By Randy Covington, ABRN executive director, treasurer
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (ABRN)–First Baptist Church, Anchorage, led by Pastor Gary Moats hosted the 75th anniversary gathering of the Alaska Baptist Resource Network with messengers from 50 churches coming together to celebrate statewide cooperative efforts in evangelism and church planting.
Organized in March 1946, the Alaska Baptist Convention, now known as the Alaska Baptist Resource Network, began with three churches in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, and today has 116 affiliated churches, missions or preaching points in its network.
“With Endurance” was the theme based on Hebrews 12:1.
Special recognition was extended to Earl and Shannon Midkiff who came to Alaska in 1966. Having started their ministry in Soldotna, they moved to southeast Alaska where they served for over half a century as pastor, director of missions, interim pastor of several churches and now as pastor emeritus in Petersburg.
History was made with the first gathering of Southern Baptists in America that offered electronic participation of messengers — 19 registered messengers from remote places in Alaska joined a zoom gallery in which they had opportunity to comment, make motions, join discussions, vote and elect new officers. This required a bylaw change to governing documents at the beginning of the convention.
A “Resolution on racial reconciliation on the 75th anniversary of the Alaska Baptist Resource Network,” co-authored by Mark Goodman, pastor, Rabbit Creek Church, and Michael Bunton, pastor, Greater Friendship Baptist Church (both congregations in Anchorage), was presented to messengers.
Greater Friendship Church is listed with the National Register of Historic places as the first church founded by blacks on Alaskan soil (1951). It also is the first modern African American congregation to join the Southern Baptist Convention.
The resolution affirmed that according to Scripture, there is no place in God’s Kingdom or domain for racial prejudice or any type of bias based on race, color or ethnicity. The resolution strongly decried, denounced and repudiated any form of racism and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil and resolved that Alaska Baptists will stand together to uphold and promote the unity that is in the gospel whenever racism and racial injustice occur.
Other highlights of the two days of business meetings, Sept. 29-30:
- greetings by Willie McLaurin, vice president for great commission relations and mobilization for the Executive Committee of the SBC;
- greetings by Daniel Wilson, director of evangelism for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions;
- report from Jeff Iorg, president, Gateway Seminary, Ontario, Canada, on increased enrollment;
- Alaska missionaries now serving with the International Mission Board shared amazing stories of the work of God across the European continent;
- Tracy Simmons, ABRN president and pastor, Christ Community Church, Anchorage, delivered the president’s message, focusing on running with endurance from Hebrews 12:1-3; and,
- Wilbert Mickens, pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Anchorage, brought the annual sermon, based on Philippians 2:5-11, titled, “His Name is Endurance.”
Many of the reports included the phrase, “Then COVID . . . but God!”
Mike Procter, messenger, Transitional Ministries, Anchorage, and former ABC executive director, made a motion regarding the breakdown in the cooperative and collaborative relationship with the North American Mission Board. The motion was to retain the portion of Cooperative Program funds intended for NAMB and designate those funds to the Valeria Sherard State Missions Offering from the 2022 ABRN budget should there not be significant improvement from NAMB in the cooperative efforts in church planting and evangelism strategies. While there was lengthy discussion, the motion was overwhelmingly approved by the body of messengers.
Randy Covington, ABRN executive director/treasurer, challenged the convention to begin the next era of ministry in Alaska with 75 days of concentrated prayer and meditation “in preparation for the work to which God has called us.” A 75-day prayer guide was given to each participant at the convention as a gift. The prayer guide was a compilation of devotional messages submitted by over 40 pastors serving churches in Alaska and published by the ABRN.
The overall mood of the convention was uplifting and celebratory, according to Covington, and “demonstrated a unity of purpose and fellowship as Alaska Baptists met in person and on-line to praise God for his past blessing and continue with endurance the race that lies ahead.”