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STATE MEETINGS: New York, Alaska


New York 2023 annual meeting celebrates baptisms

By Karen L. Willoughby

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. (BP) – Fourteen of the 32 churches in the Baptist Convention of New York that reported 10 or more baptisms in 2022 speak a language other than English during Sunday morning worship. The top three churches all are non-English-speaking congregations.

Blessing Church International in Rochester, N.Y., primarily is a Nepali congregation. They reported 85 baptisms in 2022. Bhutanese Community Church in Cicero, N.Y., reported 70 baptisms. New Jersey Chinese Baptist Church in East Brunswick reported 53 baptisms. Northside Church, an Anglo congregation in Liverpool, N.Y., historically the largest church in the regional convention, was fourth, with 37 baptisms.

“I don’t recall another year when our non-English-speaking churches were leading the way in baptisms,” Terry Robertson told Baptist Press. Robertson has been BCNY’s executive director for 19 years, and has been serving in the state convention 43 years. “Of the top 20 churches in baptisms, nine were from non-English-speaking churches. This, to me, was a very exciting part of our annual meeting this year.”

BCNY’s 54th annual meeting Sept. 22-23 at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in New Windsor, N.Y. opened with an evangelism conference. Keelan Cook was guest speaker. Cook teaches missiology and is George Liele Director of the Center for Great Commission Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Also speaking: BCNY Executive Director Terry Robertson; outgoing President Steve Charles, who is newly minted BCNY upstate connector and associate pastor of Pathway Community Church in Canandaigua, N.Y.; and George Russ, executive director of the Metropolitan Baptist Association. Russ led in discussion of the North American Mission Board’s new Evangelism Kit.

The Sept. 23 annual meeting, which drew 66 people to Ridgecrest Baptist Church, by design focused on celebratory worship, powerful preaching and warm fellowship, Robertson said. “A Whole Lot of Jesus” was the theme, and 1 Timothy 2:5 the scripture.

“We’ve pretty well streamlined our annual meeting to make it more about worship and content, trying to encourage our folks,” Robertson said. “Our worship was led by the Rock Church in West Haverstraw, N.Y. This is one of our smaller churches. In a convention made up of so many smaller churches, it’s good to have one leading us, and doing so, so well.”

Messengers unanimously passed a $756,854 budget, anticipating $737,500 in Cooperative Program giving from churches. Up to another $1.1 million is anticipated from the North American Mission Board for church planting. The budget is down a scant $8,166 from last year’s budget. The percentage split of CP giving remains unchanged since 2019, with 70 percent remaining in BCNY’s territory and 30 percent being forwarded to national CP.

Officers elected include President Gale Dingwell, pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in New Windsor; Recording Secretary Beverly Flannery, member at First Baptist Church of Orchard Park; and Assistant Recording Secretary Daniel Lee, pastor of Compass Church in New York City. The vice president is to be determined during an upcoming session of the executive board.

With no other business, time was available to celebrate what God is doing with and through churches in BCNY’s territory, an area 500 miles from east to west, and 500 miles from north to south. Across that expanse, 52 Send Network church planters are at work. Ten churches were planted in 2022, and 11 have been planted so far in 2023.

At least 10 non-English-speaking churches and numerous English-speaking churches have announced plans to start additional new works.

“We had an exceptional annual meeting that featured the priority of evangelism,” Robertson said. “When so much has been said in recent years of SBC decreases in baptisms, we wanted to highlight the evangelism mandate. … We’re reaching lost people, lives are being changed, and our churches are alive and well.”

BCNY’s 55th annual meeting is set for Sept. 20-21, 2024, with the location to be determined later.

Alaskans cooperate to reach the nation’s largest state

By Karen L. Willoughby

WASILLA, Alaska (BP) – Baptisms are up across the Alaska Baptist Resource Network, attendance is returning to pre-COVID levels and perhaps even more significantly, individuals, churches and associations are working together more cooperatively than ever before.

The isolation that came with the pandemic showed everyone the importance of connecting with others, leaders said in their reports during Alaska’s Sept. 25-27 annual meeting at Fairview Loop Baptist Church in Wasilla, about 45 minutes northeast of Anchorage. More than 200 people, including 151 messengers from 40 of Alaska’s 109 churches, and 53 registered guests gathered under a theme of “Unwavering,” based on Galatians 6:9. 

“There are so many peripheral concerns that can distract us from the main thing, sharing the Gospel,” Executive Director Randy Covington told Baptist Press. “We must be unified and unwavering in our commitment to reach the lost.”

The one-session business of the state convention included a motion that the Alaska Baptist Resource Network study the need to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. The current statement: “… in harmony with the general doctrinal principles of the BF&M” is already part of its legal documents. No resolutions were presented.

Action on the proposed 2024 budget of $922,267 for the Alaska Baptist Resource Network is to be finalized during the executive board’s November meeting. This continues an 80/20 percentage split, with 20 percent going to national SBC causes.

President Robert Scott, pastor of Dillingham Bible Church; First Vice President Philip Coleman, pastor of True North Church in Anchorage; and Recording Secretary Cathy Arns, a member at First Baptist Church of Anchorage all were re-elected. Nathaniel Buck was elected second vice president. He is pastor of Agape Fellowship in Palmer.

“There seemed to be a good spirit and great interest among participants in moving forward, and I believe our good attendance was an indication of that,” Covington said. “Alaskans enjoy gathering. This is a family reunion because of the distances between us. While we must do some business, we want to focus on fellowship, worship and hearing inspiring messages.”

Kyle Sparks from the host church led worship. Rick Curtis from the North American Mission Board, Gordon Fort from the International Mission Board and Jonathan Howe from the SBC Executive Committee all spoke, as did Ralph Drollinger from Capitol Ministries in Washington, D.C.

Covington also expressed appreciation to Man Cave Ministries in the Carolinas, which again this year prepared all meals and snacks for the three-day event. This also included an “Impact Alaska” Missions Rally Monday evening and Tuesday morning pastors and WMU conferences.

Reports given by state convention staff illustrate the growing impact of the state convention and two related entities: its Foundation and Birchwood Behavioral Health services.

“Revitalization continues to be at the forefront of our focus on developing healthy churches that have grown weary through the years in fulfilling the tasks of the Great Commission,” Covington told messengers. “The Department for Doing Good, LLC will be joining us in this strategic initiative of revitalization over the next two years. We must not grow weary in strengthening the work through all our Network churches.”

Covington also spoke of Alaskans and others making long-delayed maintenance repairs to Birchwood’s residential and office facilities; engaging in new work among Russian and Ukrainian arrivals; partnership with Alabama and to a lesser degree other states; and his new ministry leading weekly Bible studies in Juneau, the state’s capital, during the January-May legislative sessions.

Jae McKee, director of missions and church planting, said he sees “more and more of our churches investing in leadership development and training, the vision increasing for becoming multiplying churches, individuals exploring their call to missions and ministry, and increases in missions involvement and volunteerism.”

Evangelism Director Jimmy Stewart said there were 194 reported baptisms, five more than last year, adding: “Our numbers are recovering from the pandemic.”

In his report, President Robert Scott told messengers, “It is my hope that we remain grateful for the work and excited for the task which God has entrusted to our churches. I believe our gratitude is most easily expressed when we continue working together to share the load and assist one another in the challenges we face.”

Alaska’s 79th annual meeting is set for Sept. 23-25, 2024, at First Baptist Church in Valdez.

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