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New Mexico Baptists set criteria of Bible, Cooperative Program support

GALLUP, N.M. (BP)–New Mexico Baptists celebrated being “Partners on Mission with God” during the 88th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, while designating the Bible and support of the Cooperative Program as key criteria for seating messengers from local churches at state convention meetings.

The Oct. 23-25 meeting, attended by 272 messengers, marked the kickoff of a yearlong state and national “Partners in the Harvest” celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ primary channel for supporting state and regional conventions as well as national and international missions and ministries.

Gallup Mayor John Pena, at the opening session, welcomed the state’s Baptists, some of whom drove 500 miles, to the Chaco Convention Center, and thanked them for their prayers for much-needed rain which soaked much of the state that day.

On Tuesday afternoon, more than 30 New Mexico Baptists gathered at First Baptist Church for the first “Crossover” evangelistic effort to be held in conjunction with a BCNM annual meeting. Activities included door-to-door visitation; a block party at First Indian Baptist Church; and an evening youth rally featuring former Phoenix Suns basketball player Bay Forest at First Baptist. Twenty-four people prayed to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior during the efforts.

Messengers approved an amendment to the state convention’s bylaws designating the Bible and the Cooperative Program as the criteria to determine which churches are eligible for seating messengers at BCNM meetings.

The recommendation of the BCNM’s executive board was approved overwhelmingly but not without considerable discussion Monday evening and an attempt to amend it and an attempt to table it for further study. The vote was taken without discussion Tuesday morning.

The recommendation was made in response to a motion approved by messengers to the October 1999 annual meeting in Las Cruces that directed the BCNM executive board to study making the Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs the criteria to be used by the credentials committee in determining a church’s eligibility to seat messengers.

A credentials study committee was appointed by executive board chairman John Hinze of Carlsbad earlier this year. The recommendation, approved by the board in July, stated:

“As an autonomous Baptist group, the Convention reserves the right to determine what constitutes a cooperating Baptist church. Churches shall be considered in friendly cooperation who are sympathetic with the purpose and work of this Convention, having demonstrated cooperation by contributing a minimum of $250 to the Cooperative Program through the BCNM during the fiscal year preceding the annual or special meeting of the Convention. The faith and practices of each cooperating church, in the opinion of the Convention in session, shall not be in conflict with Scripture. The Convention in session shall be the final judge of the qualifications of its members.”

Kevin Brown of First Baptist Church, Animas, started off the convention’s discussion of the amendment by raising concern about the $250 requirement before a church can seat a messenger. Many churches in the state, he said, cannot afford to give that much and still pay their utility bills.

Retired pastor Marvin Capehart of Albuquerque, though, suggested that someone even in poor churches could give the $250.

Tom Dowler of Los Alamos proposed an amendment to the motion that the financial requirement be changed to read that the church be a “bona fide contributor to the work of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico” during the preceding fiscal year. He explained that such a change in the wording would enable churches that wish to contribute to their local association and the BCNM, but to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship instead of the SBC, to participate.

Roswell pastor Don Hayhurst, who served on the study committee, responded by saying that churches eligible to seat messengers could be dually aligned with the CBF and SBC. The committee’s intent, he said, was to “take the middle ground” and promote “harmony.”

Hayhurst further explained that the requirement that the faith and practice of cooperating churches not be in conflict with Scripture was made because everything in the Baptist Faith and Message is in Scripture, but not everything in Scripture is in the Baptist Faith and Message.

After discussion that included a question about what a “bona fide contributor” was, Garland Moore of Milan said the $250 contribution encourages churches to give. Paul Tankersley of Clovis agreed, saying, “That which costs me nothing is not worth being involved in.”

BCNM Executive Director Claude Cone called to the podium D. August Boto, an attorney who works for the SBC Executive Committee, who was in the hall at the time. At Cone’s request, Boto explained that the SBC requirement for seating messengers includes that churches be “bona fide contributors” to the work of the convention and additional messengers are allowed for each $250 contributed to SBC causes or 250 members.

Dowler’s amendment received less than a dozen votes. Jeff Johnson, pastor of Central Baptist Church, Grants, then moved that the recommendation be tabled and sent back to the committee with instructions to make it more in line with the SBC requirements. He explained that such a change would remove the problem of seating messengers from churches that were struggling financially.

During the discussion, Albuquerque pastor Bob Butler noted that while the SBC procedure is informative, “we are an autonomous body.”

Johnson’s motion also was soundly defeated and the original proposal passed with less than a dozen votes of opposition the next morning.

The credentials committee met briefly after the amendment was enacted to consider seating messengers from churches that had not met the $250 requirement. BCNM first vice president Clark Henderson of Albuquerque, who was presiding at the time and also chaired the credentials committee, announced to messengers that committee members had taken care of the $250 and the credentials of the messengers in question were approved.

No opposition was recorded to the only other bylaw change, an amendment to the bylaws of Inlow Baptist Camp and Conference Center to allow the camp board to hold two of the four meetings it holds annually at places other than the camp. The change will allow board members to meet when they come to the meeting of the BCNM in the fall and the state evangelism conference in the winter.

A motion concerning Inlow and the BCNM’s other camp, Sivells Baptist Camp and Conference Center, was referred by Bunce to the BCNM executive board. Lorene Klopfer of Albuquerque, the daughter of Sivells’ manager Paul Klopfer, moved that a committee be formed to study “the feasibility of insuring the Baptist camp employees are paid and camps are funded until such time as the camp becomes solvent through endowments.”

Both camps are separate corporate entities with their own boards of directors and responsible for generating funds to meet their budgets. While they are not in the BCNM’s Cooperative Program budget, the executive board voted last month to use CP funds to cover budget overdrafts by the camps until Sept. 1, 2001. Any overdrafts will be paid back, the executive board was told.

Messengers approved a BCNM budget for 2001, the largest in the state convention’s history, calling for $3,260,168 in CP receipts from the churches, an increase of $115,165, or 3.66 percent, over the 2000 budget.

After the exception of $80,300 in preferred items (ministers’ retirement and retirees’ insurance) is applied, 30.5 percent of the Cooperative Program receipts, an estimated $969,860, will be forwarded to the SBC for national and international missions and ministry, the same percent-of-budget allocation in the current budget.

The remaining 69.5 percent, $2,210,008, along with additional income of $1,084,094 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 $3,294,102 for mission work in New Mexico.

Raises for convention personnel of 3 percent were included in the budget. The convention also will increase by 1 percent matching annuity contributions for employees who wish to make additional voluntary contributions to their retirement plan, not to exceed 4 percent of their salary.

Three resolutions were approved by messengers: to “gratefully acknowledge God for the rain he has blessed our state with this week;” voicing “strong opposition” to gambling and gambling-related legislation; and expressing gratitude and thanks to the people of Gallup and its Baptist churches “for their love, generosity, hospitality and Christian fellowship.”

Leaders of three Southern Baptist mission organizations spoke during the convention: Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board; Janet Hoffman, president of the WMU, an SBC auxiliary; and Robert E. Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board. Michael Whitehead, interim president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo., led Bible studies in each of the convention’s four sessions.

Presiding during the meeting were the BCNM’s president, Joseph Bunce, pastor of First Baptist Church, Bloomfield; first vice president Henderson, minister of music/senior adults at Sandia Baptist Church, Albuquerque; and second vice president, Boyd Morerod, pastor of First Baptist Church, Los Chavez. All three men served in their respective positions for the past two years and were ineligible for re-election.

Elected as convention officers were Bob Butler, pastor of Sandia Baptist Church, Albuquerque, president; Keeney Dickenson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Eunice, first vice president; and Fred McDonald, pastor of Monterey Baptist Church, Albuquerque, second vice president.

Other nominees for president were Dickenson and Jay McCollum, pastor of First Baptist Church, Gallup, who would later be nominated for second vice president. Butler won a runoff vote with Dickenson.

Also nominated for first vice president were McDonald and Shon Wagner, pastor of First Baptist Church, Truth or Consequences. Dickenson and McDonald were involved in a runoff.

Before Bunce brought down the gavel to close the annual meeting, he expressed his gratitude to God for the unity and sweet spirit evident during the convention. He then quoted all three verses of Psalm 133, which begins, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (NIV).

Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 30-31 at First Baptist Church, Hobbs.

    About the Author

  • John Loudat