Alaskans embrace 'Vision Plan for a New Tomorrow'

by Karen L. Willoughby, posted Wednesday, October 03, 2018 (2 months ago)

WASILLA, Alaska (BP) -- An Alaska Baptist Convention "Vision Plan for a New Tomorrow" was approved by messengers at the ABC's 73rd annual meeting, Sept. 25-26 at First Baptist Church in Wasilla.

Randy Covington, executive director of the Alaska Baptist Convention, sets forth a "Vision Plan for a New Tomorrow" to 120-plus messengers at the annual meeting in Wasilla.
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Sweeping changes include a decrease in Cooperative Program giving from 37 percent to 20 percent to Southern Baptist Convention causes; a restructuring from four associations to six regions; and a potential name change.

"This came out of discussions at Executive Board meetings," said Randy Covington, executive director/treasurer of the Alaska Baptist Convention since 2016, about the CP decrease. "If we're going to reach our state for Christ, we're going to have to keep more money at home.

"Discussion about it was fairly emotional, but in the end it passed unanimously," Covington, a native son returned from international mission service with the IMB, told Baptist Press about the vote at the annual meeting. "I think everyone recognized while it's not something we want to brag about, it's something born out of necessity."

With its new vision, major adjustments will be needed to our budget, the executive director said. "We're having to take more responsibility for paying stipends formerly borne by NAMB [North American Mission Board].

"As we begin to settle into the new structure, we hope to perhaps increase our CP giving again," Covington said. "But until we get a handle on our budget, we're going to have to go to 20 percent."

With a theme of "Strengthen My Hands" based on the prophet's prayer in Nehemiah 6:9, the annual meeting drew 47 guests and 122 messengers from 44 of the convention's 116 churches.

Troy Gourley, pastor of Cross Roads Baptist Church in North Pole, preached the convention's annual message, focusing on "Strengthening Our Worship" from Nehemiah 8. Bryan Myers, outgoing two-term president and pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Fairbanks, brought the president's message from Mark 6 about going out unencumbered.

Alaska Baptists voted to undergo a major structural change by replacing their current four associations clustered around concentrations of churches with six regions, each with a regional facilitator available to even the most remote locations.
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Guests from SBC entities included William E. Townes, vice president of convention finance at the SBC Executive Committee; missionaries with the International Mission Board who were unnamed for security reasons; and Rick Curtis, NAMB's regional mobilizer for the western United States.

In his report to the messengers, Covington said he spent months praying about the findings of a task force he'd commissioned to find out what Alaska pastors needed and wanted from the state convention.

He determined what was needed to meet their needs was a new vision, new face and new structure, which Covington presented to messengers as a "Vision Plan for a New Tomorrow" illustrated by PowerPoint.

"Our vision is to be people who abide in Christ, build the Kingdom of heaven on earth, and cooperate in one sacred effort, or ABC for Abide, Build, Cooperate and for Alaska Baptist Convention," Covington told the messengers. "We wanted to make it easy to remember.

"Our mission," the executive director continued, "is to glorify God as we assist churches to evangelize the lost, equip new believers, establish new churches, encourage the saints and extend the Gospel to the ends of the earth."

The strategy is field-driven, meaning ministry to the churches stems from their perceived needs rather than what the state convention thinks they need, Covington explained.

A major structural change is that rather than four associations clustered around concentrations of churches, which meant churches in remote locations received less ministry, the convention will transition into six regions, each with a regional facilitator available to the most remote locations.

"It's important we hear from people in local communities of their needs ... and we need somebody the people say, 'This person knows us and can represent us to the rest of the network," Covington said. "We're trying to be sure we're covering every portion of our state."

Rebranding, another key element in the Vision for a New Tomorrow, refers to how the state convention is known: by its name, website, social media and how ABC presents itself. "Convention" is a 20th-century term, Covington said, while "Resource Network" is a term millennials understand. No decision on a name has been made but Alaska Baptist Resource Network is a strong possibility, he said.

The vote for the Vision for a New Tomorrow passed on a majority vote.

Elections

Tracy Simmons, pastor of Christ Community Church in Anchorage, was unanimously elected as president. Scott Belmore, campus minister at the University of Alaska Anchorage, was elected as first vice president and Cliff Day, pastor of First Baptist Church in Anchorage, was elected second vice president. Anna Allen, a member of First Baptist Church in Anchorage, was unanimously elected recording secretary.

Budget

The 2019 budget for the Alaska convention was proposed by the Executive Board at its May meeting and will be finalized at its November meeting. The budget voted on at the September annual meeting often changes in November, no more so than last year, when a $1,452,457 budget was trimmed to $893,508.84 when the Executive Board decided to move money from NAMB out of "income" and into "designated funds" because it was allocated to specific uses.

This year, the budget as developed at the May board meeting totaled $1,049,287.78, including $496,606.73 in anticipated Cooperative Program giving by Alaska churches, of which $290,776.97, or 37 percent, was allocated for national SBC causes.

The Executive Board at this time anticipates working with the following figures during the November meeting: Income of $882,662.49, with $100,000 coming from NAMB and $60,000 from Lifeway, plus about $50,000 in income from trust funds, and $672,685.49 from churches, 20 percent of which -- or $134,540 -- will go to national SBC causes.

Partnerships

Jae McKee, the convention's new director of church planting and missions, reported to messengers that the convention has begun to partner "with other agencies and organizations to strengthen our preparation, cultural understanding and orientation for planters and missionaries going into rural Alaska villages."

One of the new partners is Arctic Barnabas Ministries, an encouragement ministry to about 120 faith missionary families in remote Alaska and far northwestern Canada. Jim Hamilton, former executive director of the Dakota Baptist Convention, leads this group.

Other partners include Send North, Galena Bible Church and Northern Missions Training, McKee reported. "These are organizations with which we have connected to help us in our efforts to penetrate darkness in rural Alaska."

The Alabama Baptist Convention has been a partner with the Alaska convention for about 20 years, primarily through both state conventions' foundations, but a vision team was onsite in Alaska this summer to determine additional avenues of ministry. New stateside partners this year are Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., and Immanuel Baptist Church in Highlands, Calif.

Other business

No resolutions were presented, nor any proposed constitution/bylaw changes.

The late Roy Moore of Nikiski, was recognized for his more than 50 years of service in Alaska. When he died in early September in his upper 80s, he was a member of the Executive Board.

Eighteen church planters are serving in Alaska, with Soldotna Roots Family Church on the Kenai Peninsula now a church. The Soldotna congregation led by Jim Boyd is part of the Roots Family Church network. A new Hispanic Baptist church in Juneau, sponsored by Glacier Valley Baptist Church in Juneau, awaits the arrival of its planter/pastor in October.

"This was my third Alaska Baptist Convention annual meeting," Covington said as executive director. "I was very encouraged with it. Great participation. Great fellowship. Great preaching. A strong sense of unity in the new vision and new direction that we're charting for the Alaska Baptist Convention."

Next year's 74th annual meeting of the Alaska Baptist Convention is slated for Sept. 24-25 at College Heights Baptist Church in Soldotna. In 2020, the convention will celebrate its 75th anniversary at First Baptist Church in Anchorage, site of the first annual meeting.

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