Minn.-Wis. Baptists cut 2 staff positions

Baptist Press
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Posted: Dec 03, 2009 5:00 PM
WAUWATOSA, Wis. (BP)--Messengers to the annual meeting of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention approved the elimination of two of 10 staff positions in the midst of continuing financial challenges.

Meeting Oct. 30-31 at Northwest Baptist Church in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, messengers approved a $2,051,436 budget for 2010, a decrease of 6.37 percent from the 2009 budget. The budget holds at 13 percent the amount of Cooperative Program receipts passed on to national and international causes from anticipated giving of $510,406.

A total of 225 people attended the annual meeting, including 84 messengers from 42 of the convention's 150 congregations. Churches most recently reported a total membership of 19,317 and resident membership of 14,837.

The two state staff positions eliminated for 2010, both funded jointly by MWBC and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, are:

-- State missions director, currently held by Glen Land, a Missouri native who was pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Appleton, Wis., for nine years before joining the state convention staff in June 2000.

-- Sports evangelism missionary, a position created for Ross and Stephanie Smith, who founded Northern Lights youth hockey team in 2002 as a way to reach the hockey community of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In his president's message, Les Stevens, pastor of Viola Baptist Church in Viola, Minn., told messengers, "It's not the size of the fight in the dog, it's the size of the God in your heart." Although Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists may seem "too little, too poor, too weak," they can do whatever God wants if they depend on His power, he said.

Leo Endel, executive director of the two-state convention, challenged messengers to resist the temptation to live in the past or worry about the future but to carry out God's work "right here, right now."

Other speakers echoed the convention's theme, "Right Here, Right Now," calling on Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists to step up and carry on the work that was started more than 50 years ago. David Lowrie, president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, called on churches to continue doing good and trust that God will take care of their needs.

George Jolly, pastor of Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Milwaukee, led Bible study at each session and encouraged messengers to follow Christ with complete consecration, prompt obedience and firm determination.

Endel attributed the need for budget and staff reductions to flat Cooperative Program giving from churches and the decline of missions support from the BGCT.

A partner with the Minnesota-Wisconsin convention since its start, the BGCT began a four-year phase-out of support in 2006, from $200,000 that year to a final gift of $25,000 promised in 2010. The effect of the cutback is multiplied because MWBC has used the Texas money as their portion of NAMB's matching formula.

Since learning of the BGCT's plan to phase out support, Endel has sought to renegotiate the NAMB support ratio. NAMB responded by providing a one-year adjustment for 2010, funding MWBC staff and associational missionaries at a higher rate to allow for a transition time.

The Minnesota-Wisconsin convention notified NAMB earlier in 2009 that it could no longer pay its portion of salaries for three missions positions -- the two that ultimately were eliminated and the chaplain for the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, a position held by Rich Williamson. NAMB responded by paying the full salaries for all three positions for the remainder of 2009, in order to allow time for transition. When the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Foundation committed to provide MWBC's portion of the chaplain from the estate left by a patient helped through the chaplaincy ministry, NAMB said it would maintain its share of funding for the position as well.

In addition to eliminating the two positions, the new budget holds all staff salaries at 2009 levels and reduces the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist, the convention's state newspaper, from monthly to quarterly publication, a cost-cutting measure already implemented last summer.

Associations also are being challenged to help support their directors of missions, historically funded by the state convention and NAMB. A contribution of $2,000 from each association was required in 2009, and that will be doubled to $4,000 in the 2010 budget. The money is channeled through MWBC, where it is matched by NAMB funds.

In other convention business, Jeff Nettles, pastor of Rolling Hills Church in Platteville, Wis., was elected president; Make Fahey, pastor of Roseville Baptist Church in Roseville, Minn., who also had been nominated for president, was elected first vice president; and Kevin Binkley, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, Minn., was elected second vice president.

The convention recognized departing staff members Ross and Stephanie Smith and Glen and Joyce Land for their years of service to the convention. Also recognized were Bill and Sarah Williamson, native Texans who have given the last 50 years in service to Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists, and Wayne Bandy, retiring director of missions for the Twin Cities Metro Baptist Association, and his wife Lynda.

In addition to expressing appreciation to the host church and thanking Endel for his leadership, messengers approved two other resolutions. One encouraged MWBC churches "to keep financial support of their individual associations as a solid priority." Another resolution expressed disapproval of a rumored merger of the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board.

Next year's annual meeting will be Oct. 29-30 at Southtown Baptist Church in Bloomington, Minn.

Adapted from reports by David Williams, editor of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist, newsjournal of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.

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