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Ohio Baptists celebrate convention’s 50th anniversary

WAVERLY, Ohio (BP)–Messengers gathered at the annual meeting of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio walked through history via special presentations in celebration of the convention’s 50th anniversary.

The overall theme of the Nov. 5-6 sessions at First Baptist Church in Waverly was “Mission Ohio: Empowering Kingdom Growth — Seeking First the King and His Kingdom.” But for each of the five decades since the convention began, a meeting session was devoted to a particular sub-theme highlighting the churches started during the particular decade.

The first session recognized SCBO churches organized during the 1950s, including 42 churches that began before Ohio Southern Baptists organized as a convention on Jan. 8, 1954. The theme of the session was “Mission Ohio: Empowering Kingdom Growth through Associational Mission Plans.” Jack Kwok, the convention’s executive director, preached, voicing a challenge for the future.

Churches organized in the ’60s were highlighted during the second session with the theme “Mission Ohio: Empowering Kingdom Growth through More and Better Disciples.” Gary Frost, former Ohio pastor and state convention president, delivered a message challenging believers to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Frost, in recent years, has served as the North American Mission Board’s strategic initiatives group vice president.

“Mission Ohio: Empowering Kingdom Growth through Prayer and Spiritual Awakening” was the theme for session three in which churches organized during ’70s were recognized. Tom Pendergrass, pastor at Urbancrest Baptist Church in Lebanon, preached the annual sermon.

Highlighting churches organized in the ’80s, the fourth session focused on the theme “Mission Ohio: Empowering Kingdom Growth through Discovering, Developing and Deploying Leaders.”

The final session honored the churches that have begun since 1990 and focused on the theme “Mission Ohio: Empowering Kingdom Growth through More Healthy Congregations.” Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Phil Roberts, son of the first Ohio executive director, the late Ray Roberts, brought the closing message. He reminded messengers they are Christians because they responded to the love of God and the death of His Son Jesus. Roberts said believers are assured of going to heaven because God loves them and Jesus paid the price of their hope of eternity. He compared the hope of Christians to the hope of other religions whose eternal hope is not sure and based on the whims of their gods.

The 338 messengers from 135 churches adopted a total budget of $7,568,372, representing a 1 percent decrease from the $7,636,416 budget for the current year. The 2004 budget maintains a practice of sending 40 percent of Cooperative Program undesignated gifts to Southern Baptist mission causes beyond Ohio.

Messengers elected Cliff Coleman, a retired associational missionary and member of First Southern Baptist Church of Pomeroy, as president. Jeff Pound, pastor of Spring Valley Baptist Church in Columbus, also was nominated for president.

Greg Jackson, pastor of Camden Baptist Church in Camden, was elected first vice president, and David Gray, pastor of First Baptist Church of Garrettsville, was re-elected second vice president. Both were unopposed. Faye Rogers, a member of First Southern Baptist Church in North Canton, was re-elected recording secretary.

Messengers adopted 10 resolutions:

— A resolution on partial-birth abortion noted that Congress has given final approval and President Bush has signed a ban on the procedure. Messengers resolved that Ohio Baptists “go on record commending our leaders for their stand onto preserving life.”

— Regarding gambling, messengers passed a resolution stating that though the people of Ohio have “soundly defeated every effort to legalize all types of gambling,” special interest groups “continue their efforts to change the will of the people” and “another effort is being updated to entice our government and representatives to allow gambling machines in certain places in our state.”

Warning that gambling is detrimental to family and morals, messengers expressed to the governor and all elected officials in Ohio their disapproval of all forms of gambling.

— A resolution regarding the defense of marriage stated that “there is great concern that the institutions of marriage and the traditional family are under attack” and “this is taking place across our nation and literally worldwide.” Messengers acknowledged that they work to “preserve and abide by the intent of our Creator” and resolved to reaffirm the Bible and the intent of God for men and women. “Marriage is between one man and one woman, and that is what we will firmly stand by, in accordance with Almighty God, the only true Living God,” the resolution said.

— A resolution affirming the service of military personnel stated that “thousands of American men and women are deployed around the world as members of the armed forces” and “find themselves in dangerous places including Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations.” Messengers affirmed and expressed appreciation for “members of the armed forces and their families for the many services they have made.” They also expressed “great sorrow and sincere condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones in the conflict for freedom.”

— A resolution regarding the Ten Commandments acknowledged that “the open expression of our biblical principles are under attack in our society today” and “we, as Christians, stand for Almighty God and all of the Holy Scripture” and “all Christians must be bold in our commitment to be in one accord with Almighty God not wavering in any of His truths or from the biblical foundations.”

Messengers challenged pastors and congregations to “be firm in our stand for the entire Bible and hold fast to those beliefs.” They upheld the Ten Commandments and affirmed that “as Ohio Baptists, we live under the laws given by our Creator and we will never hide them away.”

— Messengers also passed a resolution affirming the County Commission of Barrow County, N.Y. The resolution stated “while the Constitution of the United States provides that ‘Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion,’ it absolutely does not prohibit the recognitions of Almighty God and His moral precepts expressed in the Ten Commandments in our institutions of government, our legislatures, our courts, our schools, or other public places.” Messengers commended and expressed support for the commission for officially posting the Ten Commandments in the county courthouse; for honoring the Ten Commandments as the foundation of the morality, law and culture of the United States; for recognizing that “the perpetuation of moral virtue among the citizenry is essential to freedom;” and for declaring that God Himself is the source of law and freedoms as stated in the Declaration of Independence.

— Four additional resolutions expressed appreciation for people related to the convention and to the host association. Guy Morton, president of the convention, was recognized for more than 40 years of service as a pastor in Ohio, and Garland Wilkerson, a retiring director of missions in Ohio, was recognized for his ministry. Convention officers were thanked for their faithfulness and service, and the Scioto Valley Association was thanked for hosting the 50th annual meeting.

Will Pollard, editor of the Ohio Baptist Messenger, announced plans to retire at the end of February 2004, marking 26 years of service with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio and nearly 10 years as editor of the Ohio Baptist Messenger.

The Ohio convention is composed of 636 congregations. Of that number, 558 are organized churches and 74 are missions — including 32 new starts in 2003.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 3-4 at North Fairfield Baptist Church in Hamilton.

Ohio Baptists also will gather at West Side Baptist Church in Hamilton on Jan. 8 to celebrate the anniversary of the convention’s 1954 organizational meeting.
Based on a report by Will Pollard.

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