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New England Baptists focus on evangelism
Kimber Huff, Baptist Convention of New England
November 11, 2019

New England Baptists focus on evangelism

New England Baptists focus on evangelism
Kimber Huff, Baptist Convention of New England
November 11, 2019

“There are different methods to reach people … but here’s the thing that brings us all together: the message,” Chris Goeppner, a New Hampshire pastor whose church baptized 92 last year, noted in the opening remarks of the Baptist Convention of New England’s (BCNE) 37th annual meeting.

The Nov. 1-2 sessions at Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, N.H., drew 169 messengers and 58 guests for fellowship, worship, prayer, business and celebrating what God is doing as the New Englanders focused on the theme of evangelism.

BCNE photo

BCNE Executive Director Terry Dorsett, right, prays for newly elected convention officers: president, Gonzalo Graupera, third from right, and vice president, Don Rondina, left.

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, preached the opening sermon, “Why Southern Baptists Must Evangelize.”

Evangelism must be the priority for Christians, Floyd reminded. It is the starting point for discipleship and is urgent because Jesus is coming again.

“People need Jesus, and people need Jesus now,” Floyd said. “We may be doing good things in our churches, but are we doing the best thing?

In the BCNE president’s address, Tim Owens, lead pastor of Mission City Church in Rutland and Bennington, Vt., expounded on Romans 1, underscoring to the audience that they are obligated to be reading and willing to share the gospel.

“Here’s how we know evangelism works: We’re proof of it!” Owens said, issuing a call to saturate New England with the gospel in the next 20 years.

Terry Dorsett, in his executive director’s report, encouraged New England Baptists to prepare themselves for evangelism by truly revering Christ as Lord as well as by praying, receiving training and displaying the hope of Christ.

“There’s a reason why some of us aren’t very effective in evangelism: because our lives are saying something much stronger than our words,” Dorsett said.

Resolutions

Messengers unanimously passed a “Resolution Regarding Sexual Abuse in Churches” in response to revelations and subsequent press coverage earlier this year of instances of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches.

The resolution, citing such scripture verses as Luke 17:1-2 and Ephesians 5:27, states that the BCNE “strongly condemns the sexual abuse of children and other vulnerable individuals.” The resolution encourages churches “not to tolerate or cover up sexual abuse” and to “comfort and assist” survivors of sexual abuse and their families. The BCNE pledges to encourage churches to offer training, implement safety practices and utilize the national sex offender website, among other best practices.

The resolution concludes with an affirmation of the BCNE’s “right to disfellowship churches that knowingly cover up, ignore, or fail to report in a timely way allegations of sexual abuse of minors or other vulnerable individuals.”

An additional resolution was passed to thank Island Baptist Church of Hampstead, N.H., for hosting the meeting.

Awards, budget, other business

The convention’s Robert Brindle Church Planting Award for 2019 was awarded to Grace Harbor Church in Providence, R.I., pastored by Kevin McKay. In the past five years this congregation has started three churches in New England while also sending out pastors to serve in churches from Boston to Newport, sponsoring other church plants and being on mission to assist plants across the country and around the world.

BCNE photo

The BCNE staff now includes regional coordinators serving in place of directors of missions in associations that have merged organizationally with the convention: from left, Russell Rathier, Vermont; Sam Taylor, greater Boston; and Randall Curtis, Rhode Island. Currently three of seven associations have merged, with the New Hampshire association planning to merge in 2020.

The Ray Allen Evangelism Award for 2019 was presented to Holy Bible Baptist Church in Somerville, Mass., pastored by Dieudonne Raymond, and Enough Ministries in Barre, Vt., pastored by Craig Ray and Dan Molind.

Holy Bible Baptist has been sharing the gospel with the Haitian community of greater Boston for more than 30 years. They have planted numerous churches, including two within the last two years, and have created a program that develops church leaders in New England, Haiti, Canada and France.

Enough Ministries celebrated 24 baptisms last year. In total, the church has led to faith and baptized nearly 1 percent of the population of their small town, and they are in the process of planting another church in a nearby town.

Messengers adopted proposed changes to the BCNE bylaws to update a committee name for the purposes of clarity and to better reflect the committee’s work.

Messengers approved a 2020 budget of $3,830,000, a decrease of 1.5 percent compared to the 2019 budget. Projected Cooperative Program (CP) giving remains unchanged at $1,318,600.

The budget includes $250,569 allotted to Cooperative Program missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention, representing 19 percent of New England CP giving, an increase of 1 percentage point from last year. The dollar amount also represents an increase of more than 5 percent over the dollar amount given to SBC missions last year.

In addition, for the third year in a row, nearly 100 percent of funds given to the Cooperative Program will be used for missions and ministry to the 352 BCNE churches, their 28,534 members, and beyond. This is possible because overhead and administrative costs are funded through rental income and other sources.

In a unanimous vote, BCNE officers were elected for the coming year: president, Gonzalo Graupera, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Boston (The Pilgrim’s Church) in Saugus, Mass., and vice president, Dong Rondina, assistant pastor of Word of God Christian Fellowship, a Filipino-American church plant in Framingham, Mass.

For the third year, several training sessions were offered in conjunction with the annual meeting: “Why Evangelism is Critical in Church Planting” led by David Jackson, BCNE church planting director and strategist; “Why Evangelism Must Be Part of WMU/Missions Training,” Doris Opoku, WMU president in New England, and Mick Stockwell, IMB missionary; “Connecting with Your Community through Social Media,” Kimber Huff, BCNE communications coordinator; “Evangelizing Our Jewish Neighbors,” Mitch Forman, vice president of U.S. outreach for Chosen People Ministries and member of First Baptist Church in, Haverhill, Mass.; “Evangelizing Our Muslim Neighbors,” Fady Ghobrial, Christian Union Ministry Fellow at Harvard and member of Arabic Baptist Church in Newton, Mass.; and “Preventing Sexual Abuse in My Church,” Sandra Coelho, BCNE lay leadership development coordinator.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 6-7 at The Church on Seven Hills in Worcester, Mass. Gary Moritz, lead pastor at City United Church in Lunenburg, Mass., and BCNE church revitalization director, will deliver the annual sermon

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(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kimber Huff is the communications coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England.)