By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, Md. — The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) General Mission Board (GMB) approved the 2021 budget, welcomed encouraging news, prayed together, and enjoyed some virtual fellowship at the Dec. 1 GMB meeting. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting took place via Zoom.
After GMB Vice President Randall Blackmon led a verse of “Joy to the World,” GMB President Frank Duncan welcomed members and shared Psalm 119:89-91, “Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.” (NLT)
Duncan said these verses have been an encouragement to him. “2020 has been a year when the doctrine of sovereignty has been a rock to keep your feet planted on. I need to be reminded that God is sovereign over all things, regardless of the circumstances we see,” he said.
Duncan prayed, “… Your eternal Word stays firm … no circumstances can stop You from working and achieving Your purposes. Even when things are on pause in the ministries we want to do for Your kingdom’s sake, we know Your kingdom marches on. Your purposes cannot be stopped …”
BCM/D Associate Executive Director Tom Stolle, reporting to GMB members, said, “2020 has been challenging for us and I’m sure it has been for many of your churches as well, but with that said, God provides and sustains, and I believe He’s doing just that with our convention.”
Stolle said Cooperative Program (CP) receipts totaled $2,715,521.80 for the ten months ended October 31, 2020, down only 7.3 percent year-to-date from October 2019. “The fact that we’re only down 7.3 percent at this time, I think, is remarkable, and we continue to thank God for His blessings,” he added.
When compared to budget, the year-to-date CP receipts are down 10.7 percent.
Regarding disbursements, Stolle reported that no major ministry/expense area is over budget. “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we interact with our churches. We are engaging more virtually for a variety of reasons,” he elaborated.
Regarding State Missions Offering (SMO), for the ten months ended October 31, 2020, $63,505.92 has been expended, with most dollars used primarily to assist our mission partnership with strategic areas in Western Kenya.
Stolle concluded, “I’m looking forward to what God does the rest of the year and in 2021.”
Stolle, reporting for the Baptist Foundation, shared that twelve churches have outstanding loans from the church loan fund. Income for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2020, totaling $92,651.62 will be distributed to the Baptist Convention of MD/DE to start and strengthen churches.
The BCM/D annual meeting usually includes a presentation of the distribution check, but since the meeting was canceled, Stolle said there will be a virtual presentation.
Six churches have outstanding loans from the Arthur Nanney church loan fund, used for small, emergency loans to churches.
As of Sept. 30, 2020, the market value of the investment portfolio was $9,881,667.82. The most recent calendar quarter portfolio performance reflected a return of 5.7 percent. The one-year performance reflected a return of 9.4 percent and the three-year return totaled 7.7 percent.
Stolle said training regarding stewardship and wills is available for churches through the foundation. “We have a passion for believers leaving a financial legacy,” he shared.
Executive Director’s report
BCM/D Executive Director Kevin Smith commended Maryland/Delaware church leaders who “have been tremendously creative and intentional” in how they have responded to the COVID-19 crisis.
“I know a lot is happening nationally, but as far as the BCM/D, I pray you would feel encouraged,” Smith said. “We are just at the beginning of gathering our Annual Church Profile data, but I’m pretty comfortable that at some point next spring we will celebrate that God has continued, in Acts chapter 2 language, to add to the church daily those who are being saved.
“When people say, ‘what are some of the metrics you use in your work,’ I think the most important metric is that ‘our churches collectively baptize more people this year than last year,’ or that ‘churches are continuing to baptize new believers and then make disciples.’ That is happening and we are tremendously excited about that.”
Smith emphasized the value of the Cooperative Program (CP). “We have a heritage that dates back to 1836,” Smith told the board, “and most of what we do is through Cooperative Program giving.” Smith shared that there is no recommendation in the budget to increase the “pass-through” CP funds. They will remain the same in 2021, with 48 percent of CP dollars allocated to Southern Baptist Convention national and international missions and ministries.
GMB members unanimously approved a $7,206,498 budget, which includes $5,106,998 for convention operations, $1,949,500 for Skycroft Conference Center, and $150,000 for State Missions Offering. Tom Stolle presented the budget.
Regarding SMO, Stolle said $150,000 is budgeted to support special needs, disaster relief, and the ongoing BCM/D missions partnership with Kenya.
Referring to Skycroft, Stolle commended Director Emily Reedy. “She is doing a remarkable job on the mountain in the midst of the impact of a pandemic which has hit that operation very hard.” Addressing Reedy, Stolle said, “On behalf of the entire staff and board, thank you for what you are doing.”
Stolle said he is excited about the possibility of having summer camps next year. “The majority of Maryland/Delaware churches who made commitments to attend camp in 2020 have reaffirmed those commitments to attend in 2021,” Stolle said.
“One of the reasons I’m such a fan of Skycroft is that, in my opinion, there is no ministry throughout our convention that has resulted in more commitments to Jesus,” he added.
Skycroft study committee
The Skycroft study committee chaired by GMB Member Tim Simpson continues to work with the BCM/D leadership to evaluate and recommend improvements to the facility. Currently, the team is working with management on several upgrades, the most significant of which is the septic system infrastructure.
Remarks from convention president
BCM/D President Harold Phillips, referring to Gabriel’s message to Zechariah in Luke 1, said, “Can you imagine being a messenger angel on behalf of God? Think of the angel, Gabriel, and the statement, ‘I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.’ (KJV)
“Think of the joy of being that angelic messenger, the joy of being John who already had a calling before he was born,” Phillips said. “Think about the calling we have on our lives as New Testament believers, representing Jesus Christ, as His spokesman in our lives.
“God has singled us out and has given us the ability to give the glad tidings of the Messiah,” Phillips said. “Just process that for a moment. No matter who raised you, your background, your limitations … everything about who you are — God personally enlisted us to be His spokespeople. What an awesome opportunity. Think about that as you and endeavor to represent Jesus Christ in the places we serve.”
Phillips prayed, “Father we thank You for the privilege of being called … Lord, today we are honored to be representations of Your will, your Word, your work, and presenting the glad tidings of the Messiah that has come to earth. Today we just want to give You glory that you cared enough to call us to represent You. Lord, we say this from the depths of our hearts. Thank You, Lord for giving us such a calling. Let us do it well.”