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Harmony, commitment to missions highlight Okla. Baptists’ meeting

BETHANY, Okla. (BP)–Harmony and a commitment to missions characterized the 93rd annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Nov. 9-10 at Council Road Baptist Church in Bethany. Messengers passed a record $19.6 million Cooperative Program budget, elected officers and passed three resolutions, with virtually no disagreement.
Every convention session revolved around the theme, “Leading Kingdom Churches.” Partnerships with Indiana and Malawi, as well as evangelistic efforts on college campuses and across the state, were highlighted.
First vice president David Willets, presenting the budget, said it is written to ensure Oklahoma Baptists will “not only reach people in Oklahoma, but will reach people on the dirt streets of Malawi.” He said the budget is purpose-driven, and every item revolves around the purpose of winning the world to Christ. It was unanimously approved.
Messengers also heard from International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin. Before he spoke, though, they approved sending $25,000 of BGCO disaster relief funds through the International Mission Board to Central America, which was struck in October by Hurricane Mitch. Later, messengers took up an offering for Central America, sending an additional $5,843.60.
Sam Porter, BGCO men’s ministries specialist, said Southern Baptist “world hunger funds kicked into gear immediately through the IMB” when the hurricane hit. “We are in it for the long-term. We won’t leave after a few weeks like many relief agencies will,” Porter said.
James Robinson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Clinton, was elected president, defeating Willets, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church, Tulsa. For first vice president, Rick Frie, pastor of Southwood Baptist Church, Tulsa, was elected over Russell Cook, director of missions for Pottawatomie-Lincoln Baptist Association. In the second vice president election, Monty Hale, pastor of Eastern Heights Baptist Church, Bartlesville, was elected without opposition. Retired DOM David Freeman was re-elected recording secretary. Bob Mathews, retired associate editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, was elected to his first term as historical secretary.
The only disharmony at the convention occurred after the resolutions committee report. Messengers unanimously approved three resolutions: one opposing violence as a response to contemporary moral issues, one on the character of elected officials and one expressing appreciation to Council Road for hosting the convention.
Messenger Bruce Prescott of First Baptist Church, Norman, then presented a motion asking Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas to quit requiring faculty members to sign the new family amendment to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement. Prescott said the requirement forced professors to “make a choice between adherence to the Bible and an amendment written by men.”
Anthony Jordan, BGCO executive director-treasurer, said faculty members have always been required to “to teach in accordance with the Baptist Faith and Message as passed in 1963 and as amended. The articles of the seminary were there from the beginning giving the seminary the right to do this.”
After a short debate, messengers voted against the motion; with only about 30 of the 1,170 registered messengers voting for it.
In other business, Scott Neighbors, youth minister at First Baptist Church, Pryor, and chairman of the Falls Creek Strategic Planning Committee, recounted that a few years ago Jordan began thinking what would happen if Falls Creek became the kind of conference center that could be used year-round. After a few years of dreaming, Neighbors said, “We are not dreaming any more. We are actually standing on the launching pad of the second launch of Falls Creek. What we need now is not your opinions, but for you to pray for us that we find God’s will.” The BGCO board of directors will vote on the plan in May. The issue will come to the state convention for a vote at the 1999 state convention meeting.
Building the kingdom of God was the theme of the president’s address by Ted Kersh, pastor of Village Baptist Church, Oklahoma City. Noting Americans are living in a society much worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, Kersh said if we, like Lot, are just bothered — and not willing to do anything about it — our spiritual involvement, identification and influence will wane.
Kersh challenged every church in Oklahoma to have a weekly evangelism training program and to stop “building our own kingdoms and build the kingdom of God.”
“We need to start new works and help struggling works,” he said. Village recently started a new congregation in Deer Creek, west of Edmond. Kersh said the 70 people sent from Village were soon replaced by 70 baptisms. He said he envisions weekend blitzes of Oklahoma cities with trained witnesses. “I believe in one weekend we can sow down a town of 10,000 people.” He said Baptists almost have forgotten who they are. “We are committed to the Book, soaked in the blood and preach the Holy Word of God,” he emphasized.
Messengers also heard about building kingdom churches at Oklahoma Baptist University. New OBU President Mark Brister quoted Luke 2:52 as the ideal OBU will follow: “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
“We are the top-ranked university academically in Oklahoma,” Brister said. “We’ve got to model and teach wisdom,” as well as help students develop in stature physically.
Brister also said he wants to teach OBU students the FAITH evangelism strategy of LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board, so they will be good witnesses wherever they go.
Messengers voted to continue to send 40 percent of the $19.6 million BGCO budget to the Southern Baptist Executive Committee to be distributed to convention causes.
The 1999 BGCO will meet at two locations. On Nov. 15, they will meet at Myriad Center in Oklahoma City; then on Nov. 16, they will meet at First Baptist Church of Edmond.

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  • Dave Parker