BILLINGS, Mont. (BP)–Southern Baptists of Montana celebrated 50 years of organized work in the state by voting to move from fellowship status to full convention status with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Meeting at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Billings Oct. 2-3, the 175 messengers voted without opposition to seek convention status, reported Jim Edlin, editor of the Montana Baptist and director of communications of the Montana Southern Baptist Fellowship.
The theme of the meeting was “A Harvest of Gold — Looking Back to the Future.” Both the Montana Southern Baptist Fellowship and Emmanuel Baptist Church, the first Southern Baptist church organized in the state, celebrated 50 years of ministry in the state.
Emmanuel began in 1952 as the First Southern Baptist Church of Billings, according to Dorothy Hughes in her book, “Stories of Montana Southern Baptists 1952-1993.” The church began when O.R. “Benny” Delmar, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in Casper, Wyo., introduced two families who were Southern Baptists and had recently moved to Montana.
On Sept. 14, 1952, 23 people met for Sunday School and 29 met for worship in the local Seventh-day Adventist church building. Delmar preached the first sermon, and he organized the 18 people who came forward in the service into the First Southern Baptist Mission of Billings.
“If we were going to be the same as what the local people already had, there was no point in our being there,” Delmar said. “I believed we needed a Southern Baptist church, and the people wanted to have a Southern Baptist church, so we put ‘Southern’ in the name.”
The next month, the mission called Glen Braswell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Merkel, Texas, to be pastor, and the mission was organized into a church on Dec. 7, 1952, with 32 charter members. During Braswell’s four years as pastor, the church grew to 228 members and sponsored 11 new missions in Montana and Wyoming. Braswell eventually served as the executive secretary-treasurer of the Colorado Baptist General Convention from 1962-84.
At this year’s annual meeting of the state fellowship, Morris H. Chapman, president Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, delivered the convention message, while messengers also heard videotaped addresses from Robert E. Reccord, president of the SBC North American Mission Board, and Clyde Billingsley, a former executive director of the Montana fellowship. James Nelson, the first state executive director, delivered the closing message.
In business sessions:
— Messengers approved a state budget of $1,430,926, a $31,020 increase over the current year’s budget of $1,399,906. The budget includes anticipated Cooperative Program giving of $453,600 from the state’s churches, 22 percent of which will be forwarded to SBC international and national missions and ministries.
— B.G. Stumberg, pastor of Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in East Helena, was elected president. He will succeed outgoing president Joe Pickard, pastor of the Jeremiah Learning Center in Billings.
Paul Jones, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Billings was elected vice president, and Bert Murphy, interim pastor of Sims Baptist Mission in Sims, was reelected recording secretary. All were unopposed.
— Messengers adopted a resolution commending Bill Phillips, president of Yellowstone Baptist College, and others who helped lead the way for the college to celebrate record enrollment, the dedication of a new building and significant progress toward accreditation during the 2002 fall semester. The messengers’ resolution also looks toward sharing in Yellowstone’s ministry through prayer, promotion and other means of support as God enables.
Counting guests, an estimate of 245 people attended. Montana has about 130 churches and missions, and the state fellowship reports more than 12,000 total members and more than 8,000 resident members.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 8-9 at Trinity Baptist Church, Missoula.