'Walking in Love' apt theme for Md./Del. annual meeting

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (BP)--Unity and urgency prevailed under a "Walking Together in Love" theme based on Ephesians 5:2 during the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware's 166th annual meeting, Nov. 12-13 in Hagerstown, Md.

"Only God could give us such a sweet spirit. Let's praise him! Amen?" James Dixon, BCM/D president, exclaimed during the last session of the convention.

Underlying that peace was an urgency of seizing the moment. Time and time again convention speakers urged believers to redeem the time as they reflected on Sept. 11's terrorist attacks on the nation.

The convention's praise and worship, meanwhile, included soulful and lively songs from several African American churches, choirs, praise and worship teams and soloists, along with distinctive music by Patmos, a noted group from Moldova in Eastern Europe.

Baptist entities, consultants and missionaries gave presentations highlighting the year's achievements and new programs. David Lee, BCMD executive director, recognized new staff, retiring staff and new pastors. Lee, Dixon and Lee's son, Jonathon, pastor of Crossroads Church in Odenton, delivered messages during the meeting, along with Kenneth Hemphill, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.

Dixon, pastor of El Bethel Baptist Church, Fort Washington, Md., and Marvin "Al" Hunter, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Gambrills, Md., were re-elected to their offices of president and vice president, respectively. Robert Lilly, pastor of First Baptist Church of Essex, Md., was elected second vice president in a ballot with one other nominee, while Gayle Clifton, pastor of Olney (Md.) Baptist Church, was re-elected recording secretary.

Among recommendations from the convention's general mission board passed unanimously by messengers:

-- changing the convention's constitution and bylaws to allow general mission board members to continue to serve if they move from a church in one association to another within the convention or from one association to another in the convention and still serve on the board. The article in the past has stipulated that membership ceases when a member moves from the state. This was a first reading of the recommendation. The change will be voted on again next year before becoming final.

Mike Miller, pastor of First Baptist Church, Easton, Md., asked if someone were to move to California whether, under this new change, membership can be maintained on the general mission board. John Faris, BCM/D director of finance, explained that some of the churches now in the convention are located in West Virginia and Pennsylvania and technically, according to the constitution as it has been, a pastor who moved from one state to another couldn't continue to serve on the board. So, the answer was a tongue-in-cheek yes -- if he could commute for meetings.

-- assigning responsibility for the Baptistlife newsjournal to the general mission board through the director of the convention's communication center. Prior to the change, the editor was elected by the general mission board and reported to a Baptistlife committee. This was the second reading of the change and the vote was final.

-- encouraging churches to participate in the Cooperative Program channel of support for Maryland/Delaware and Southern Baptist national and international missions by observing Cooperative Program Day in April and Cooperative Program month in October. Churches also were challenged to adopt a budget that supports the Cooperative Program.

-- permitting BCM/D agencies to approach individuals for gifts, but stipulating that special campaigns for funds should be approved by the convention's general mission board.

-- encouraging churches needing capital financing to consider counsel and assistance from the division of church loans of the North American Mission Board or the BCM/D director of finance.

Messengers also voted to approve a $5,858,821 budget for the year 2002, which includes anticipated Cooperative Program giving of $4 million from Maryland/Delaware Baptist churches, with 41 percent of CP Missions gifts to continue to be allocated for SBC causes.

David Lee reported that $87,000 has been channeled through BCM/D to assist victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, while an offering of $1,050 for partnership missions was received during the convention.

The Baptist Foundation of Maryland/Delaware officially kicked off its ambitious Legacy of Faith Campaign. The campaign's goal is to raise $10 million between 2001 and 2004 to plant churches and jumpstart existing ones in an effort to reach the next generation for Christ.

John Faris, the convention's director of finance, said statistics show that less than 5 percent of those 18 and younger have a personal faith in Christ, and thus Legacy of Faith is an urgent strategic program to meet that need among future generations.

Donations, Faris said, may be in the form of pledges of money, real estate or land, while some may donate the use of a building rent-free for a new church.

Already $2,883,017 in advance gifts has been received, representing gifts of land and townhouses, as well as gifts from churches and individual pledges to the foundation.

Messengers were given packages explaining the program and videotapes to present to their congregations.

Next year's annual meeting will be Nov. 11-12 at the Holiday Inn Select in Solomon's Island.

"This is one of the better annual conventions. Dr. Dixon outdid himself. All the speakers were very inspiring," said Ed Nettleship, a member of Betel Baptist Church in Ellicott City, Md., and one of 405 messengers and 127 visitors to the convention sessions at Hagerstown's Ramada Inn Conference Center. His wife, Mary, added, "The Lord fills our plate. I'm going to ask the Lord to give me another plate."


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