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news about the denomination

The following news items apply to (or affect) the Free Will Baptist denomination scattered across the nation and around the world.To read more about Free Will Baptists and the various departments that make up the national organization, visit


Read a brief history of Free Will Baptists in the United States.


Gwartney and Donaldson

Photo (left to right): ABC News Anchor Sam Donaldson, Police Chief Robert Ingulli, Pastor Howard Gwartney

Missions Church Celebrates Law Enforcement Sunday

FLORENCE, AZ—During a recent celebration, Christ’s Church Free Will Baptist honored Local law enforcement officials. Police Chief Robert Ingulli and Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez were on-hand for the service that was attended by 113, many visiting for the first time. Well-known ABC news anchor, Sam Donaldso interviewed pastor Howard Gwartney, who serves as the chaplain for the area police department.

When asked about his role in law enforcement, Gwartney replied, “It is my privilege to serve as a chaplain for the area police department.”



Florida State Association Raises $70,000 for Villalba

LAKE MARY, FL—During their annual meeting, April 30-March 3, delegates to the 64th Florida State Association meeting presented a check for $68,659.30 to Sam and June McVay, missionaries to Spain.

Calling the effort Project Villalba, the Florida State Association began raising funds in early 2008 for the church building currently being constructed in the growing suburb near Madrid.

During the presentation, Executive Director Randy Bryant expressed thanks to Florida Free Will Baptists for their generosity. After setting a lofty goal of $50,000, the association rejoiced when funds exceeded $69,000 before the meeting. Bryant expects the total will surpass $70,000.



WWII Veteran Dead at 86

Lawnie CoffmanSEARCY, AR—Once called, “the most decorated Free Will Baptist,” World War II veteran Rev. Lawnie Coffman died Tuesday, June 3. Coffman received numerous awards and honors for his action with the 35th infantry during the war, including two bronze stars, two silver stars, four battle stars, and two Purple Hearts for being wounded in action.

When asked about his heroic service, Lawnie once replied, “I did not mean to be a hero, I just did what had to be done.”

In 2004, Coffman was invited by public officials in France to return for a hero’s welcome. During the trip, three different French towns honored him for his role in their liberation.

After being struck in the shoulder by a large-caliber 37mm bullet intended for a tank during a battle in the Rual Valley of Germany, Coffman promised God that if He would spare His life, He would spend the rest of it doing the Lord’s work. Lawnie kept his promise, pastoring for more than 45 years, and serving the Free Will Baptist denomination on the local, state, and national level. He is especially remembered for his role in establishing Camp Beaverfork, state youth camp in Arkansas. In his book, My Leg of the Race, Coffman said, “This I believe to be the greatest achievement of my church work.”

Rev. Coffman leaves behind his wife Alene, daugthers Nina and Shirley, seven grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren, and three great-great grandchildren.


Hillsdale Announces New Degree Program

MOORE, OK—Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College recently announced the development of a new degree program in the health and exercise science fields. The program, called Health, Promotion, and Exercise Science (HPES) will prepare students for diet programming, exercise testing and prescription, human growth and development, the study of human movement, and much more.

The program is designed to prepare students to enter professional degree programs such as physical therapy and exercise physiology. Although the projected start date for the program is Fall 2009, the college has begun to offer coursework immediately, making it possible for current students to begin working toward this major.


©2008 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists