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N.M. Baptists dedicate new building, hear ‘Jesus the One and Only’ musical

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP)–The Baptist Convention of New Mexico dedicated its new building in Albuquerque during its 90th annual meeting Oct. 29-30 at Eastern Hills Baptist Church.

Noticeably absent was any hint of disunity during the two-day, four-session meeting, which culminated with a Wednesday evening presentation of “Jesus the One and Only,” a musical based on the popular Beth Moore study by the same name. The convention’s highest attendance — more than 800 people — crowded into Eastern Hills’ auditorium for the presentation.

The musical was performed by more than 100 choir members and instrumentalists primarily from churches of Central Baptist Association led by the BCNM’s director of music ministries, David Red. Also on hand was the musical’s composer, Travis Cottrell of Nashville, Tenn., who leads worship at Beth Moore conferences.

The theme of the entire convention was “Jesus the One and Only,” which was emphasized in each of the sessions by a study of Philippians 2:5-11 led by Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

The convention drew 322 messengers from 125 of the state’s 305 churches and 323 registered guests.

In the election of officers, Larry Haslam, intentional interim pastor of First Baptist Church in Santa Fe and retired longtime director of LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center, was tapped for president in a runoff with the BCNM’s current first vice president, Keeney Dickenson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Eunice. Rick Sullivan, pastor of First Baptist Church in Artesia, was eliminated on an initial ballot.

After the three men were first nominated, the BCNM’s current president, Bob Butler, pastor of Sandia Baptist Church in Albuquerque, commented that he knew who would win. The winner, he said, would be the BCNM, because all three nominees were “fine men.”

Other officers, elected without other nominees, were: first vice president, Bernie Moraga, pastor of First Spanish/Fruit Avenue Baptist Church in Albuquerque, and second vice president, Kevin Warner, associate pastor in education and music at Del Norte Baptist Church in Albuquerque.

During the final session, messengers approved three resolutions without any discussion, one of which commended the BCNM’s executive director and the president of the New Mexico Baptist Foundation for their leadership that has kept New Mexico Baptists from being distracted from “worshiping God and doing his business.”

BCNM Executive Director Claude Cone was commended for not allowing “the controversies that have infected the Baptist Convention of our neighbor to the east to distract New Mexico Southern Baptists from their purposes.”

NMBF President B. Lee Black was thanked for “maintaining a sound, conservative investment posture despite the siren song of ‘go-go’ investing that infected the Baptist foundation of our neighbor to the west throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.”

The state to the east is Texas, which now has two rival state Baptist conventions. The state to the west is Arizona, whose Baptist foundation failed after, allegedly, defrauding investors.

Also approved was a resolution of appreciation for Eastern Hills and Central Association and a resolution of commitment “to continue to pray for the spread of God’s Kingdom and the safety of missionaries wherever they may be serving.”

Approximately 400 messengers and guests were present at Eastern Hills on Wednesday morning for a dedication service for the BCNM’s new building, which was followed by an open house at the new facility that afternoon.

Originally, the 2002 meeting was to be in Roswell, but messengers last year voted to move their meeting in Roswell to 2003 so they could see the new building in Albuquerque, which the BCNM moved into a week after last year’s convention.

The state convention’s new offices are located three miles from Eastern Hills in the Northeast Heights area of the city. The old Baptist Building was located in the heart of New Mexico’s largest city and served as the BCNM’s home for half a century.

Those attending the Tuesday sessions of the annual meeting were spared having to get into their cars to find a place to eat in between sessions as BCNM mission ministries erected a huge tent in Eastern Hills’ parking lot and hosted a free Mexican meal.

The “Baptist Fiesta” was designed to focus on fellowship, said BCNM mission ministries director Gus Suarez, who told those attending the convention’s Wednesday morning session it was a way for the BCNM to thank New Mexico Baptists for their commitment to missions.

The meal was catered by one of Albuquerque’s most popular Mexican restaurants. An informal program included interviews, music and door prizes. Approximately 350 people were fed, and most seemed grateful for the tent, which sheltered them from a brisk and damp breeze.

Messengers did take time, but not much time, to carry on necessary convention business. No issues were introduced other than those already printed in the convention program, and all matters were passed with no discussion or noticeable opposition.

The BCNM budget for 2003, the largest in the convention’s history, will require $3,505,259 in Cooperative Program receipts from the state’s churches next year, an increase of 4.14 percent over the 2002 budget.

After the exception of $78,000 in preferred items (ministers’ retirement and retirees’ insurance) is applied, 30.5 percent of the CP receipts, an estimated $1,046,798, will be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions and ministry. No increase in the percentage was proposed for next year. The remaining 69.5 percent, $2,381,945, along with additional income of $1,227,642 from various sources — Baptist New Mexican subscriptions and advertising, Baptist Building rental income and the SBC’s North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources — will be used to support a total operating budget of $3,609,587 for mission work in New Mexico.

Raises for convention personnel of 2.5 percent were included in the proposal.

Messengers also approved modifications to the BCNM bylaws that reduced the number of members of the Christian life committee and historical committee from seven to six, and an amendment to the New Mexico Baptist Church Loan Corporation’s articles of incorporation that changed the name of the New Mexico Baptist Foundation subsidiary to The Church Finance Corporation.

The Baptist Convention of New Mexico encompasses approximately 68,000 resident members, or 4 percent of the state’s population. Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 28-29 at Roswell’s First Baptist Church.

    About the Author

  • John Loudat