Darrel Todd Maurina
By Darrell Todd Maurina
The pastor of one of Portales’ largest churches recently added to his list of responsibilities. On Oct. 29, the Rev. Philip Fike, pastor of First Baptist Church of Portales, became the first vice president of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.
The role makes him the second-ranking officer for New Mexico’s 68,000 Southern Baptists. That doesn’t mean as much as it would in a more centrally governed denomination — Baptists pride themselves on their autonomy and no denominational official can intervene in the affairs of a local church without its consent — but it does give him more voice in helping guide the state’s largest Protestant body of churches.
Fike’s new role is in addition to his current position as chairman of the convention’s State Executive Board, which handles business of the convention between its annual meetings.
Fike said the two-day gathering in Roswell spent much of its time focusing on mission outreach to Bangkok, the capital city of the southeast Asian nation of Thailand. Baptists in New Mexico traditionally adopt a foreign mission field for intensive support, and that foreign mission field will now be a city of 11.6 million people, about seven times the population of New Mexico.
According to state convention documents, less than one half of 1 percent of Bangkok’s population are evangelical Christians, meaning the city has fewer evangelicals than New Mexico has Baptists. Fike said he wants to see that change.
“We want to convey the truth that is thousands of years old but just as relevant as the front page of the newspaper,” Fike said. “Our desire is to send 350 to 500 New Mexicans to Bangkok for short-term missions.”
Those attending the state convention heard presentations from Southern Baptist missionaries to Bangkok, and more than 50 of the 515 voting delegates and visitors made commitments to participate in mission trips to that city.
Other business at the convention included a 1.73 percent increase in the convention’s budget to $3.6 million for 2004 and adoption of a new procedure to examine new churches sending voting delegates to the convention for the first time.
The convention also passed resolutions affirming that marriage is only between one man and one woman and opposing proposals in the New Mexico legislature that, according to the resolution, would protect overt sexual orientation on an equal basis with race, religion and culture.
Fike said those resolutions weren’t controversial and passed without discussion or objection. The resolutions don’t bind member churches, but Fike said the lack of disagreement shows widespread support for their contents.
“For many of us these are important, and that is a real surprise for some people,” Fike said. “If you are going to be a Southern Baptist church, you need to believe what Southern Baptists believe.”