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Wyo. Baptists unanimously add to Cooperative Program giving

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (BP)–In its 17th annual meeting, the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention voted unanimously to increase the percentage of its budget for Cooperative Program national and international missions by a half-percent, to 31.5 percent.

This brings Wyoming’s contribution to Southern Baptist Convention causes to the percentage level of California, announced Convention President David Schroeder, pastor at North Cheyenne Baptist Church.

“It’s a challenge to all the churches,” Schroeder said. “It pushes us to grow a bit.”

Cooperative Program gifts are expected to reach $281,430 in 2001, up $7,610 or 2.78 percent over that given during the previous budget year. Wyoming’s overall $1,217,629 budget for 2001 is an $11,055 increase over the 2000 budget.

The CP increase is indicative of a fresh passion for missions that seems to be building across Wyoming, said Schroeder, who was elected by unanimous acclamation to serve a second term as president.

“There’s no strategy, no plan, no program,” Schroeder said, “just God’s Spirit invigorating our people for worldwide missions.”

Wyoming this year became the first state Baptist convention to have 5 percent of its churches registered as Global Priority Churches. Randy Sprinkle made the presentation during the annual meeting to Wyoming’s Executive Director John Thomason. Sprinkle is director of the International Prayer Strategy Office of the International Mission Board, an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Global Priority Churches are those congregations which meet eight missions-related qualifications that show them to have a deliberate international missions focus. Wyoming’s GPC congregations are Wright Baptist, Wright; First Southern Baptist, Big Piney; United Baptist, Riverton; North Cheyenne Baptist, Cheyenne; and First Baptist, Kemmerer.

The “Power of One: One Journey Together” theme for Wyoming’s annual meeting, reflected the unity in the state convention, several speakers said. “This is a harmonious bunch,” said Quin Williams, pastor of Boyd Avenue Baptist Church, Casper, Wyo., in one of several testimonies during the Nov. 15-16 meeting in Cheyenne. “We get along. We like each other. We’re friends. It’s important we know as pastors we have friends so close at hand.”

David Wells, pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church, Riverton, Wyo., was elected first vice president by acclamation, as were Lester Fatheree, pastor at First Baptist Church, Kemmerer, as second vice president and Mary Anne Hart, recording secretary.

The Resolutions Committee offered one resolution. It expressed appreciation to Cheyenne’s Sunnyside Baptist Church, its pastor and members for hosting the annual meeting.

The only miscellaneous business was a comment made by Blaine Welker, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Rock Springs, Wyo.

“In our community, Southern Baptists didn’t fare well, reputation-wise, because of what the media said about the Baptist Faith and Message this summer,” Welker said. “I agree with what was said [in the revision], but I suggest we as Wyoming Southern Baptists send word to the Executive Committee that if we’re going to have something we know is going to be a hot issue, that the SBC be proactive in dealing with the media so it doesn’t come out in a way that makes it difficult for us in our communities.”

Schroeder, who was presiding, accepted the comment. “I think he’s expressed well the sentiment of a lot of us,” Schroeder said. But because it didn’t come in the form of a motion, no action was taken.

John Herrington, who for 17 years has been evangelism and missions director, was honored at a heartfelt yet lighthearted retirement banquet that reflected the bonding among the state convention’s 100 congregations.

“Thank you for making us feel welcome when we first looked into serving in Wyoming,” Peggy Nikkel, a professional dramatist, said to Herrington, her simple statement bringing tears to the eyes of many who echoed her words. After six years as pastor in Wheatland, Wyo., her husband, Lynn, was named the convention’s religious education director in September.

On the other hand, Eleanor Thomason, wife of Executive Director John Thomason, with due ceremony presented Herrington with a set of toy golf clubs because he had once asked specifically that he not be given golf clubs on his retirement. John Thomason then announced the state convention was giving him a gun safe specifically designed for the long rifles Herrington makes.

John Gilbert, a retired pastor from Missouri who helped create Wyoming’s missions partnership with Missouri, led a three-session, in-depth study of the New Testament Book of James to help pastors and teachers prepare for the 2001 winter Bible study.

“Wyoming is a special place, a magical place,” Gilbert, now living in Memphis, Tenn., said in his opening remarks.

Emory Lussi, a former pastor now living in Alpine, Wyo., spoke on 1 Corinthians 3:11 for the annual sermon. “Love one another,” he challenged his listeners. “Are we doing this to the extent the world knows we’re his disciples?”

Schroeder preached on Jonah for the president’s message. “The Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention is well but that doesn’t tell the whole story,” he preached. “How is Wyoming? There are more lost persons in Wyoming today than when God turned Benny Delmar loose.” Delmar, Wyoming’s first missionary, had a hand in the birth of more than 150 congregations in Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota.

In 1984, the year the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention was formed, 656 people were baptized, Schroeder said. However, in the three most recent years — 1997, 1998, 1999 — baptisms numbered in the 300s.

“Wyoming’s Nineveh’s are more harvest-ready than we think,” Schroeder urged. “The doors are open. They’re open from Chugwater to China. If we postpone our mission until we’re stronger, we’ll be weaker.”

Thomason, preaching from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, said, “I pray God we all give of ourselves to find time to encourage one another. Constantly and consistently be in the business of building one another up. God will bless that.”

Wyoming’s annual meeting included presentations by representatives from several SBC agencies, including Paige Patterson. The president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary preached Wednesday evening and reported as a representative from the SBC’s six seminaries at Thursday morning’s session.

“It’s hard for folks to be angry at each other when all their energies are focused in the same direction,” said Patterson, who like many of the messengers and guests, wore cowboy boots. His footwear was appropriate for the task at hand, he said. Patterson challenged the 101 messengers to be spiritual midwives. “When we realize life and death are in our hands, then we’ll be faithful to discharge our duties,” he said.

David Hankins, vice president for Cooperative Program with the SBC Executive Committee, spoke on Partners in the Harvest, the theme of the 75th anniversary celebration of the Cooperative Program. Using Matthew 9:35-38 as his text, he made three points: the problem — the magnitude of the lost; the plan — the mobilization of the laborers; and a plea — the mandate of the Lord.

Matthew Kennedy spoke for the Annuity Board; Charles Willis spoke for LifeWay Christian Resources; and Carol Causey spoke for Woman’s Missionary Union.

Sprinkle brought highlights from the IMB’s annual report. “We now have more than 5,000 missionaries scattered over the world,” he said. “In the last decade we’ve seen that we need to take the gospel to distinctive people groups wherever they may be, rather than just to countries that would let us in.”

Michael Day, a vice president with the North American Mission Board, after reporting NAMB’s statistics, such as Southern Baptists in North America worship in at least 210 languages each week, said, “What it comes down to is what the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention can accomplish, what the North American Mission Board can accomplish, what God can accomplish with the Power of One. Consider what God would have you do with your one life, one church, one convention.”

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 15-16 at First Southern Baptist Church, Casper. It will mark the 50th anniversary of starting Southern Baptist work in Wyoming.