Wyoming Baptists adopt new convention name

by Karen L. Willoughby, posted Wednesday, November 08, 2017 (9 days ago)

CASPER, Wyo. (BP) -- The new name of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention is Wyoming Southern Baptist Mission Network, messengers decided during their 34th annual meeting on Nov. 2-3.

Wyoming officers for 2018 are (back row, left to right) President John Constantine; first vice president John Larramendy; (front row, left to right) second vice president Dean Whitaker, recording secretary Cheri Mickelson and assistant recording secretary Renee Hansen.
Photo courtesy of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Mission Network
Wyoming Baptists also approved selling the property on Casper Mountain Road that it has owned for 23 years, a budget $110,000 smaller than last year's budget, changing the name of its state missions offering, and a re-working of responsibilities for state convention vocational staff.

"We had a transparent meeting, one at which we arrived at a unified decision about important things," state missionary Lynn Nikkel told Baptist Press. Nikkel's position formerly was called executive director/treasurer of the state convention. "In spite of emotionally-charged issues, we still maintained sweet fellowship."

The annual meeting drew 97 messengers and 17 guests from 39 of Wyoming's 106 churches to College Heights Baptist Church in Casper. The theme of "Devoted: United in Devotion, Fellowship and Prayer" from Acts 2:42, was featured in each speaker's message. Max Janzen, associate pastor of College Heights Casper, brought the annual sermon; David Grace, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Laramie, brought the president's message; and Lynn Nikkel brought the executive director's message.

The name change evoked spirited discussion. Some thought the word "Southern" was an important identifier. Others thought the word had minimal value in the northern state.

Quinn Williams, pastor of Boyd Avenue Baptist Church in Casper, offered a compromise amendment to the original motion, adding "Southern" to "Wyoming Baptist Mission Network." Messengers approved the amendment by a three-to-one paper ballot.

"I thought it was healthiest for the entire convention to have the opportunity to compromise," Williams told Baptist Press. "We do have a strong fellowship. We're a small convention so everything has a certain level of fragility to it. Something that can be as flexible as a name should not interfere with the important things we do.

"We made some very strong and difficult decisions that will have far-reaching effect for our cooperative work," Williams noted. "The spirit that was exhibited shows there are good days ahead for Wyoming Southern Baptists."

Sale of the 1.46-acre property with a nearly 7,000 square-foot, two-story building purchased in 1994 from Seventh-day Adventists, and a four-unit apartment complex completed in 2005 by Southern Baptist volunteers as volunteer housing is to begin immediately, Nikkel told messengers.

A Christian realtor has been commissioned; he has already done market research and thinks the prime location among other commercial real estate will sell for something under $700,000, Nikkel continued. The sale of the property is to be used to lease about 2,000 square feet of office space for at least the next 15 years.

Budget

Messengers approved without discussion a $1,323,536 budget for 2018, down $110,442 from 2017. This includes $555,916 from Wyoming Southern Baptist churches; $445,500 from the North American Mission Board plus an additional $178,500 for regional missionary funding; $67,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources; $68,700 from the state missions offering; $7,300 in registration/fees; and $600 in interest income.

The portion of Cooperative Program income being passed on to national and international Southern Baptist Convention causes remains at 32.75 percent for the seventh year, or $147,674 for 2018.

The budget allocates no money for its building's operating expenses; reserves are sufficient for contingencies until the property is sold, Nikkel explained. The budget reinstates the executive director/treasurer's -- now state missionary -- full time salary, which last year was cut to half-time.

Passage of the 2018 budget also resulted in the approval of a name change in the state missions offering -- from "Delmar" to "Wyoming Network Mission Offering" -- to bring it in line with the state convention's name change. Benny Delmar was a missionary who in the early 1950s started what grew to be 149 churches in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas.

"This is not to diminish the important history or reputation of Benny Delmar," Nikkel told messengers. "It is just an effort to better communicate with our churches."

With the new budget, the state convention's three regional missionaries are now responsible for evangelism, church planting, church health/revitalization, leadership and missions in their areas of the state -- south, west and northeast. Last year each had a half-time state-wide specialization.

The 2018 budget also deletes one of Wyoming's three ministry assistant positions.

Elections

John Constantine, pastor of Story (Wyo.) Community Church, was elected president. John Larramendy, pastor of Alcova (Wyo.) Community Church, was elected first vice president. Dean Whitaker, pastor of United Baptist Church in Riverton, was elected second vice president. All were unopposed and elected by acclamation.

Cheri Mickelson, member at First Southern Baptist in Powell, was re-elected recording secretary, and Renee Hanson was re-elected assistant recording secretary, both unopposed and by acclamation.

"I think we're moving in a positive direction under the leadership of Lynn Nikkel and the state staff," Constantine told Baptist Press.

"Strengthening our regions will help strengthen our Mission Network, which will help strengthen our Cooperative Program giving and help us reach the lost in our communities.

"Wyoming South Baptist churches and pastors, we have a really strong connection with one another," Constantine continued. "There's a great distance between many of our churches so we always look forward to coming together. There's a commonality of ministry reaching the diverse cultures we have here."

Constantine said at next year's annual meeting of Wyoming's Mission Network that he wants "to celebrate our baptisms and our victories, and to hear more from our churches."

Reports

Wyoming has 16 church plants, five "seed" congregations, and 19 potential church planters, including five native to Wyoming, reported Church Planting Strategist Don Whalen Jr.

"Nationally, 4 percent of our SBC churches are involved in church planting. However, 24.24 percent of our Wyoming [Southern Baptist] churches are involved in church planting as a sending, partnering or supporting church," Whalen told messengers. "As we see churches close their doors, nearly one in four Wyoming Southern Baptist churches are now church plants."

The National High School Rodeo Championships, Youth Evangelism Conference (YEC) and Great American Solar Eclipse were the largest evangelism events in Wyoming in 2017, and 16 congregations received funding for local events, reported evangelism strategist Dale Bascue.

He reported 3,467 people engaged in gospel conversations, 199 professions of faith, 70 other spiritual decisions, more than 200 youth at YEC, and 900 DVDs of "The Privileged Planet" and "The Case for a Creator" videos were distributed by churches that had solar eclipse events.

As of the Spring 2017 semester, 70 people have graduated from Wyoming Southern Baptist Center for Leadership Development (CLD) in partnership with Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, reported Leadership Strategist Fred Creason. Another five anticipate graduating this fall. The CLD is entering its 12th year.

In other seminary news, Mark Tolbert, director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, announced that an anonymous donor "who loves Wyoming Southern Baptists" will fund three students a year for graduate or undergraduate online study at NOBTS.

"For the first time in our history, state mission offering receipts exceeded $70,000," reported mission strategist David Schroeder. He also reported on Baptist Collegiate Ministries and disaster relief, but like the other strategists, he spoke of being spread too thin with state-level responsibilities to adequately care for the pastors and churches in the south region of the state.

Included in reports from each of the SBC's entities, Roger S. Oldham reported from the Executive Committee.

"Since 1984, when Wyoming became a state convention, you have contributed $12.7 million-plus through the Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering," Oldham, the EC's vice president for communications and relations, told messengers. "Thank you for this and for partnership with you in the Gospel."

The 2018 annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Mission Network is set for Nov. 1-2 at Mountain View Baptist Church in Mills, a Casper suburb.

Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent with Baptist Press.
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