New England Baptists embrace ethnic diversity
HUDSON, Mass. (BP) -- "We've all got to set aside our differences for the sake of the Gospel."
The words spoken by Terry Dorsett, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England, at the BCNE annual meeting reflected New England Baptists' diversity: Forty percent of the convention's 376 churches worship in a language other than English.
David Um, senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., preached the annual sermon, using the text of Galatians 3:26-28 to speak about finding unity in Christ despite our diversity. Sharing personal stories of experiencing discrimination as a Korean-American, Um urged listeners to find their identity in Christ, which will lead to humility and harmony in the church.
"Let's show the world that when we live out the Word of God in our life, true healing, true ethnic diversity can happen," Um said. "And through that [let's] declare the glory of God, the power of Jesus Christ and the wonder of His blood."
Messengers passed resolutions expressing appreciation for the host church and retiring associational director Rafael Hernandez as well as two resolutions calling for prayer in light of turbulent political and social conditions.
One of the resolutions, titled "Resolution on Prayer for Elected Officials," encouraged New England Baptists to "pray earnestly for our current elected officials, as well as those who will be elected in the [Nov. 8] election" in light of America's "evidence of moral decline" and "political leaders [who] have demonstrated a deficiency of biblical values."
In addition, a "Resolution on Praying for Young People and Law Enforcement Officials" -- citing "increased violence due to many different reasons," such as young people and law enforcement officials who "have been injured or lost their lives in this violence" and "complex" and emotional causes and solutions -- called on New England Baptists to pray for the following things:
-- Safety of both young people and law enforcement officials.
-- Peace in our society that only the Gospel can bring.
-- Wisdom and safety of community leaders, politicians, faith leaders and law enforcement officials in dealing with each situation.
-- Families of both young people and law enforcement officials who have been injured or lost their lives in these violent acts.
Messengers approved a 2017 budget of $2,840,950. This budget increase of more than 18 percent is due to increased designated giving from various sources. In 2017, the BCNE anticipates income of $840,000 through Cooperative Program giving from the convention's churches. This year the BCNE has pledged that all New England CP giving will be used for ministry and missions, rather than administration expenses. A total of $134,400, which represents 16 percent of New England CP giving, has been allotted for SBC Cooperative Program ministries outside of New England, an increase from 15 percent last year.
The convention also celebrated God's provision, as churches and individuals gave nearly $121,000 toward the convention's Embracing the Future campaign, leaving just over $100,000 left to raise. Embracing the Future is a special initiative to provide a one-time influx of funds to five ministries critical to the future of Southern Baptist ministry in New England and help the convention eliminate a lingering debt.
Gary Rowe, chairman of deacons at Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, N.H., was unanimously re-elected as the convention's president while Joe Souza, pastor of Celebration Church in Charlestown, Mass., was unanimously chosen as vice president. Sandra Coehlo, leadership development director at the BCNE and volunteer staff member at Church of the Vine in Carver, Mass., will continue to serve as clerk.
Next year's annual meeting will be Nov. 3-4 at Grace Church in Avon, Mass. Fady Ghobrial, assistant pastor at the Arabic Baptist Church Boston of Newton, Mass., will preach the annual sermon on the meeting's theme, "Embracing the Future Through Reaching the Next Generation," with Grace Church providing the music.