Posted on : Wednesday December 2, 2015

COLUMBIA, Md.—Four pastors within the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network are retiring but will continue to minister.

Gayle and Beth Clifton

Gayle and Beth Clifton

Gayle Clifton will retire as pastor of Upper Seneca Baptist Church, effective Dec. 31. He and his wife, Beth, have served at the church since 2007 and prior to that, Gayle pastored Olney Baptist Church for nearly 28 years.

Gayle gave almost a year’s notice, officially sharing with the church in February that he would be transitioning towards retirement. “I wanted us to be able to plan for a smooth transition, rather than have an interim period or just drift along,” he said.

When the search committee felt led to a candidate by late September, Gayle was pleasantly surprised that it was someone he knew—Dennis Felder, the founder of Dunkirk Baptist Church. Felder and Gayle are sharing responsibilities through the month before Gayle steps down from the pastoral role.

Gayle and Beth plan to stay in the area. Gayle said they’d probably step back a bit for the winter. In the spring, he will prepare for his annual mission trip to Moldova, where he and a few others from Network churches share the Gospel along with medical clinics. Gayle has been participating in the Moldova trips since the Network had a partnership with Moldovan churches that began in 1995. That partnership ended and the Delaware Baptist Association continued the partnership in 2000, ministering in the northern area of the country. Gayle has also ministered in Latvia since 1993 and has developed relationships with families through the years. He’s watched children grow to be adults and have their own families and serve as leaders in churches.

Gayle faithfully served as recording secretary of the Network from 2000 to 2012 and as assistant recording secretary from 1997-1999. Over the years he has also served on the Network’s General Mission Board and with the Baptist Foundation of Maryland/Delaware. He has also served as moderator in the Montgomery Baptist Association and most recently, coordinated the annual MBA annual revival meetings.

Now that he’ll have more time, he plans to brush up on his Hebrew and perhaps begin teaching the language. He also plans to spend a month in Latvia visiting his old friends.

For their wedding anniversary in June, Gayle and Beth plan to travel by rail through the Canadian Rockies then motor coach through other areas of interest.

Mitch and Rosetta Dowell

Mitch and Rosetta Dowell

Mitch Dowell retired as the director of missions for the Delaware Baptist Association and as transitional pastor of Greensboro Baptist Church, effective Nov. 27. He and his wife, Rosetta, have moved to Las Vegas, Nevada.

A military veteran, serving as an Army Sergeant Major, developing strategy for combat operations, Mitch has served in many ministry capacities including pastoring churches in Illinois and in West Germany. He served with the Illinois Baptist Convention as an evangelism consultant, and later brought his urban ministry experience to the team serving with the first North American Mission Board Strategic Focus City in Chicago and later, served as an urban strategist. He then became a missions evangelism consultant for the Network, then associate director of missions of the Baltimore Baptist Association, associate executive director of Embrace Baltimore, and executive director of the Network’s initiative, Embrace Wilmington. Through the years he has also served on mission internationally in Kenya, Central America, Romania, South Africa, Bulgaria and Zambia.

Looking back on his time in Maryland and Delaware, Dowell said he learned that ministry outreach couldn’t be the same in different areas. “Ministry in Delaware is nothing like ministry in Maryland.

“I learned a lot about urban ministry by doing urban ministry,” he said. Mitch is especially grateful for having the opportunity to have worked with Dr. E.V. Hill and Bishop Willie Jordan, both who were influential in the world of urban ministry.

Out of all he’s done, Mitch said pastoral ministry, pastoring churches, has been the best. While working in various leadership capacities with the Network, and association, it was the aspect of partnering with churches and pastors that always gave him the most joy.

“Unapologetically, the highlight of my ministry career has been pastoring at Greensboro Baptist Church,” he said.

Mitch and Rosetta will be close to their daughter, Tia, her husband Rick, and their children, Ashton and Landon. The Dowells have other children, Brian and Denise, who reside in other states. Mitch said the family is trying to relocate so they can all be together in Las Vegas.

Though he’s officially ‘retired,” he has no intentions of stopping his ministry outreach.

“I will find some place to serve in a limited capacity,” Dowell said. “I would love to be a mentor to young pastors. That’s something I didn’t have and that would have helped me to have had someone to come alongside to pray, encourage, and mentor me. I want to become that kind of guy for a young pastor.”

Ken Stalls retired on Nov. 22 as pastor of South End Baptist Church after serving for 24 years. He and his wife, Joan, moved to Richmond, Va., on Nov. 30.

Stan Beall, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Laurel, Md., announced he will retire in April 2016. He has served at this very diverse church for the past 16 years.

Ken Stalls retired on Nov. 22 as pastor of South End Baptist Church after serving for 24 years. He and his wife, Joan, moved to Richmond, Va., on Nov. 30.

Ken Stalls, South End Baptist Church

Ken Stalls, South End Baptist Church

Ken was called to ministry in 1975. He was working for US Steel and was very active in his home church Pine Valley Baptist Church, Wilmington, North Carolina He had been volunteering in the “Yokefellows,” helping the pastor and deacons in ministry and serving with prison ministry, nursing homes, campgrounds, conducting services and leading singing.

He attended Gardner-Webb University and then Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He pastored Union Chapel Baptist Church, Zebulon, NC; Warwick Baptist Church, Newport News, VA, and was director of missions In Little River Association in North Carolina. From there, he came to South End Baptist Church.

In addition to pastoral ministry, Ken served with the Network as president and led the convention through the transition when Dr. David Lee, former executive director, tendered his resignation.

“I really enjoyed my two years as president. I always felt it was an honor and privilege. It was a tremendously humbling experience but one filled with great blessings,” Ken said.

Looking back on his pastoral ministry career, Ken said the highlights are baptizing between 4-500 people. “The first baptism was my son, Jonathan. He was six-years-old,” Ken said, adding that it was a very special moment that he will always treasure.

All the churches were different. South End was one of the most amazing experiences a pastor could have. It has been a wonderful ministry for all 24 years. I don’t have one regret.

“One of things made it special was five months into the ministry, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. I’ve never seen a church minister to a pastor the way they did. They took up all the slack. The ministry didn’t miss a beat,” he said.

Another blessing, he said, has been ministering with and to all of the people he’s met through the years—those he baptized, and those he visited at their birth, and later stood at their grave at their death. “It has been a lifelong blessing. I couldn’t ask for anything more fulfilling than that which He gave me.”

Ken said his wife, Joan, has been a tremendous helpmate. Not just anyone can be a pastor’s wife, he said. You can be the wife of someone who’s a pastor, “but she has been a pastor’s wife.

Joan worked with young children, especially teaching the 4 year-olds for many years, as well as with women’s ministries, but her primary job was supporting her husband.

The couple has moved to Glen Allen, VA, less than 4 miles from the International Mission Board (IMB) training center. Their granddaughters are about 2 minutes away.

Ken said he would be available for pulpit supply and will continue to serve the Lord as He leads. “Right now, I’m spending time with my granddaughters. In fact, he was excited about seeing his granddaughter Lauren dressed for a “Cotillion,” while watching his youngest, Audrey, perform in a presentation at a local drama class.

“I would like to say thank you to each and every person who contributed to my life and ministry. The list is far too large to name them one-by-one,” he said.

“I thank Jesus for a wonderful life.”

(Interview with Pastor Stan are forthcoming).