N.E. Baptists unanimous for 'Embracing the Future'
WESTBOROUGH, Mass. (BP) -- Terry Dorsett, the new executive director/treasurer of the Baptist Convention of New England, set forth an "Embracing the Future" strategy in his inaugural address to the six-state convention.
Foundational to the strategy and its key initiatives is the elimination of a debt of nearly $250,000 during the coming year.
Dorsett called for New England Baptists to "use the money to tell people in New England about Jesus" rather than continuing paying interest to a lender elsewhere in the country.
The 165 messengers at the Nov. 6-7 convention unanimously approved the Embracing the Future strategy and, with 123 guests, gave an inaugural offering of just over $20,000 and made another $30,000 in pledges to be given over the next year.
Key challenges facing New England Baptists, according to a description of Embracing the Future provided at the convention, include responding to God's call to:
"1. have an army of prayer warriors praying for revival.
"2. train and encourage individual Christians to share their faith regularly through personal evangelism.
"3. impact the next generation with the Gospel.
"4. revitalize existing churches, as well as continue to start new ones."
The convention's churches, while retiring the 15-year debt, will be encouraged to embrace funding for one of five key initiatives:
1. The BCNE Staff Fund to support "salary and benefits of staff positions that have been eliminated or reduced by the reorganization of our national partners and include ministry positions such as: church revitalization, leadership development, pastoral development and youth ministry."
2. The Collegiate Ministry Endowment at the Baptist Foundation of New England to provide "ongoing funding for reaching college students."
3. The Church Health Endowment at the Baptist Foundation of New England to provide "ongoing funding to help existing churches grow in healthy ways."
4. The Hoover Institute to provide "training opportunities for both pastors and lay leaders appropriate for our New England context."
5. The James Currin Loan Fund to loan funds to churches for capital expenses.
To retire the debt and move forward with Embracing the Future, the strategy states: "We are prayerfully seeking 246 churches, individuals or organizations to make a special $1,200 commitment to the Baptist Convention of New England," whether in a single gift or a $100 monthly pledge during the coming year. For each $1,200 gift, $1,000 will be applied toward paying off the BCNE debt while the other $200 will be applied to one of five initiatives.
Dorsett was met with applause when he was introduced by BCNE President Neal Davidson, pastor of Hope Chapel in Sterling, Mass. Using Proverbs 16:3 as his text, Dorsett urged the messengers to be thankful for the past but to embrace the future by committing themselves fully to God's plans for the convention.
Dorsett assumed office April 1 after being unanimously elected by the BCNE board of directors March 12, succeeding Jim Wideman, who retired last December after 13 years as executive director.
Dorsett worked for the BCNE as a NAMB church planting catalyst based in Hartford, Conn., from 2012-15 and previously was director of missions for the Green Mountain Baptist Association in Barre, Vt., for 12 years. He holds a doctor of ministry degree from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, a master of religious education degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and a bachelor of science from Liberty University.
Davidson, in his president's address during the BCNE's 33rd annual meeting in Westborough, Mass., drew from Ephesians 4:15 to urge New England Baptists to address cultural issues by speaking bold biblical truth in great love.
Mark Smith, pastor of North Park Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Conn., preached the annual sermon. "If you moved to New England to become a Christian rock star, you moved to the wrong place," Smith said in a message from Philippians 2:17. He encouraged pastors to remain faithful even if their ministry does not turn out as they thought it would.
Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement with the SBC Executive Committee, preached on the Prodigal Son from Luke 15, emphasizing the love of the father who waited for the son to return.
Messengers approved a budget of $2.2 million, which is slightly lower than last year. It includes $791,000 in anticipated Cooperative Program missions and ministry giving by the convention's 337 churches with just over 28,000 members.
The new budget increases the Cooperative Program funds to be forwarded to Southern Baptist Convention national and international causes by 0.4 percent, moving to 15 percent, without any shared ministry items.
Gary Rowe, a layman from Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, N.H., was elected as the convention's new president after serving as BCNE vice president.
Greg Torres, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Hartford, Conn., was elected vice president, the first Hispanic to hold a convention-level office. Torres, who recently retired as a church planting catalyst from the North American Mission Board, also received the BCNE Robert Brindle Church Planting Award for helping to start 39 churches across New England during his ministry.
A full slate of candidates was elected to the board of directors, the first time all the slots have been filled at the meeting in a number of years.
Messengers approved an official partnership between the Tennessee, Ohio and New England conventions called the Three Strand Partnership. The Baptist Foundation of New England awarded two grants to the convention, both for $4,500, one for collegiate ministry and the other for leadership development.
Messengers adopted three resolutions without opposition.
One resolution expressed appreciation to Jesse Smith for his 40 years of bivocational ministry at First Baptist Church in Rochester, N.H. Smith is also the BCNE accountant.
A second resolution reaffirmed the convention's support of the Cooperative Program as their primary means of supporting missions, while the third resolution affirmed the definition of biblical marriage as between one man and one woman and called on New England Baptists to stand firm on the biblical message of marriage regardless of what the broader culture may say.
Next year's BCNE annual meeting will be Nov. 4-5 in central Massachusetts. David Um, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., will deliver the annual sermon.