LAYTON, Utah – Retired attorney Gary McKean says he plans to keep going “all the way home,” and heaven is that home.
“I’m not done until God tells me I’m done,” the legal consultant – and missions and partnerships coordinator – for the Utah Idaho Southern Baptist Convention told UI Connections.
McKean and Naomi, his wife since 1965, received an appreciation award at the recent UISBC annual meeting for 15 years of voluntary ministry service to Southern Baptists in Utah and Idaho.
“Gary’s work with our churches and legal guidance has saved our churches thousands of dollars and many headaches,” UISBC Executive Director Rob Lee said. “The State Convention is very blessed in Gary’s service as our legal counselor in helping our churches with land, building and body issues that needed legal guidance.
“Without Gary’s legal guidance our state convention of churches would not function as effectively,” Lee continued. “Gary has assisted us in having policies and procedures in place to guide our convention in supporting our churches.”
The McKeans have been active Southern Baptists since they first moved from Florida to Utah 45 years ago to work on government law, in time becoming the Cache County Attorney. Gary and Naomi McKean have been part of two church starts, Today they are members of Sojourn Church in Layton, which was planted in 2019 by Mountain View Baptist Church in Layton.
An ordained deacon, McKean has served as minister of education, Bible teacher and “I’ve done some preaching.” He also served on the SBC Executive Committee for eight years – 2006-2014 – as UISBC’s representative.
Naomi McKean, Gary’s prayer warrior, was a first grade teacher for 46 years and retired in 2007 from Layton Christian Academy. Naomi has served in children’s ministries as a teacher and leader as well as in the ministries of outreach, prayer, food bank, and wherever needed.
The couple reared three children, who have given them five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Together the McKeans have taken multiple international mission trips and have a particular interest in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Their involvement there is through Light of the World Ministry, which operates orphanages and constructs village water wells. Together they also are Mission Service Corps volunteer missionaries through the North American Mission Board.
“Becoming a Christian means you understand and accept the gospel message,” McKean said. “God made us; We are sinners; through God’s grace we are redeemed in Christ; and we are to share that good news with others.
“Christ said to the church, ‘Go out.’ He said that not just to the organized group, but to every Christian,” McKean continued. “Part of the individual’s life is to be sharing Christ. One of the things we’re trying to promote organizationally is that a church is to engage in missions, aware that it’s really the people who do the missions, and they do it by going.”
In his role as partnerships coordinator, McKean has developed the connection between Northwest Georgia churches and Utah-Idaho churches, now in its second year. He also works with churches in UISBC to partner with each other, strengthening each other’s churches in outreach as well as building enduring relationships, strengthening and encouraging each other while reaching still others with the message of God’s unconditional love for each individual.
“We have a lot of small churches,” McKean noted. “In Matthew 28:19-20 – but really we are told in all the gospels – we are to go out. When two or more churches work together, they can make a greater impact. So we encourage churches to join in missions together.
“If churches are going to walk the walk of following Jesus, they need to look outside of themselves,” the missions coordinator continued. “Missions is reflective of where the church is spiritually.”
McKean, an active member of Christian Legal Society, also serves UISBC as legal consultant. For the 15 years since he retired from the Davis County attorney’s office, “He has assisted churches with updating their constitutions, bylaws and legal documents in order for them to function without having issues with local, county, state and federal government,” Lee said.
“He has assisted our church plants in laying a good foundation so that good practices will benefit the new church as it grows and matures,” the executive director said. “In our society today if you ignore the legal and business side of your church you are open to many potential legal issues that would impact the church’s ability to be a light in the community.”
As stated in McKean’s report at the 2022 UISBC annual meeting, “Each church should take the time to review its governing documents (articles of incorporation, constitution/statement of beliefs, bylaws, and policies). Churches should be made aware of legal trends, developments, and concerns as these may impact the church’s ministry. There have been some church closures and dissolution. They need to be aware that the trustees have a legal responsibility to lawfully dissolve the church entity and properly dispose of any assets.”
McKean helps churches with all these issues, and leads legal seminars. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or through the UISBC office for more information or to schedule an appointment.
“I encourage churches to visit the UISBC website – uisbc.org – and look at the sample legal documents and materials posted on the ‘Resources’ page and ‘Legal’ tab,” McKean said.
“As long as there have been churches there have been legal aspects, but over the last 30 to 40 years, the legal climate has been changing significantly,” the attorney said. “The essential point is that a church has two natures: spiritual and secular. Developing law affects both. Churches need to be aware of the law and take it seriously.”
McKean said he was reared in a Presbyterian home in Pennsylvania and “always trusted God would take care of me and lead me.” When his plan to go to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, was sidetracked because of flat feet, he went to Tulane University in New Orleans.
It was while working in Florida as an attorney that he and Naomi, daughter of an Assembly of God pastor, connected in 1970 with Southern Baptists. They wanted to serve together in a church, and friends led them to South Venice Baptist Church in Venice, Florida.
“The key for me is simply trusting God,” McKean said. “Your faith is reflected in what you do. In law and in life, there is always a blending of faith in what you do. faith has been foundational to my practice and what I do. Micah 6:8 has been a guide for me in law.”
By Karen L. Willoughby
A frequent contributor to UI Connections and Baptist Press. She can be reached at email@example.com