to the executive director of the Maryland Bible Society commemorating the group’s 200th birthday and recognizing a partnership between the society and the convention.

Messengers passed a resolution dealing with recent hate crimes legislation, which added sexual orientation and gender identity to a federal list of protected statuses. Maryland/Delaware Baptists reiterated God’s design for sexuality, their disapproval of acts of violence and hatred, and their desire to see the protection of the freedom to speak the truth contained in the Bible. Messengers resolved to continue to preach the Word regardless.

Messengers also approved a resolution regarding the Embrace Baltimore evangelistic initiative partnering with Southern Baptist volunteers from across the country, and a resolution expressing appreciation to the state convention staff and others who organized the annual meeting.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 14-16 at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson.
Based on a report by Sharon Mager of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

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