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N.M. Baptists hope to send more than 350 to Bangkok

ROSWELL, N.M. (BP)–Their attention was 10 time zones away, in Thailand, when messengers gathered for the 91st annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico Oct. 28-29 in Roswell, N.M.

“Proclaim Together: Bangkok 2004” was the theme of the two-day meeting at First Baptist Church in Roswell as 348 messengers geared up for a focus on the Asian metropolis next year.

Messengers also approved a record budget of $3,722,419 and passed a resolution supporting efforts to ban same-sex “marriage.”

The focus of this year’s convention was an ambitious project to send 350-500 New Mexico Baptists to Bangkok, Thailand, next summer to participate in prayerwalking, media distribution and a variety of ministries in the city of 11.6 million people.

“God is opening doors as never before” in Bangkok, said David Newton, strategy coordinator for the International Mission Board’s Bangkok metro team. The missionary had traveled all the way from the other side of the planet to personally encourage the state’s Baptists to participate in the effort.

The goals of the project include at least one person from each of the convention’s 310 congregations making the July 16-30 trip, others providing funds so someone else can go and every New Mexico Baptist supporting the effort with prayer.

“We have received a Macedonian call … to take the Gospel to Bangkok,” the convention’s executive director, Claude Cone, said during his challenge to messengers. “Get under the burden for Bangkok.”

Newton told messengers that less than one-half of 1 percent of the city’s residents profess faith in Christ. The invitation to New Mexico Baptists is part of a multi-year project of the team he leads to “saturate” the Bangkok with the Gospel.

The Oct. 28 session included a presentation by the convention staff emphasizing the need for volunteers and the challenge to go to Bangkok. The New Mexico Singing Churchmen also sang.

The main feature Oct. 29 was a presentation of “Evidence of Grace” by a choir of 100-plus members from churches across the state, mostly from churches of Pecos Valley Baptist Association. More than 50 people came forward during the invitation extended at the end of the presentation to make commitments to participate in the mission trip to Bangkok.

Each of the convention sessions also included a look at passages from 1 Corinthians led by Calvin Miller, professor of preaching and pastoral ministry at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala.

In business matters, messengers overwhelmingly approved amendments to the convention’s bylaws to require churches that have never had their messengers seated at a BCNM meeting to be approved by convention messengers before being seated.

Messengers also approved a budget of $3,722,419, the largest in convention history. It anticipates $3,565,764 in Cooperative Program receipts from the churches next year, an increase of 1.73 percent over the 2003 budget.

After the exception of $81,000 in preferred items (ministers’ retirement and retirees’ insurance) is applied, 30.5 percent of the CP receipts will continue to be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions and ministry, for an estimated $1,062,853.

The remaining 69.5 percent, $2,421,911, along with additional income of $1,300,508 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 the total operating budget.

No raises for convention personnel were included in the budget, a decision that executive board chairman Philip Fike told messengers “distressed” members of the board who prepared the proposed budget.

Fike said staff members had said they were more concerned that ministries be adequately funded than they were in receiving a raise.

Claude commended his staff’s response to the news that no raises were included in the proposed budget. “Their attitude is A-plus,” the convention’s executive director told messengers.

Cone also affirmed the churches of the state. “On the whole … New Mexico Baptists do a good job supporting the Cooperative Program,” he said, noting that September was the BCNM’s third-best month ever in receipts from churches.

Nevertheless, while receipts are coming in at a pace slightly ahead of last year’s record pace, Cone said, they are $105,000 behind what is needed to fully support the 2003 budget.

Among resolutions approved by messengers:

— support for “Proclaim Together: Bangkok 2004.”

— support for the biblical and traditional American standards for marriage and “legislation that would strengthen these values.” The resolution also opposed “any legislation or court decision that would undermine or change in any way these standards.”

— urging legislators to take necessary action “to guard the freedoms and values established by our forefathers.”

— encouraging church members to support the petition drive to undo the state’s new “gay rights” law by putting it on the November 2004 ballot.

Presiding during the annual meeting were the convention’s president, Larry Haslam, retired director of LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center who currently is serving as interim pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmington; first vice president Bernie Moraga, pastor of First Spanish/Fruit Avenue Baptist Church in Albuquerque; and second vice president Kevin Warner, associate pastor for education and music at Del Norte Baptist Church in Albuquerque.

Haslam was re-elected by acclamation and Philip Fike, pastor of First Baptist Church, Portales, N.M., was elected first vice president. Ira Shelton, pastor of First Baptist Church, Quemado, N.M., was elected second vice president. All three were unopposed.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 26-27 at First Baptist Church in Alamogordo.

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  • John Loudat