Md./Del. cuts budget amid hardships

REVISED Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008

DOVER, Del. (BP)--Messengers to the 173rd annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware were reminded that more turbulent times are yet to come in the world but those who trust in Jesus have the hope that people so desperately seek.

The meeting at the Sheraton Hotel in Dover Nov. 10-11 celebrated the theme "Tell the Story of Hope" based on Romans 5:2, which says, "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Attendance included 325 messengers and 78 guests.

Messengers unanimously elected Byron Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., president; Robert Lilly, pastor of Catonsville Baptist Church in Baltimore, first vice president; Harold Phillips, pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, Md., second vice president; Gayle Clifton, pastor of Upper Seneca Baptist Church in Germantown, Md., recording secretary; and William George, pastor of Kensington (Md.) Baptist Church, assistant recording secretary.

David Lee, executive director of the convention, told messengers, "Irony describes where we are and where we have been."

Lee cited the year's successes including 28 new church starts, large attendance and responses at the youth evangelism conference, growth at the Ocean City resort ministry and the launching of a new resort ministry in the western association, phenomenal growth in women's ministries and ministers' wives events, the growing use of an online training program, and Skycroft Conference Center's growth.

"We may be doing some of our best work," Lee said, adding that Maryland/Delaware Baptists also are facing some significant financial challenges because the convention did not anticipate the severity of the national economic meltdown. He also noted that key giving churches have been without pastors, several churches have undergone building programs, and there is a lack of understanding of the value of the Cooperative Program.

Messengers approved an overall budget of $6.4 million for the coming year, down from $7.1 million in 2008. Anticipated Cooperative Program giving from churches in the two-state convention is $4.6 million, down from $5.3 million. Maryland/Delaware Baptists will continue to forward 41 percent of CP receipts to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries.

To deal with the financial hardships, Lee said the convention is freezing accounts, eliminating some staff and halting salary increases in the coming year.

One of several ministry testimonies was given by Dan Hun, pastor of a new Baltimore plant called Village Church, who shared how his church strives to lead young adults to Christ. Hun said it's always a temptation to water down the Gospel to draw more people in.

"The reality is we preach the Bible. We can't do a bait and switch. We must be clear," Hun said, asking for prayer because he feels like he's in a street fight with the enemy in an area where churches are not welcome.

Ellis Prince, pastor of The Gallery Church in Baltimore, reported that the church has served more than 1,500 meals, including 350 in one setting, and they've especially been successful reaching children. The church meets in an Irish pub called "Life of Reiley" on Saturday evenings free of charge as long as 12 people eat there. Prince said about 70 people meet in the pub weekly, and they call him pastor and take pride that a church meets there. They meet on Sundays at another location.

Rick Hancock, convention president and pastor of Dunkirk (Md.) Baptist Church, preached from Acts 11:19-24, noting that the Gospel was preached to both Jews and Gentiles and people heard for the first time that hope was available to them not through religion but through a man, Jesus Christ. Hancock said there is nothing like seeing hopeless people in modern-day communities find hope in Jesus, and he encouraged messengers to spend time with God each day.

Mitch Dowell, associate executive director of Embrace Baltimore, reported that 51 of 74 Baltimore churches have partnered to reach their communities. As of September, 4,118 church volunteers had hosted 29 Upward camps, 10 other sports camps and 33 Vacation Bible Schools, and 1,267 people had made decisions for Christ. Dowell said he believes God will do even more in the coming year, and he asked churches to consider volunteering to help a Baltimore church for a day or weekend.

Jim McBride gave a video presentation about Embrace Wilmington, a Delaware Baptist Association strategic initiative to embrace the city with the love of Christ from Delaware churches. McBride said the city of Wilmington is the largest populated area in the association. It has a rising crime rate, unemployment, drug, alcohol and sexual addictions and homeless people -- people living without hope, confused and lonely, he said.

McBride read a letter from Wilmington's mayor, James Baker, who wrote, "... because of you our city is becoming a better place."

Lee, the convention's executive director, preached from 1 Corinthians 13:13, "and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." Lee recounted his evacuation experiences with hurricanes, noting that some people chose to stay and endure the eye of the storm, a metaphor he used to describe the current state of ministry in Maryland and Delaware.

The Corinthian Christians, Lee said, also were in the eye of the storm, pounded by immaturity, conflict and sin. The convention's boat is taking on water, Lee said, and doing what they've been trained to do is not enough. Instead they must trust Jesus despite financial hardships and other strains.

Ken Jordan, liaison for the Christian Life and Public Affairs committee, reported that the committee partnered with "Marylanders United to Stop Slots," but the initiative was unsuccessful. They also worked to oppose three bills that would define marriage, set boundaries on covenant marriage and win approval of same-sex marriage.

"Because of the efforts of our churches, these bills died in committee," Jordan said.

William Peacock, president of the BCM/D Baptist Foundation, said the funds the foundation manages have grown from $3.8 million in 1991 to almost $8.8 million, and he reported that the foundation continues to educate churches on estate planning. Peacock also presented Lee a check for $171,068 for starting and strengthening churches in Maryland and Delaware.

Next year's annual meeting will be Nov. 9-10 at the Sheraton Baltimore North.


Sharon Mager is a correspondent for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

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