N.E. Baptists see baptism increase

CHELMSFORD, Mass. (BP) -- New England Baptists celebrated a 17 percent increase in baptisms since 2012 and honored retiring executive director Jim Wideman during the Baptist Convention of New England's annual meeting Nov. 14-15 in Chelmsford, Mass.

Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, was the keynote speaker for 176 messengers and 49 guests. John-Paul Lotz, pastor of Church of the Redeemer in Osterville, Mass., preached the annual sermon.

Page presented Wideman, who will retire this month after 13 years as the BCNE's executive director, with a framed resolution of appreciation from the Executive Committee. Wideman has led the six-state convention with "a passion for building missional churches," according to the resolution, focusing on the "changing regional demographics by nurturing numerous ethnic congregations" and by nurturing "a growing number of native New Englanders who have chosen to establish themselves in their home region to serve as pastors, church planters and lay leaders."

During Wideman's tenure, the number of BCNE cooperating churches has increased from 230 to 375, baptizing more than 17,000 people, an average of 1,300 per year, the resolution states. In Cooperative Program giving, the BCNE has increased the percentage of church gifts forwarded to SBC Cooperative Program missions and ministries from 21 percent in 2001 to 25 percent in 2014.

A BCNE resolution, meanwhile, praised Wideman for "providing leadership, insight, perspective and guidance throughout his 13 years of service."

Wideman also received a resolution of appreciation from the Green Mountain Baptist Association in Vermont, where he served as director of missions before becoming BCNE executive director. A reception honored Wideman and his family, and he was presented with a voucher for a vacation in honor of his service.

Church planting was a major theme of the meeting. Pastor Jan Vezikov received the Robert H. Brindle award for church planting. Since arriving in Boston five years ago, Vezikov has started three churches, one of which worships in Russian.

A church planting dinner highlighted the work of Steve Nerger, church planting team leader for the BCNE who is moving to Florida. In Nerger's seven years of service, the number of churches in the convention has increased by more than 50 percent, with most of the increase coming through church planting. Some 161 churches have been planted during that period with a 91 percent retention rate. Nerger was honored in a resolution "rejoicing over the growth of church planting in New England."

Messengers learned that the BCNE celebrated in 2013 its highest baptism total ever: 1,570.

A 2015 budget of $2,541,991 was adopted by messengers, a 2.1 percent increase from the 2014 adopted budget and a 2.7 percent increase from the 2014 revised budget.

Included in the 2015 budget: $792,595 in anticipated CP giving from New England churches; $1,562,215 from the North American Mission Board; and $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources.

The budget includes a 6 percent increase in anticipated CP giving from churches in an effort to counterbalance a decrease in NAMB's allocation of funds to the BCNE.

The convention will continue to forward 25 percent of CP receipts to the SBC's national and international missions and ministries after shared ministry expenses of 8 percent are set aside.

BCNE officers were re-elected for another term: Neal Davidson, pastor of Hope Chapel in Sterling, Mass., president; Gary Rowe, a layman and member of Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, N.H., vice president; and Sandy Coelho, BCNE lay leadership director, clerk. All officers were elected by affirmation.

Mark Smith, pastor of North Park Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Conn., was chosen to preach the annual sermon for the 2015 annual meeting Nov. 6-7 in Westborough, Mass. Marty Bascom, pastor of East Randolph Baptist Church in East Randolph, Vt., was elected as the alternate preacher.

The Baptist Convention of New England encompasses more than 375 churches and church plants in the six states of New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Compiled from a report by the Baptist Convention of New England staff.
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Download Story