April 24, 2014
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Glorieta available for $1 to N.M. Baptists
Posted on Apr 26, 2012 | by John Loudat & Art Toalston

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP) -- The LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center is being offered for $1 to the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, according to both LifeWay and state convention leaders.

Jerry Rhyne, LifeWay's chief financial officer, confirmed to Baptist Press April 26 that LifeWay has communicated to the New Mexico convention that it is "open to conveying the entire Glorieta campus to the state convention for one dollar. However, LifeWay has a responsibility to our trustees and all Southern Baptists that such action would be based on presentation of a financially stable, comprehensive plan."

Last fall, LifeWay trustees agreed to pursue viable options for the conference center near Santa Fe due to changes in church practices, rising costs and a volatile economy. The center now offers only summer events for student groups, including Centrifuge camps and Collegiate Week.

The $1 offer was first noted during an April 12 gathering at the Baptist Convention of New Mexico's building in Albuquerque to explore suggestions for Glorieta's future.

The group of about 30 people from New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma met at the invitation of an ad hoc BCNM committee created in January and tasked with exploring "the future and possibilities of Glorieta."

The committee's creation was a response to a resolution adopted last fall during the BCNM's annual meeting in Farmington, in which messengers resolved to "strongly urge the Southern Baptist Convention and LifeWay Christian Resources to insure that Glorieta continues its vital ministry to the people known as Southern Baptists now and well into the future or until Jesus returns."

The resolution followed the decision one month earlier by LifeWay trustees to only offer summer events for students and to pursue "viable options for the disposition of the property ."

Executive board chairman Lamar Morin, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bloomfield, named himself to the study committee along with BCNM Executive Director Joseph Bunce, BCNM President R. Maurice Hollingsworth, BCNM business administrator Gerald Farley, BCNM attorney Steve Long and Bloomfield businessman George Riley. All but Farley were present April 12.

In March, Bunce issued "an invitation to anyone who would like to address the committee on April 12 ."

"In order to do due diligence to the task that we have been assigned as a study committee concerning Glorieta's future, we truly want to hear every possible suggestion that would lead to a solution for the future of Glorieta," Bunce said, encouraging those with suggestions to bring "a written business plan."

Bunce called the meeting to order at 6 p.m., encouraging everyone not to dwell on the past but to share ideas concerning the future.

Hollingsworth presided over the discussion, telling the group that the committee was in a "fact-finding mode."

A former BCNM president, Rick Sullivan, pastor of First Baptist Church in Artesia, was the first to speak, asking "what exactly the situation [was]."

Bunce replied that he had been told that LifeWay would sell BCNM the property for $1, and Hollingsworth added that LifeWay would require the convention to present a detailed and viable business plan.

Hal Hill, the conference center's director who was present at the meeting but did not speak, told the Baptist New Mexican later that any plan must be one that would allow for ministry to continue at Glorieta.

Five of the seven individuals who presented proposals that evening own residences on land they are leasing from Glorieta: Myra and Clif Green and their son-in-law Thomas Herndon; John Lee, associate pastor/worship and music at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas; and Glen Strock, pastor of Pecos Valley Cowboy Church in Pecos.

Also presenting plans were former New Mexican Bill Lawson of Collinsville, Texas, and Randy Egan of Santa Fe, who was Glorieta's sales manager from 2006-09.

Lawson is the son of a former BCNM evangelism director and New Mexico pastor, the late Eual F. Lawson, whose family witnessed Glorieta's beginnings firsthand, and the brother of former BCNM evangelism director L.E. "Chief" Lawson, who now lives in Allen, Texas.

"Glorieta must not die!" Lawson declared, urging the BCNM to work with neighboring state conventions to keep that from happening.

Specific suggestions offered during the three-hour listening session included:

-- dividing the property into two "manageable" units, separating the campus from the residences.

-- finding new ways of encouraging people to come to Glorieta.

-- subleasing the property to a variety of Christian ministries.

-- employing a full-time sales staff to "aggressively" encourage people to attend Glorieta events.

-- taking advantage of Glorieta's excellent access to water.

Sullivan and another past BCNM president, Jay McCollum, closed the meeting with brief but passionate pleas after the plans were presented.

Admitting he has been "grief-stricken" since LifeWay's decision last September, Sullivan urged the committee first to act on New Mexico Baptists' belief that Glorieta has a viable future in reaching the next generation and then to conduct an economic audit and employ a team of "economic architects" to develop a plan they could propose to the committee.

McCollum, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gallup, affirmed Sullivan's proposal, urging the committee to act on the conviction that God has a plan and to make a commitment to carry it out, making Glorieta a viable ministry once more.

"We need to rethink throwing in the towel," said McCollum, whose pastoral predecessor in the pulpit at Gallup was the late Harry P. Stagg, who led New Mexico Baptists from 1938-68, during which time he led the BCNM to purchase the original property at Glorieta and give it to LifeWay's predecessor, the Sunday School Board. He also was largely responsible for persuading the Southern Baptist Convention to locate its western conference center at the site in New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
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John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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