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STATE MEETINGS: Ohio, Oklahoma

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Ohio celebrates renewed vision

By Karen L. Willoughby

PICKERINGTON, Ohio – The Baptist Convention of Ohio gathered the largest number of messengers in 17 years and passed the largest budget ever at its annual celebration Nov. 16 at Violet Baptist Church in metropolitan Columbus.

Under a theme of “Keep Moving Forward” and scriptural admonition of Philippians 3:12-14, “Our annual celebration had a great spirit,” Executive Director Jeremy Westbrook told Baptist Press. “We did some new vision-casting and there was excitement about it. We’re going to invite churches to rediscover gospel multiplication.” Westbrook began the role in August.

The excitement extended to passage of a $5,036,747.74 budget for 2022, a 6.5 percent increase from last year, of which 50 percent – $2,518,373.87 – is to leave the state for national and global Cooperative Program needs. Ohio has had a 50/50 CP split since 2016, when Westbrook was president of the state convention.

“We believe the Cooperative Program is the greatest method for planting churches, revitalizing churches and calling out the called through multiplication pipelines in our state,” Westbrook said. “We also believe the Cooperative Program is the best means to get the gospel across the street and around the world.”

In other business, Ohio Southern Baptists approved a resolution calling for the complete and immediate abolition of abortion, and the “pro-active,” Westbrook said, addition of a sexual abuse task force, including both pastors and women as task force members.

The 364 messengers from Ohio’s 725 or more Southern Baptist churches and 64 guests heard about a restructuring of the state convention into six regions for closer connection between churches and the state convention, and a reallocation of resources to reduce personnel costs.

“We desire to be a state where no pastor does ministry alone. Moving towards a regional model enables us to accomplish the vision of having the convention right beside the pastors in every corner of Ohio,” Westbrook said.

Ohio planted 19 churches between Nov. 1, 2020 and Oct. 31, 2021, plus four newly affiliated churches. Ohio churches reported 1,669 baptisms, including 587 in metro Columbus, 329 in greater Dayton, and 265 in the Cincinnati area.

An additional agreement with the North American Mission Board was announced. In addition to Ohio’s three Send cities – Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland – there now is Send Network Ohio, which brings even more church planting capacity and resources to the state that is approaching 12 million residents.

“Our new partnership with NAMB will open up the throttle to help plant churches everywhere in Ohio for everyone in Ohio. It truly is a new day here in the Buckeye state for multiplication,” Westbrook said.

Ray Umphrey, pastor of Briggs Road Baptist Church in Columbus, was elected president; J.D. Davis, pastor of Dublin (Ohio) Baptist Church, first vice president; Tony Harris, pastor of Highland Avenue Baptist Church in Cincinnati, second vice president.

Faye Rodgers, a member at Northside Baptist Church in Newark was elected recording secretary, and Mary Leigh Snowden, a member at Clough Pike Baptist Church in Cincinnati, assistant recording secretary.

The next annual celebration is set for Nov. 14-15, 2022, at Cuyahoga Valley Church in Broadway Heights, part of metro Cleveland.

Oklahoma Baptists affirm Fisher, display unity

By Baptist Messenger Staff

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) – More than 700 Oklahoma Baptist messengers, among many other guests, gathered Nov. 15-16 at Oklahoma City, Southern Hills for the 115th Annual Meeting, which was of historic importance.

On Monday, messengers unanimously voted to approve Todd Fisher as the new executive director-treasurer and observed a special installation service. Fisher, who has served as pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, Okla., since 2003, becomes the 10th executive director-treasurer in state convention history.

Nick Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lindsay, delivered a charge to Fisher, to pay attention to his conduct, his calling and his personal integrity. Following the charge, messengers laid hands in prayer on Fisher and his wife Jamy.

Fisher preached from Ephesians 4:1-6, in keeping with the meeting’s theme of “One,” and shared what will be his commitments to Oklahoma Baptists.

“Look at our culture today,” he said. “We are so confused about so many things. This is why we need the truth of the Scripture to give us what is God’s truth about the sanctity of human life, the sanctity of marriage, gender, sexuality and the evil of racism.”

“Pastor, if you are a shepherd in this room, feed your people this Book (holding up his Bible).”

He said the focus of Oklahoma Baptists needs to be missions, the Great Commission, the spreading of the Gospel, the reaching of communities in every corner of the state. He also emphasized church planting, church revitalization and discipleship practiced in churches.

Fisher said one of his first actions as executive director would be to work with the new officers and the board of directors to form a Sexual Abuse Prevention Task Force, which would focus on creating best practices to prevent sexual abuse and to care for abuse survivors.

The Monday evening session featured a special time of worship with multi-ethnic, multi-lingual choirs from Asian, Native American, African American and Hispanic affinity groups leading in worship. Other annual meeting preachers were Michael Butler, pastor of First Baptist Chickasha, who delivered the president’s address, and First Baptist Moore Pastor Charlie Blount, who preached the annual sermon.

New officers elected were President Chris Wall, pastor of First Baptist Owasso, First Vice President Andy Finch, pastor of First Baptist Choctaw and Second Vice President Trey Graham, pastor of First Baptist Midwest City.

During the meeting, messengers approved reports from the Nominating Committee and the Finance Committee, in addition to hearing various ministry reports from the state convention.

The 2021 Resolutions Committee presented eight resolutions on topics ranging from abortion to the persecuted church to sexual abuse.

Messengers also passed a budget of $24 million, of which 43 percent will be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions and ministry.

For complete coverage, visit www.baptistmessenger.com

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