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Ind. Baptists’ first exec, E. Harmon Moore, dies at 90

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–E. Harmon Moore, 90, the first executive secretary-treasurer of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, died in Birmingham, Ala., Feb. 1 after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer several months earlier.

Moore was a pastor in Illinois from 1946-52 before joining the staff of the Illinois Baptist State Association as secretary of stewardship and missions. He was promoted in l956 to associate executive secretary and director of missions.

In 1955, when Southern Baptists in Indiana approached the Illinois convention for assistance in becoming a state convention, Moore helped organize regional fellowship meetings in Indiana and in 1958 he chaired the constitution and bylaws committee for the new state convention. At the outset of the process, he recounted, “These brethren were scattered, unacquainted, [they had] no state entity. They started wanting to get together.”

On December 5, 1958, the newly elected executive board the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana chose Moore as the first executive secretary-treasurer in a meeting at Plainfield (Ind.) Baptist Church.

Moore arrived in Indiana in January 1959 with a check for $3,306.22 that the Illinois convention had escrowed from missions offerings received from Indiana churches. Beginning with a post office box and a 20-by-24-foot room rented from the Plainfield congregation, Moore led in the development of Indiana convention in its goal “to establish, strengthen and inspire the churches in missionary, educational and benevolent enterprises.”

As executive director-treasurer, Moore was the founding editor of the Indiana Baptist newspaper, serving in that role from 1959-65, and the first agent for the Baptist Foundation of Indiana. Other highlights include construction of the SCBI office building in Indianapolis in 1963 and beginning Highland Lakes Baptist Camp in 1966.

Upon his retirement Jan. 1, 1981, Moore was recognized for his pioneering efforts that led to the growth of the Indiana convention from 111 churches with 20,000 members to 275 churches with 73,000-plus members.

“Some around here think the term ‘southern’ is a drawback,” Moore once wrote of Southern Baptist work in Indiana. “But by and large, for most in Indiana it doesn’t bother them. They use it as a conversation piece -– a means of witness. Here the word ‘Southern’ Baptist is known to the man on the street – we’ve made fine strides on that point.”

After his retirement, Moore chaired the convention’s 25th anniversary history committee and was a spokesman for the Indiana partnership with the Arkansas Baptist Convention.

Stephen Davis, the convention’s current executive director, described Moore as “a key figure in the formation of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana … [who] provided outstanding leadership” at numerous junctures during the 22 years of his tenure.

“More than that, he was my friend,” Davis said. “We met shortly after I was called to Indiana as the new executive director, following the retirement of Dr. Charles W. Sullivan. Dr. Moore and I had several conversations about the continuing work in Indiana, for which he was so thankful. We never hung up the phone without praying together. He and Betsy prayed faithfully for us and the work in Indiana. He was particularly interested in the new church starts.”

Davis continued, “When he told me the news that he had been diagnosed with cancer, he said, ‘I’m not worried about it because I know God is still in control.’ He faced the illness with Christian faith, courage and grace. He taught us all how to trust in the Lord, even when bad news comes….

“Hoosiers love Dr. & Mrs. [Betsy] Moore — so much so that we voted to build a new facility in their honor at Highland Lakes Baptist Camp.”

The oldest of 11 children, Moore was born near Peek, Okla. As no church existed in the community, his parents helped start a Baptist congregation when he was 11, and he was saved and baptized at age 17. “Parents said kids were growing up wild,” he once wrote. “My parents and a few others began getting their own faith revitalized. They began a [Sunday School] in the schoolhouse.” Moore’s formal education began in the local one-room schoolhouse and continued through a 30-mile commute to high school in Arnett, Okla., where he graduated in 1936.

While a student at Oklahoma Baptist University, he was ordained to the ministry. He met fellow student Betsy Ross, whom he married June 1, 1940. Moore graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1946 with a Th.M degree.

Moore is survived by his wife of 66 years, Margaret Elizabeth (Betsy) Ross Moore; a son, Tom Ed Moore, a professor of music at the University of North Alabama; two grandchildren and one great-grandchild; three brothers and four sisters.

Funeral services were held Feb. 4 at the Currie-Jefferson Funeral Home in Birmingham. Moore’s pastor, Ron Grizzle of Riverchase Baptist Church, conducted the services. Davis, of the Indiana convention, was present to give testimony and represent the state’s Baptists.

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