WRAP-UP: Ohio Baptists celebrate 700 churches

CLEVELAND (BP)--Messengers attending the 54th annual meeting of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio celebrated the 700 mark in number of congregations and considered a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit churches that condone homosexual behavior or have female senior pastors.

"Celebrate Mission Ohio and Cleveland Hope" was the theme of the meeting, focusing on two key evangelistic initiatives in Ohio.

Mission Ohio is a cooperative effort of Southern Baptist churches in the state to reach at least 1 million believers in 2,020 congregations by the end of the year 2020.

Cleveland Hope, meanwhile, is the Strategic Focus Cities partnership of the Greater Cleveland Baptist Association, Mission Ohio, the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources to impact the greater Cleveland area for Christ.

Through Cleveland Hope, Southern Baptists from across the United States have come to Cleveland for two years to join Ohio Baptists in ministering and witnessing in Cleveland. The initiative has produced a 99 percent increase in baptisms and more than a 66 percent increase in the number of churches in the Greater Cleveland Baptist Association. Additionally, the Cleveland-area churches have increased their giving to the SBC Cooperative Program by 46 percent.

Various speakers at the SCBO' Nov. 7-8 meeting at Cuyahoga Valley Church championed the evangelism and church planting passion of Mission Ohio.

Henry Blackaby, author of the "Experiencing God" discipleship resources, related his personal testimony as a church planter and commended Mission Ohio for its commitment to the Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative within with the Southern Baptist Convention calling churches to a mindset focused on the Kingdom of God.

Geoff Hammond, president of the North American Mission Board, commended Mission Ohio for its accomplishments in evangelism and church planting, while the Ohio convention's executive director, Jack Kwok, recounted that the Mission Ohio strategy originally was drawn from Acts 13 and 14 in Scripture. Church planter Dean Fulks preached the convention sermon, thanking Mission Ohio for supporting church planting efforts that reach people for Christ. Fulks is pastor of LifePoint Church, with locations in Columbus and Delaware, Ohio.

Outgoing SCBO President David Gray challenged Ohio Baptists to remain surrendered to Christ in order to fulfill God's calling of reaching 1 million believers in 2,020 congregations by the end of 2020. Gray is pastor of First Baptist Church in Garrettsville.

Messengers considered a constitutional amendment to be voted on at their 2008 annual meeting to add a sentence to the SCBO constitution, article III, section 2, on constituency, stating: "Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior, and churches which have female senior pastors."

The convention also adopted resolutions encouraging churches to take measures to prevent child sexual abuse and parents to take greater responsibility in teaching children a biblical worldview.

The 2008 budget of $8,259,187 as approved by messengers reflects a 5 percent reduction due to decreased receipts in 2007. The budget includes an anticipated $4.68 million in Cooperative Program gifts from the state's churches. The SCBO will continue to retain 59.75 percent of the budget for in-state ministries while 40.25 percent will go to SBC national and international missions and ministries.

Elected unopposed as convention officers were Travis Smalley, pastor of Lakota Hills Baptist Church in West Chester, as president; Ron Hopkins, pastor of Briggs Road Baptist Church in Columbus, first vice president; Steve Renfrow, pastor of Bluffton Baptist Church in Bluffton, second vice president; and Fay Rodgers, a member of Northside Baptist Church in Springfield, recording secretary.

The SCBO's 2008 annual meeting will be Nov. 5-6 at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Carlisle.


Compiled from a report by the Ohio Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.

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