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N.M. Baptists celebrate 100th anniversary

CLOVIS, N.M. (BP) — One hundred years after messengers from Baptist churches across New Mexico gathered at First Baptist Church in Clovis to organize a new state convention, their spiritual descendents returned there for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s centennial celebration.

It was in Clovis on June 19, 1912, that messengers from two state conventions — the New Mexico Baptist Convention, organized in 1900 and affiliated with Northern Baptists, and the Baptist General Convention of New Mexico, formed in 1910 and affiliated with Southern Baptists — voted to dissolve and unite in a new convention that would partner with the Southern Baptist Convention.

The historic action was recommended by a committee of Southern and Northern Baptist leaders that had met in Hot Springs, Ark., on Jan. 24-25, 1912, less than three weeks after New Mexico became the nation’s 47th state.

The centennial celebration began Monday afternoon, Oct. 22, with a ladies’ tea at Highland Baptist Church in Clovis followed by the centennial banquet that evening at Central Baptist Church that evening. The next morning, the WMU Centennial Missions Celebration was held at Highland and a pastors’ and laymen’s conference at Parkland Baptist Church.

The celebration concluded on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 24, about 20 miles to the south at the BCNM’s oldest entity, the New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home in Portales, with a barbecue lunch.

The centennial drew 369 registered messengers — from 119 of the BCNM’s 345 churches encompassing 82,000 members — and more than 200 guests. Messengers from four churches that had never sent messengers to a BCNM annual meeting were seated at this year’s sessions.

“Staying on Course With God” was the theme of the overall celebration, with session themes “Celebrating Yesterday” on Tuesday afternoon, “Capturing Today” that night and “Considering the Future” on Wednesday morning.

Presiding during the celebration were BCNM president R. Maurice Hollingsworth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Las Cruces; first vice president Gary Wolfe, pastor of First Baptist Church in Otis; and second vice president Kevin Parker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Aztec.


Bringing the celebration’s first two messages from behind the pulpit –- which the church has used since 1909, so it was there when the convention was organized in 1912 — were the BCNM’s two executive director emeriti, Chester O’Brien and Claude Cone.

O’Brien, who now lives in Amarillo, Texas, led the convention from 1975-85; Cone, from 1985-2005.

The entire Christian life is one “of grace, of godliness and glory,” O’Brien said in the celebration’s opening message.

O’Brien reminisced about “The Way It Was” in the years he served in New Mexico, first as pastor of First Baptist Church in Tucumcari and later as the state convention’s leader.

While a roster of state convention workers at the time O’Brien retired from the BCNM post was being distributed, he said his staff’s commitments were to reach the state for Christ, increase the Cooperative Program every year and increase cooperation with the Southern Baptist Home (now North American) Mission Board. While the convention was able to do the latter two while he was at the convention’s helm, he said the first one is ongoing.

Cone, now pastor of Monterey Baptist Church in Albuquerque, brought the convention’s annual sermon. He began by noting the enormity of the task before them.

While New Mexico Baptists have always been “missionary, evangelistic,” there is a need to “put it in overdrive,” Cone said. “The hunger of every human heart is for God,” he continued, noting, “We’re beggars who have found where the bread is” who should take it to others.

Cone closed by expressing his desire that the state’s Baptists “turn up the throttle” in supporting missions and evangelism through the Cooperative Program and “sharing the Gospel, sharing the Gospel.”

Among those who came to express gratitude for New Mexico Baptists’ past were the executive directors of two sister state conventions, Mark Edlund of the Colorado Baptist General Convention and Veryl Henderson of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.

Edlund thanked New Mexico Baptists for starting the first churches in one of the areas of his state, and Henderson said he was saved in one of those churches and is thankful for New Mexico Baptists’ help in reaching the huge area for which the convention he leads is responsible.


SBC leaders O.S. Hawkins, Clyde Meador and Frank Page also were featured during the celebration.

Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, encouraged pastors in their ministry challenges and underscored the relevance of the Gospel during his two messages.

Hawkins urged the leaders to remember the “privilege,” “place,” “predicament” and “perspective” of their calling as they experience challenges in their ministries.

In his second message, Hawkins said the Gospel that New Mexico Baptists are charged to communicate with everyone everywhere is the same message their predecessors proclaimed a century ago, but the methods they must employ today are vastly different.

While people in today’s culture want “meaningful relationships,” “immediate gratification,” “something for nothing,” “guilt-free living” and “prosperity,” Hawkins said Christians are “the only ones that have the answer.”

Meador, a fellow New Mexico Baptists, noted in his message that no blessing New Mexico Baptists have received over the 100-year history of the convention compares with the grace they have received from God.

That grace is to be shared with others, Meador, executive vice president of the International Mission Board said, expressing his appreciation for New Mexico Baptists’ recent mission partnerships, which includes those with the predominantly Buddhist area of Southeast Asia and, now, Kenya.

Today is the day of salvation in places around the world, and for New Mexico and America as well, Meador emphasized, reminding New Mexico Baptists, “It means praying…. It means giving…. It also means personal involvement.”

Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, noted in his first message, “We’ve got a great message but we’ve not shared it in relevant ways.”

The apostle Paul was determined that Christ be exalted in his life wherever he was and whatever he was experiencing, Page said in his message based on Philippians 1:12-20.

Paul was grateful for the opportunities he had to share Christ during his imprisonment in Rome, Page recounted, urging New Mexico Baptists to examine their mindset, to not complain and to consider what God wants to do in the situations in which they find themselves.

“Let us pray that in life or death, Christ be exalted,” Page said, assuring New Mexico Baptists that he was praying that their next 100 years as a state convention would be even greater than their first.

The following morning, Page reminded messengers that they have a “marvelous heritage” but also a “marked responsibility,” “a mission” and “a master.”

“I believe God has a plan for New Mexico,” Page said of the BCNM’s second century, warning, “Satan has a plan for this convention also.”

Using the admonition in Hebrews 12:1-2 as his text, Page emphasized the words “Let us,” explaining that Southern Baptists do best what they do together.


Current BCNM Executive Director Joseph Bunce spoke about going where New Mexico Baptists have never gone before in his annual report during the celebration’s closing session.

“We have to realize God is giving us this land,” Bunce said, emphasizing the necessity of spiritual preparation, following the Lord and avoiding sin.

Bunce listed seven steps the convention will take as it begins its second century:

1. “We will commit ourselves to be a people of unity.”

2. “We will seek to become a convention that is financially independent and less financially dependent on outside partners.” After North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell thanked New Mexico Baptists in a video for their partnership in reaching North America for Christ and explained NAMB’s commitment to plant churches in places where they are most needed, Bunce said that, alongside the need for planting churches in New Mexico, there are a significant number of existing churches that need to be helped. “We cannot let the lights go out at home!” Bunce exclaimed.

3. “We understand our objective is Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth,” as stated in Bunce’s PowerPoint presentation.

4. “We will continue to cultivate mission partnerships to reaching the nations,” he said, noting, a significant number of New Mexico churches have the world on their hearts.

5. “We will continue to leverage technology as much as possible in the work of our convention.

6. “We are working to expand the equipping of disciples for the purpose of evangelism, focusing on how to share Christ with friends and families who have a differing faith.

7. “We will have a three-prong focus on revitalizing existing churches, planting new churches and developing leaders.”

“New Mexico Baptists are making a difference in this world,” Bunce declared, urging, “Don’t quit!”

The person who traveled the greatest distance from his home to attend the celebration was Jared Okello, volunteer mission coordinator for the Kenya Baptist Convention, with which the BCNM began a mission partnership this year in building “Houses of Hope.” Also present for the BCNM sessions was Wanda Lee, executive director of national Woman’s Missionary Union.


Messengers moved quickly through each of the convention’s business sessions, passing each of the various recommendations without any opposition.

The convention’s Resolutions Committee proposed only two resolutions:

— one that recognized and expressed appreciation for the “kindness and hospitality of the people of Clovis … [and] the diligent work and hospitality of the local churches of Clovis … that have done so much to bring about a convention characterized by grace, worship, unity.”

— one that encouraged “all Christians to fulfill their God-given responsibility to engage in the public life of the nation … to become educated about the issues in the upcoming election and vote as God leads them … [and to] commit to pray for our elected leaders.”

Tar Henderson, pastor of Gila Valley Baptist Church in Gila, was elected to a one-year term as BCNM president, with George Riley, a member of First Baptist Church in Bloomfield, and Jonathan Richard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Estancia, elected first and second vice president, respectively.

There were no other nominations, so the men were elected by acclamation, succeeding the outgoing officers who had completed the limit of two one-year terms in office.

While the 2013 budget approved by messengers will require 0.38 percent less from New Mexico Baptist churches than is needed to meet the convention’s 2012 budget, receipts for the first 10 months of 2012 were trailing the budget requirement by 8 percent.

Next year’s budget will require $3,948,175 in Cooperative Program receipts from the churches, a reduction of $14,868 from the amount called for in the current budget. The budget includes a 1.5 percent increase in salaries for BCNM employees.

After an estimated $913,967, or 23.1 percent, is deducted for shared ministries from CP contributions, 35 percent of the remaining CP receipts, an estimated $1,061,973, will be forwarded to the SBC for national and international missions and ministry. No increase in the percentage was proposed for next year.

The remaining 65 percent, $1,972,235, along with the amount that had been deducted for shared ministries and additional income of $1,965,597 from various sources — including BCNM camps and children and student conferences, the Baptist New Mexican and the SBC’s North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources — will be used to support a total operating budget of $4,851,799, 7.78 percent more than this year’s budget, for mission work in New Mexico.

Leading worship during the centennial celebration were Southern Praise, a praise group from Rio Rancho; a Centennial Mass Choir of members of churches in eastern New Mexico and members of the New Mexico Singing Churchmen; and a Centennial Praise Team of four New Mexico Baptist music ministers.

The BCNM’s 2013 annual meeting is schedule for Oct. 22-23 at Sandia Baptist Church in Albuquerque.
John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.

The full text of the BCNM resolution on voting follows:

Whereas, government is ordained by God to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil (Romans 13:3-5), and
Whereas, God holds all societies accountable to His standard of righteousness (Genesis 6:5-11, 19:12-13; Jonah 1:1-2) and
Whereas, Jesus Christ taught that His disciples are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16), and
Whereas, many Christians that are eligible to vote do not vote regularly, and
Whereas, the United States Constitution has placed our nation’s leadership in the hands of democratically elected officials, be it
Resolved, that the messengers to the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, meeting October 23-24, 2012, in Clovis, New Mexico, encourage all Christians to fulfill their God-given responsibility to engage in the public life of the nation, and be it further
Resolved, that we encourage Christians to become educated about the issues in the upcoming election and vote as God leads them, and be it further
Resolved, that we commit to pray for our elected leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

    About the Author

  • John Loudat