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STATE ROUNDUP: Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania/South Jersey

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Colorado rises from pandemic

By Karen L. Willoughby

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (BP) – Even as Colorado Baptists discussed serious issues – women in ministry; critical race theory; the sale of Ponderosa Retreat and Conference Center – they celebrated being able to be with each other Oct. 11-12 for the 2021 annual meeting of the Colorado Baptist General Convention.

“Our convention was a great time of celebration since we did not meet last year,” Interim Executive Director Doug Lohrey told Baptist Press. “The churches loved the opportunity of coming together and celebrating each other.”

Colorado Baptists’ “Rise and Rebuild” theme was based on the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. At least 300 people participated in the two-day event that took place at the Hilton hotel in Fort Collins. The total included 167 messengers from some of Colorado’s 365 churches and missions.

Mingled with the celebration, “our people handled some potentially contentious issues with grace and dignity,” Lohrey said.

As to business, 71.4 percent of messengers voted the sell Ponderosa to an organization that has pledged to invest heavily in upgrades.

“We have negotiated a partnership with the new organization so Colorado Baptists’ camp programing can continue to be held there,” Lohrey said.

Michael Proud Jr. was named incoming executive director of the CBGC. He replaces Nathan Lorick, now executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Lorick served Colorado Baptists for three-and-a-half years.

Colorado Baptists at their annual meeting passed five resolutions, two of which were in appreciation: of the Hilton for hosting the event; and of outgoing state convention President John Moreland, pastor of Denver Christian Bible Church.

Another resolution expressed thanks to the executive baoard’s search team for its work in finding a new executive director, and to Doug Lohrey, who for the third time in 25 years with the state convention served as the interim executive director.

The fourth resolution defined the title, office and function of pastors affiliating with CBGC, reaffirming the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, that the pastorate is reserved for males. This passed “resoundingly,” Lohrey said.

Another resolution saying critical race theory is incompatible with Scripture and with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 also passed “resoundingly.”

A $2,472,705 budget for 2022 was passed, about an $80,000 increase over last year because of small increases throughout. Of the total, $2,114,705 was anticipated to be from churches in Cooperative Program giving, and 35 percent (for the fourth year) – $740,147 – was allocated for national and international SBC causes.

“We are grateful for our churches that are continuing to support the Cooperative Program,” Lohrey said. “The Cooperative Program allows us – churches, the people in our churches and our convention – to consistently be an Acts 1:8 church.”

New officers are President Mark Spence, pastor of Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church in Aurora; First Vice President Greg Teel, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Delta; Second Vice President Patrick Hall, executive pastor at Cross Fellowship Church in Colorado Springs; and Jan Loser as secretary. She is a member at Riverside Baptist Church in Denver and executive ministry assistant for CGBC.

The next annual meeting of the Colorado Baptist General Convention is set for Oct. 10-11, 2022, at a location yet to be determined.

New York celebrates while continuing to battle COVID-19

By Karen L. Willoughby

CICERO, N.Y. (BP) – The COVID-19 pandemic still has a strong hold on New York. Some churches still aren’t meeting for Sunday worship. Businesses have moved into storefronts that once held church services before the pandemic. Pastors and their families still are getting sick – some dying – from COVID.

This made the fellowship even sweeter than usual at the 53rd annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of New York (BCNY), which now includes a tagline to its name – a northeast network of churches – because it includes churches in five states.

“It was a great opportunity for the first time since the worst of COVID to do an in-person meeting,” Executive Director Terry Robertson told Baptist Press. “People commented how wonderful it was to meet with other people again. God is working true to His word, doing more than we could ask or think.”

With a theme of “I Am About to do Something New,” based on Isaiah 43:19, the annual meeting took place Sept. 25 at Driver’s Village Conference Center in Cicero, upstate New York, where the state convention’s offices are now located.

Fifty-one messengers from 23 of the state convention’s 535 churches plus 26 visitors participated in the onsite annual meeting.

“New York is still under strict COVID restrictions,” BCNY executive assistant Catherine Meyer said. The Convention staff consists of Robertson, Meyer and one remote administrative assistant.

“Though we did do our annual meeting in person, we did so knowing a sizable number would not be able to make the trip,” Robertson said. “COVID is still an issue. Every week, pastors or their families have been hospitalized with COVID and the high infection rate is likely to remain the same for 12 to 18 months.”

Business at the annual meeting included a second vote (because of constitution/bylaw changes) on the state convention’s restructuring, passage of the 2022 budget, and the election of officers.

“We restructured around three priorities: church planting/revitalization; evangelism; and leadership solutions,” Robertson said. “With those priorities, we restructured the executive board into two teams – a leadership team that includes two people from each of our 10 associations, and a management team.”

The 2022 budget of $770,000 anticipates $761,000 in Cooperative Program giving from churches, with, for the third year, 30 percent – $228,300 – allocated for the SBC’s national and international missions work.  The total budget is a 17 percent increase over 2021.

“I am delighted that our churches have given as well as they have in the midst of COVID,” Robertson said. “I think it speaks of the commitment our churches have to the Cooperative Program.

“We are so grateful for the opportunity to be partners in the Cooperative Program. It has been a great privilege for our churches even in midst of Covid to give to the advance of the Gospel worldwide.”

Steve Charles, pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Canandaigua, N.Y., was elected BCNY’s president. Vice President Gale Dingwell is pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in New Windsor, New York. Recording secretary John DePugh is pastor of Newark Baptist Fellowship Church in Newark, N.Y. Assistant Recording Secretary Daniel Lee is pastor of Compass Fellowship Church in New York City.

The next annual meeting of BCNY: a northeast network of churches is set for Sept. 24, 2022, at Driver’s Village Conference Center in Cicero, N.Y.

Baptist Resource Network celebrates 50 years

By Shannon Baker/Baptist Resource Network

HARRISBURG, Pa. (BP) – During the inaugural Accelerate Conference, the new annual meeting format for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, 143 messengers and 108 guests, representing 101 churches, celebrated the network’s 50th anniversary, examined the future of church, and urged churches to love their neighbors through a three-phase initiative called #LovePASJ (Love Pennsylvania/South Jersey).

During the business session at the Oct. 5 meeting at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hersey Hotel, messengers elected Bryan McClelland, senior pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Williamsport, Pa., as president of the BRN Executive Board and approved a BRN budget of $2,139,750, which includes a 1 percentage point increase of Cooperative Program receipts forwarded to national and international Baptist causes (from 30 percent to 31 percent).

Outgoing president Buff McNickle addressed the “highly productive time for the BRN” throughout the pandemic, including the ability to help meet churches’ needs, despite a 40 percent decrease in the budget due to pandemic losses in partnerships and support.

“I am proud of the fact that we didn’t have to let anyone go from the staff, and we were able to help navigate the safety of the team and visitors by making sure we had all the up-to-date appropriate safety protocols,” McNickle said.

He also applauded the network’s efforts in racial reconciliation, sexual abuse prevention, evangelism, new affiliations, and the #LovePASJ initiative, which seeks to help churches “know” their neighbors through exegesis and prayerwalking, “show” Christ’s love to them through evangelism and compassion ministries, and “grow” them in the Lord through intentional discipleship and leadership development.

Accelerate Conference

As COVID-19 halted ministry gatherings worldwide, the BRN decided to postpone its 50th anniversary celebration from 2020 to this year, kicking off the Accelerate Conference with a celebratory video highlighting the BRN’s 50 years of ministry. This year’s 96-page program also highlighted history with several articles and a historical timeline, which can also be found at www.brnunited.org/history.

This year’s annual gathering of churches was shortened to one day, beginning with a brief business session at 9 a.m., followed by a full day of worship and engaging content. A month earlier – now in October instead of November, to better accommodate schedules and hotel availability – the format was designed to feel more like a conference than an annual meeting.

In his address, BRN Executive Director Barry Whitworth explained the new format for the annual gathering. “Accelerate is designed to help encourage and challenge the BRN family of churches to be fueled and inspired to accelerate Kingdom movement across Pennsylvania and South Jersey.”

Read the full story, including a report from the Accelerate gathering here.

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