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Utah/Idaho celebrates 50th anniversary

LAYTON, Utah (BP) — Recent rulings regarding same-sex marriage in Utah and Idaho were mentioned and a resolution was passed showing solidarity with Houston pastors against an attempt to subpoena their sermons, but for the most part the 2014 annual meeting of the Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention was about the past, present and future of the 50-year-old convention.

Fifty-three congregations came together in 1964 to form the UISBC; today, more than 160 are part of the two-state convention.

The UISBC’s 50th anniversary was a celebration “Honoring our Past, Ministering in the Present, Looking to the Future.” Baptists from the South were in Idaho from the mid-1880s. A place in the state today called “Gospel Hump” dates from when J.B. York, a Baptist minister from Arkansas, would climb on an old log to preach to miners, loggers and other passersby. The first church to connect to Southern Baptists, however, was First Baptist Church in Roosevelt in northeast Utah in 1944.

Former pastor Lu Gillman spoke of being asked to serve on convention’s nominating committee three years after the UISBC was formed. “It was a time when if you had blood and it was working, we wanted you to serve,” Gilman said. Others brought up their memories of serving in the early days of Southern Baptists in their two states.

In his report, Executive Director Rob Lee spoke of God’s hand at work, such as the time a log truck broke in Salmon Valley, Idaho, which provided logs for a church building. Lee noted the nearly 40,000 baptisms in Utah and Idaho over the last 50 years and said, “We need to praise God for the little things, to notice what God is doing….

“We have not seen the movement of God so many have prayed for,” Lee said. “We live in a land of 4.5 million people, and only 400,000 Christians.” Utah/Idaho, a bastion of Latter-day Saints, is less than 1 percent evangelized.

Don Ozuna spoke of present-day work among Hispanics in Idaho; Michael Waldrop spoke of the same among the unevangelized in St. George — famous for being on the way to Las Vegas; and Biakkung Len spoke of work among Burmese in Utah. Len’s grandfather was led to the Lord by famed missionary William Carey.

In what was a surprise to his wife, Brigeda and Don Ozuna were called to the platform to renew their wedding vows during the annual meeting, since it also was their 50th anniversary. “My wife prayed for me, and that’s why we’re still married.” He said a quick yes when asked by UISBC President Jim Panagoplos if he would love and honor his wife; Brigeda took time to tap her head mischievously before agreeing.

The future of the Utah-Idaho convention lies in its “Vision 2020,” enacted last year. It involves doubling the number of churches to 350 by 2020 and in having 1 percent of the state’s citizens as members of those churches.

It was during the second morning of the Oct. 21-22 UISBC annual meeting that mention was made of federal judges in the Ninth and Tenth Circuit District Courts overturning state-codified definitions of marriages as being one man and one woman.

Russ Robinson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Provo, Utah, mentioned the nation’s cultural collapse in the annual convention sermon. “Houston, we have a problem. Houston, you have a problem and we are going to share in this burden together,” Robinson preached, with 1 Peter 1:3-9 as his scriptural reference point. “The reality is, Utah and Idaho, we have some problems as well,” he added.

“On Oct. 6, 2014, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to hear an appeal from the state of Utah concerning [its] ban on same-sex marriage, thus upholding the legality of these unions,” Robinson preached, “and just last week, Idaho, you faced the same except from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, thus rendering on Oct. 15 same-sex marriage, if you want to call it that, has been opened in your state.”

Messengers addressed the Houston controversy through their Resolution #1, stating: “Be it resolved that we, the messengers of the 50th annual meeting of the Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention stand firm in support of the five pastors being persecuted by the City of Houston.”

Resolution #2 dedicated the minutes of the 2014 annual meeting to longtime leader Herb Stoneman, who died in June. Resolution #3 was in appreciation to the host church -– Mountain View Baptist Church in Layton, Utah — and thanking God for their ministry.

Messengers approved a budget of $2,006,164 for the coming year, $36,000 less than the current year’s $2,040,483 budget.

The 2015 budget includes an anticipated $688,167 in Cooperative Program giving from Utah/Idaho churches; $1,163,730 in North American Mission Board support; $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources; and $94,267 from the York/Dillman State Missions Offering.

The convention’s Cooperative Program allocations remained at 25 percent for SBC national and international missions and ministries, with 75 percent for Utah/Idaho outreach and no shared expenses.

In other business, five Utah congregations were accepted into full fellowship with the UISBC: Bear River Valley Baptist Church in Tremonton; Canyonlands Fellowship Church in Moab; Crossings Church in Spanish Fork; Lifestone Church in Riverton/Herriman; and Mountain View Baptist Fellowship in Milford.

The convention’s president and first and second vice presidents, respectively, were re-elected by acclamation: Jim Panagoplos, pastor of First Baptist Church in Roy, Utah; Clint Henry, pastor of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho; and Russ Robinson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Provo, Utah, was re-elected by acclamation. Casey Grant, collegiate minister’s wife and member of Central Valley, was elected recording secretary.

Among reports from SBC entities, Send Salt Lake coordinator Travis Kerns represented the North American Mission Board.

“Our number one priority is to push back lostness in the U.S. and Canada,” Kerns said. “About 85 percent of the non-Christians in the United States are in 32 cities and Salt Lake City is the most non-Christian city in the U.S. And four out of the five most unreached metropolitan cities are in Utah: Logan, Salt Lake City, Provo/Orem and St. George.

“In the last year, eight church plants in the Send Salt Lake area distributed 192 Bibles, engaged in more than 5,000 spiritual conversations and led 77 people to Christ who also were baptized,” Kerns continued. “In the last two weeks, eight people were baptized at the Hispanic mission church at First West Valley City, and 13 were baptized at Lifestone Herriman.”

Renewed endeavors by the Utah-Idaho convention included preliminary plans for a pastors and wives retreat and a Feb. 5-6 evangelism conference, both for the first time in several years. New: a “Sharpening Iron” electronic network for pastors and the hiring of Philip Grant as collegiate network coordinator for ministry among the 200,000 college students in Utah and Idaho.

Jeff Iorg, president of the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., brought the keynote address, with Philippians 1 as his scriptural reference point. “It is the good that competes with the best,” Iorg preached on the need to stay focused on the mission.

The 2015 annual meeting is set for Oct. 20-21 at Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho.