By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
Columbia, MD—BCM/D messengers met for a called meeting on October 20 at South Columbia Church to hear a recommendation regarding the possible sale of a portion of the Baptist Mission Resource Center.
Byron Day, president of the BCM/D, welcomed messengers and thanked them for their attendance at the special meeting.
Ron Stanley, Jr., GMB Mission Board president introduced the official recommendation for BCM/D to enter into a contract with Straughan Environmental Services, for the sale of a designated portion of the BMRC for the price of $1,650,000.
BCM/D Executive Director David Lee explained that there were several purposes for calling a special meeting to make the decision as opposed to just waiting until the BCM/D annual meeting in November. First, he explained, the buyer and the real estate agents aren’t used to having to wait for the approval process that is necessary for the convention.
“They’ve been extremely patient with us,” Lee said.
Secondly, Lee said he wanted to make sure that there was ample time for discussion, and question and answer time.
“The journey began with a call, not a sign,” Lee said. The convention did not have plans to sell. There was no “for sale” sign. The idea was just one of many explored during a futuring session with the executive officers several years ago. At that time the officers contacted a real estate agency that sent representatives to discuss the possibilities. That’s as far as it went. Recently, those agents called once again to see if there was any change in thought about selling. Once again there was a discussion, but that was all. The officers did agree to be open for discussion if a potential buyer showed interest. A few weeks after that, the agents called asking and receiving permission to show the facility to a potential buyer who was indeed interested in pursuing a purchase.
At that point, the officers addressed the administrative committee and GMB seeking advisement and approval to continue investigating and pursuing the purchase possibilities. The GMB voted in agreement.
An offer was made, countered, and eventually a price settled upon. If messengers voted approval and the buyer’s financing is approved, settlement could be as early as December.
Lee said the convention is doing well financially, in spite of the recession. Bills are being paid and ministry is continuing. The sale, however, would put more money into ministry.
After legal and real estate fees, closing costs and renovation fees, the convention is hoping to net approximately $1.2 million for investment, providing about $100,000 each year from the interest and tapping lightly into the principal for ministry resources.
In addition to providing access to more financial resources, Lee explained the move would save on heating, cooling and maintenance costs and address the issues of modifying an over 20-year-old building without incurring debt.
The portion of the building being sold includes the north wall of the current conference room and beyond, including the mailroom, communication area and some missionary offices. It will not affect the classroom or auditorium. There would be a different entrance. Three or four field offices would be established as well as a new ministry assistant area. The bathrooms and kitchen areas would be remodeled and fresh paint and carpeting will give the building a new fresh feel.
Missionaries are in the field often times more than they are in their offices now, Lee said. After the sale, they will work in home offices. By having “virtual” offices, missionaries can better serve churches throughout the convention, Lee said. Churches will have access to a missionary close to them at all times.
“Our philosophy is that we are best fitted to serve if we are out where you are,” Lee said.
Ministry assistants and communications staff will still report to the office.
There are challenges, Lee acknowledged. There will not be the luxury of the extra space. Missionaries will need to adjust to their virtual environments. Ministry assistants will have to adapt to the change in office and structure.
The other issue, Lee said, is bringing the staff together. That will be done in various ways including video conferencing.
The committee discussed the possibility of leasing, but felt the tax concerns and necessary renovations and upkeep would not be the best stewardship choice.
James Edmonson, pastor of Elders Church, thanked Lee and GMB for doing their “homework.” Edmonson asked what are the responsibilities of the new owner regarding maintenance?
“What if the owner doesn’t have the capital to take care of maintenance?” Edmonson asked.
Lee said there is an escrow account set aside to cover some of the shared property maintenance.
Clarence Byerly, associate pastor of Faith Church, Glen Burnie, asked if the day’s vote would authorize the GMB to sell to another buyer. Lee said, no, it is for this particular sale.
Both parties have first right of refusal to purchase if the other party chooses to sell in the future.
“Is this a done deal?” Lee asked, “Not necessarily,” he said. In addition to having financial approval, the new buyer has a thirty-day study period after the sale to identify any issues that could possibly negate the sale.
Messengers unanimously approved the proposal.
“At the end of the day, the key question is, what’s the best stewardship of the resources we have been given by God?” Lee said.
GMB member Bill Cochran reminded messengers of the time Jesus sent out the 12 disciples.
“We’re sending out missionaries,” he said.
Cochran prayed, asking God’s blessing on “…this fine rich tradition and heritage that carries on our desire as a convention to reach out to a lost and dying world.”