ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (BP)–New Mexico Baptists showered the state convention’s executive director with their expressions of love, appreciation and support during their Oct. 26-27 annual meeting in Alamogordo.
The meeting, hosted by First Baptist Church, drew 321 messengers and 127 guests from 118 churches. The BCNM’s 312 churches and 34 missions have approximately 65,000 resident members.
Reflecting the convention’s theme, “Celebrating Today … Anticipating Tomorrow,” messengers unanimously approved a recommendation to name Executive Director Claude Cone as one of the convention’s executive director emeriti when he retires March 5 of next year from the post he has held the past two decades.
Cone was given repeated standing ovations throughout the convention in which he was given a larger-than-usual part. In addition to presenting his annual executive director’s message, he was asked to lead Bible studies in three of the meeting’s four sessions.
“Don’t Drown in Your Tears,” in two parts, and “When God Says No” were the titles of Cone’s Bible studies, during which he made repeated references to the challenges he has faced during his life.
Cone recounted how his mother died just days after his birth; his 37-year-old father was murdered when Cone was 14; his “mother-in-love” battled Alzheimer’s for the final 14 years of her life; his wife, Jeannie, has been battling a progressive case of Parkinson’s disease since 1986; his 37-year-old son, Craig, was killed in an automobile accident seven years ago; and Cone began a battle against an aggressive form of cancer this summer and will begin three months of chemotherapy Nov. 9, which will be followed by removal of his bladder and prostate.
“You look across the state and there’s a lot of hurting hearts, a lot of broken people,” Cone said, emphasizing that he was not seeking sympathy for himself. “Life is not fair,” he said, quickly adding, “but God is.
“I might die; I don’t know. God hasn’t told me one way or the other,” Cone said. His counsel during the Bible studies included, “Bad things happen to people who love God”; “Don’t become bitter; choose to be better”; “Don’t listen to the world, let God have the final word”; “Accept God’s way with love”; “We can be assured that God’s way is best”; and “We can face the future with courage.”
Messengers heard from the committee charged with the responsibility of finding God’s man to lead New Mexico Baptists into the future.
Fred MacDonald, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Alamogordo, said the search committee he chairs is confident that God has a person to lead the state convention when Cone retires.
MacDonald said the committee has received 26 recommendations and would begin the work of narrowing down the list during a meeting slated for the afternoon of Oct. 27.
“We will not feel rushed,” MacDonald told messengers, whose next state convention meeting likely will be a special called meeting to consider the search committee’s recommendation.
The committee surprised messengers with a recommendation to have Cone join retired BCNM Executive Director Chester O’Brien, who led the convention from 1975-85, as executive director emeritus upon Cone’s retirement.
To mark the occasion, Cone and his wife were presented a clock engraved with words from 2 Chronicles 31:21: “In every good work that he began in the service of God … he did it with all his heart.”
Convention attendees were given an opportunity to express their gratitude to the Cones during a reception in their honor at the end of the Tuesday evening session.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Cone said in the closing minutes of the convention when greeted with another standing ovation. Thanking his fellow New Mexicans for “20 wonderful years,” he took advantage of one last opportunity to encourage them to continue their commitment to unity, harmony and emphasis on evangelism.
During the convention’s final session, Southern Baptist Convention President Bobby Welch encouraged the state’s Baptists to embrace his “Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism” to “Witness, Win and Baptize … ONE MILLION!” from June 2005-June 2006.
“We must hear the call of these people who are so desperately searching,” said Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“Southern Baptists are going to do better than we’ve been doing,” the coauthor of the FAITH Sunday School and evangelism strategy said he told a reporter recently. “We’ve got to,” he declared to New Mexico Baptists.
The convention responded to Welch’s challenge by filling the front of the auditorium, many of them on their knees, committing themselves to be involved in the ambitious “Everyone Can” effort.
Each item of business presented during the two brief business sessions passed overwhelmingly with little and no discussion.
Elected as new officers of the convention were Jay McCollum, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gallup, president; Randy Aly, pastor of First Baptist Church, Chama, first vice president; and Brian Sundheimer, associate pastor of First Baptist, Alamogordo, second vice president. Each was the only nominee for the respective positions.
Messengers approved a BCNM budget for 2005 that is the largest in the convention’s history, calling for $3,663,239 in Cooperative Program receipts from the churches, an increase of 2.73 percent over the 2004 budget.
The increase includes a 3 percent raise in salaries for BCNM employees.
After the exception of $81,000 in preferred items (ministers’ retirement and retirees’ insurance), 30.5 percent of the CP receipts will continue to be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions and ministry.
The remaining 69.5 percent, along with additional income of $1.2 million 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 $3,779,117 for mission work in New Mexico.
This year’s resolutions committee resolved not to present any resolutions that had been approved by messengers in the past three conventions.
Approved were resolutions that:
— expressed appreciation to the Cones; First and Bethel Baptist churches for hosting the BCNM and pre-convention meetings; and BCNM missions education and women’s ministries director Judith Edwards for coordinating the recent mission trip of 319 New Mexico Baptists to Bangkok, Thailand.
— encouraged “all citizens in general and New Mexico Baptists in particular to follow the teaching of the Scriptures regarding respect for human government; to pray daily for all in authority; and to obey the just and honorable laws of the land.”
— urged New Mexico Baptists to follow Cone’s “example of excellency of service to the Lord”; to participate in the BCNM’s upcoming mission partnerships with the state of Maranhao in Brazil and Birmingham, England; “to pray for the successful and timely end of acts of war; the safety of our armed personnel and our citizens, the destruction of our enemy and the establishment of peaceful and mutually beneficial relations between nations and peoples of the earth”; “to support every form of legitimate medical research that honors and respects all human life and leads to the preventing and curing of disease, recovering from injury and impairment, and for the improvement and extension of the life and well-being of all persons”; and to encourage “all Baptists to pray for Divine leadership as they cast their ballots” Nov. 2.
Presiding during the convention were President Larry Haslam, the retired director of LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center who is currently interim pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmington, and first vice president Ira Shelton, pastor of First Baptist Church, Quemado. As in previous years, Nancy Faucett, the BCNM’s executive secretary, served as recording secretary and Francis Wilson, retired BCNM business administrator, was the parliamentarian.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 25-26 at First Baptist Church in Bloomfield.