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SBC DIGEST: Florida’s Barbara Denman to retire; historic Baltimore church facing foreclosure; Baptist communicators serve in Phoenix

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) — Barbara Denman, director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention has announced her retirement, effective Aug. 31 — almost 30 years to the day she accepted the position in September 1987.

Denman has directed numerous Florida Baptist communications and promotional campaigns, including the annual Maguire State Missions Offering and Global Hunger Relief Offering. Her campaigns were recognized by the Baptist Communicators Association nine times with the Arthur S. Davenport Award for exceptional achievement in public relations and development.

“Without question, Barbara is a consummate writer and public relations specialist,” said Don Hepburn, who served as Florida Baptists’ public relations director when he brought Denman to join the convention staff, saying that Denman “brought expertise, creativity and commitment to the task of telling the missions story of Florida Baptists.”

Micah Ferguson, director of strategic initiatives for the Florida convention, said Denman “has gone beyond telling how Florida Baptists gave to a particular offering and has brought to life how these offerings changed individuals — highlighting the people impacted through stories of disaster relief, hunger relief and many other mission endeavors.”

Ferguson said he has “seen firsthand her love for God and her desire to help tell the story of how He is at work across Florida Baptist churches.”

Denman’s passion for telling the story of Florida Baptists has had her traversing the Sunshine State multiple times, from large cities to small rural enclaves, often on the frontlines of breaking news, such as covering the heartbreak of hurricanes making landfall and Florida Baptist disaster relief volunteers sharing the hope of God in the storms’ aftermaths.

Denman also had a front-row seat to tell the story of Florida Baptist inroads into Haiti and Cuba, where revivals are now sweeping the island nations.

“She has been the voice of convention news, helping keep Florida Baptists informed,” Ferguson said.

Denman also has served in numerous leadership positions in the Baptist Communicators Association, including president, program vice president (twice), membership vice president (twice), treasurer and newsletter editor. And she has regularly served on the news coverage team at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.

Before coming to Florida, Denman, a South Carolina native, served Southern Baptists in other communications roles, including stints at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board), altogether totaling 40 years in denominational service.

Denman holds a journalism degree from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in religious education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary along with APR accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America.


Annie Armstrong’s church at risk of foreclosure

BALTIMORE (BP) — The church where missions pioneer Annie Armstrong was baptized by one of Southern Baptists’ founding figures, Richard Fuller, is at risk of foreclosure because of more than $6,000 in unpaid water bills as the inner-city congregation struggles to survive.

Seventh Metro Church in Baltimore, known for years as Seventh Baptist Church, dwindled from a high of 2,000 members to only 17 in 2003 when current pastor Ryan Palmer began leading. Louisiana pastor Fred Luter, in his role as Southern Baptist Convention president, helped relaunch Seventh Metro when the SBC met in Baltimore in 2014.

But as the church ministered to its diverse community of heroin addicts, the homeless, prostitutes, alcoholics, blue-collar workers, affluent professionals, artists and college students, funds ran low and the church’s debt was sold at auction to a California investor.

Baltimore attempts to recover unpaid property taxes, water bills and other charges by offering the debt at auction in a much-criticized system dating back to the 19th century. The Baltimore Sun said investors pay the amount due and can charge up to 18 percent interest annually plus legal fees and other costs.

Now Seventh Metro, with a building worth $1.4 million, must come up with $6,000 plus interest and other fees to avoid foreclosure. And time is running out.

“Well, Seventh, we are in a bind that we can’t fix,” Palmer told the congregation recently, according to the Baltimore Sun. “It’s not the ninth hour. It’s the eleventh hour. This looks like a job for Jesus. At noon every day this week, let’s pray: ‘God, help us to save this building and build your church.'”

The investor who bought the debt told the newspaper he plans to rent or sell the building to a pastor who will be able to fill up the pews.

Southern Baptists’ Easter offering for North American missions is named for Armstrong, the first corresponding secretary of Woman’s Missionary Union in 1888.

According to Seventh Metro’s website, Armstrong heard the Gospel and was baptized at Seventh Baptist Church in 1869 at the age of 19. Over the next three years, she was equipped for ministry and was sent out with Fuller and more than 100 other members to start a new church in Baltimore, where she taught children for at least 30 years.


Communicators help tell Southern Baptists’ story

PHOENIX (BP) — Southern Baptist communicators from across the country gathered to share the joys and challenges of living out their calling as storytellers of God’s work in and through Southern Baptists during a dessert fellowship in Phoenix on Sunday, June 11.

Throughout the SBC annual meeting, these and other communicators become the eyes and ears for Southern Baptists as they write, photograph, video and post on social media regarding every aspect of the June 13-14 annual meeting. In doing so, they communicate not only for the present but also for the future as their work becomes Southern Baptist history for tomorrow.

In the fellowship sponsored by Baptist Communicators Association, the communicators took time to reconnect and gear up for their work in Phoenix.

BCA is a professional organization of Christian communicators who serve throughout Baptist conventions, associations, agencies, universities/seminaries and churches, specializing in photography, graphic arts, editorial, electronic media, management and public relations/marketing. In addition to the annual SBC dessert fellowship, members meet annually at the BCA-sponsored annual spring workshop, which includes an awards competition, and a web-based Fall Forum.

Washington, D.C. was announced as the organization’s host city for its April 18-21, 2018, annual workshop during the fellowship in Phoenix.

This past April, Shannon Baker, director of communications for Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, was elected BCA president for 2017-2018.

During her tenure as president, Baker plans to work alongside other BCA officers as they promote BCA membership and participation among communications students and among more diverse populations.

Other 2017-2018 BCA officers are: Mike Ebert, North American Mission Board, president-elect; Mike Schueler, Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, membership vice president; Marc Ira Hooks, Collin Baptist Association, Texas, communications vice president; Judy Bates, GuideStone Financial Resources, professional development coordinator; Joe Westbury, The Christian Index of Georgia, treasurer; Brandon Pickett, Innovative Faith Resources/SBC of Virginia, program chair; Katherine Chute, Gateway Seminary, program chair-elect; Cam Tracy, Union University, awards chairman/historian; Margaret Colson, executive director.

For more information about BCA, visit www.baptistcommunicators.org.

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