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Ohio Baptists give $500,000 from camp sale proceeds to Cooperative Program

SBC EC Interim President and CEO Willie McLaurin (right) embraces Southern Baptist Convention of Ohio Executive Director Jeremy Westbrook Tuesday (Sept. 20) after Westbrook presented a check for $500,000 to McLaurin to be put toward the Cooperative Program. (Baptist Press photo by Brandon Porter)

NASHVILLE (BP) – The State Convention of Baptists in Ohio (SCBO) donated $500,000 toward the Cooperative Program from proceeds of the recent sale of its Seneca Lake campground property.

Jeremy Westbrook, SCBO executive director-treasurer, made the announcement during Monday night’s (Sept. 19) SBC Executive Committee plenary session.

During his presentation, Westbrook said motivation for the donation came from the impact the Cooperative Program made on his own life and ministry.

“In 2008 I left my hometown of Memphis, Tenn., to plant a church outside of Columbus, Ohio, and when I did, the Cooperative Program was there for me,” Westbrook said.

“In 2009, when I went to the Billy Graham School at Southern Seminary to earn my doctorate, the Cooperative Program was there for me. Then last year in 2021 when I returned back to Ohio to begin my new role as the executive director, I knew that it was now my turn to be there for the Cooperative Program. For Jesus said to whom much is given, much is required.”

Seneca Lake in a campground property in Senecaville, Ohio, that the SCBO had used for ministry purposes such as camps and retreats for church staff.

Westbrook explained that when he took over as executive director, he learned the convention was not doing well financially, and maintenance of the camp property was no longer sustainable.

The convention sold the property this past April to a private buyer for $2.1 million dollars, and choose to divide up the profit a number of ways.

Some of the money was put into the convention’s operating reserves (enough to cover a few months), some went to a church in the convention church that was paying for the renovation of a cabin on the camp property and some will go toward expenses to keep mineral rights (oil and natural gas) on the property.

Westbrook said the convention leadership wanted to use the remaining money to invest in the next generation, which was the purpose of the campground property to begin with.

“We believe in the Cooperative Program, and I believe that in giving to the Cooperative Program we are investing in the next generation,” Westbrook said.

“What better way to invest in the next generation of those campers who came through Seneca Lake over the decades, that are now planting our churches, studying in our seminary campuses, and preparing to go to the nations. What better way to re-invest in the sale of that camp than the Cooperative Program.”

Just before Westbrook came to the stage for the announcement, Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the SBC EC, finished out his plenary speech by extoling the importance of state convention partnerships in CP giving.

“Our state conventions are our primary partners in Cooperative Program education and promotion, and God is working through state convention partnerships,” McLaurin said.

“I spent 15 years of my ministry encouraging cooperation among the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, and I’m thrilled to report to you that we are on track to have the largest Cooperative Program Giving year since 2008.”

Westbrook closed out his comments by challenging churches to prioritize financial generosity.

“We should not shrink back from demonstrating financial generosity to get the Gospel across the street and around the world,” Westbrook said. “This is not the time to shrink back. This is the time to lean in. This is not the time to put a question mark after the Cooperative Program, it’s time to put an exclamation point.

“We’re not just better together, we’re stronger together and we must cooperate together.”