Alaska Baptist Convention Enters Third Year of Its Refocusing Effort

The Alaska Baptist Convention’s 2019 annual convened at College Heights Baptist Church in Soldotna, where Scott Coffman is pastor. Submitted photo

The Alaska Baptist Convention (ABC) entered the third year of its refocusing effort involving a “new vision, new face, new structure” at its 74th annual meeting Sept. 23-24 at College Heights Baptist Church in Soldotna. Messengers also learned that their churches’ membership and attendance each grew by around 4 percent.

A total of 115 congregations in a state more than twice the size of Texas affiliate with what will now be known as the Alaska Baptist Resource Network (ABRN.) This is ABC’s new “face.”

“We moved further with our rebranding, one of the major aspects of our three-year plan,” said Randy Covington, ABRN’s executive director/treasurer. “We have a new website — alaskabrn.com — which launched two months ago.”

Alaska’s new vision “is to be people who abide in Christ, build the Kingdom of heaven on earth, and cooperate in one sacred effort, or ABC for Abide, Build, Cooperate and for Alaska Baptist Convention,” Covington told the messengers at last year’s annual meeting.

At least 41 of Alaska’s 115 congregations — which stretch from Barrow in the Arctic to Unalaska off the Bering Sea — sent messengers to this year’s annual meeting.

Among the out-of-state guests were a couple serve in southern Europe with the International Mission Board; Rick Curtis, the North American Mission Board’s assistant to the president for convention and associational relations; and Ashley Clayton, vice president for the Cooperative Program and Stewardship with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee in Nashville, Tenn.

Representatives from Gateway Seminary, California Baptist University, and Wayland Baptist University Alaska campuses also were present.

“It was a good spirit with everybody who came,” Covington said. “College Heights did a fabulous job hosting us, preparing meals, assisting with the sound system, and being available to meet every need.”

The annual meeting’s “Rekindle” theme from 2 Timothy 1:6 — Fan into flame the gift of God — was to “encourage our churches to seek to be revitalized,” Covington said.

Tracy Simmons preached Monday evening from John 5:8 where Jesus told the paralyzed man to “take up your mat and walk.” Simmons is pastor of Christ Community Church in Anchorage and president of the Alaska Baptist Convention. He was reelected this year to a second one-year term.

“When you get up, it changes your whole perspective,” Simmons preached. “We need to be prepared for change, rather than to make excuses for the current situation. Change and move ahead!”

Michael Bunton, pastor of Greater Friendship Baptist Church in Anchorage, preached “Don’t let that flame flicker!” from the Rekindle theme verse.

New vision

Bunton’s was a message that reverberated with the history of the church and the ABC. In 1951, Greater Friendship was one of two African American congregations to join the SBC after an era of separatism, since most African American churches had left the denomination by the 1870s, according to a June 2003 article in Baptist Press. Today, more than 4,000 SBC churches worship in an African American context.

“Alaska is unique,” Covington said. “We’re still a pioneer area. There are so many places and people still untouched by the Gospel. We need to be stepping up our game and doing everything we can to make sure we’re touching every corner of our state.”

Whether or not churches have pastors, resources are available from ABRN to help churches evaluate where they are and help them establish a plan to move in a positive direction for growth and outreach, Covington said.

In addition to ABC’s 15 ongoing church plants are three new ones this year, two of which worship in a “Set Free” addiction recovery context. One of those, which started in early August in Wasilla, had 62 people participating in Saturday worship in mid-September, Covington said.

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Source: Baptist Press