Oklahomans affirm BFM, CP; adopt $21.7 million budget
EDMOND, Okla. (BP)--Messengers to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's Nov. 13-14 annual meeting affirmed the Baptist Faith and Message; adopted resolutions on the Cooperative Program, spiritual awakening and the Oklahoma marriage covenant; and approved a $21.7 million Cooperative Program budget.
The distribution of Oklahoma's gifts to the Cooperative Program will remain 60 percent for state missions and ministries and 40 percent for Southern Baptist Convention causes.
Meeting at First Baptist Church, Edmond, Okla., the 1,036 registered messengers overwhelmingly affirmed the Baptist Faith and Message adopted in June by the Southern Baptist Convention, despite proposed amendments that Oklahoma Baptists instead reaffirm the 1963 version of Southern Baptists' statement of beliefs.
Bill Mitchell, messenger from Vivian Baptist Church in the Pittsburg Baptist Association, proposed an amendment to the BFM resolution that would reaffirm the 1963 statement, saying the 2000 revisions do not represent Baptists and "lead us away from our identity."
Paul Phipps, pastor of True Oak Fellowship Church in Tuttle, said authors of the earlier editions, E.Y. Mullins and Herschel Hobbs, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, taught that the BFM is a document that can be changed for the times in which we live.
"It's important that we take a stand on God's Word," Phipps said. "It's important that we hold the standard that God's Word is his Word."
Another amendment, presented by David Flick, director of missions in the Grady Baptist Association, would have affirmed both the 1963 and 2000 statements.
"Autonomy implies choices and freedom to make a choice," Flick said. "A number of churches prefer the 1963 edition, so by offering both we can avert a Texas-sized mess in Oklahoma."
Both amendments failed.
On a related issue, Bruce Prescott, a messenger from First Baptist Church, Norman, made a motion that Oklahoma's executive director-treasurer be instructed to write letters to the presidents of the SBC's six seminaries asking for an apology for slandering the memory and character of Hobbs by saying he was "duped" when he wrote the 1963 BFM.
"Four of the six seminary presidents said Hobbs created a neo-orthodox document," Prescott said. "He is the single greatest Baptist in Oklahoma, and we do not appreciate them saying he was duped."
In an emotional response, Charles Womack, pastor of First Baptist Church, Bethany, said the executive director does not need to be told what to do.
"If anyone wants to express their opinions to the seminary presidents, let them contact the trustees and the presidents," Womack said. "It is not the Oklahoma executive director's job to do that.
"It hurts me to see the fight going on," Womack continued. "It's time to quit."
Prescott's motion failed.
In his address to the convention, Executive Director-Treasurer Anthony Jordan noted that degrading and caustic words that seek to breed contempt and mistrust have no place among Baptists.
"When we disagree, we do not need to discredit or embarrass those on the other side of the issue," Jordan pointed out. "These are actions one finds when the Democrats and Republicans square off. We are not politicians. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. Half-truths and untruths that attack persons rather than issues are a disgrace to the name of our Savior."
Jordan added that one of the most hurtful acts is the attempt to discredit one another in the public forum.
"Baptists have made the headlines far too much because of our disagreements," Jordan noted. "It is time the news media has news to report that Southern Baptists have come together in harmony and love to touch hurting people with the good deeds of love. Oklahoma Baptists have and can continue to set a pace for the rest of the Southern Baptist Convention in displaying unity and love."
Jordan said he doesn't think anyone would question his love of the Book, but that he also loves the Lord Jesus of the Book.
He urged Oklahoma Baptists to go the extra mile and love "even when we aren't loved back."
"Sometimes we Baptists have learned what to hate, but not how to love," Jordan commented. "I'm going to ask conservatives to find someone who disagrees with us and meet over a regular period of time and pray together, not talking about disagreements. We may find we're not as far apart as we think."
Jordan said he wants to urge Oklahoma Baptists to continue on the road less traveled and refuse to be drawn down to the level of a winner-take-all attitude.
"Our convention has been inclusive rather than exclusive," he said. "We have found ways to build bridges instead of walls. As our leader, I intend to do all I can to stir us to love and respect of one another as we seek unity in diversity."
Jordan noted there are four areas that demand careful attention if Oklahoma Baptists are to continue to have maximum impact in our state and world.
He said though his love for Oklahoma and her people has grown exponentially, there are some significant scars on the landscape, such as divorce rates, teen pregnancy, child abuse and other societal ills.
"Our greatest need is for spiritual awakening that would shake the very foundations of every church and individual," he said. "I long to see our churches experiencing the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit and our beloved state filled with the glory of God."
Another area of concern, Jordan said, is Sunday school.
"While worship may be more and more the front door to the church, it is Sunday school that keeps them from walking out the back door," he emphasized. "In 2001, we are going to give focused attention in building on the greatest strength in our local church -- Sunday school."
Jordan noted it would take 229 new churches today just to return to the ratio of churches to population in the 1960s, so every church in Oklahoma should be a part of planting a new church somewhere in the world.
"The passion for planting new, healthy churches must become a part of the Oklahoma Baptist spirit and psyche," he said.
Jordan said this is certainly not the time to pull churches from a cooperative support because of disagreement over certain items in the Cooperative Program budget.
"Oklahoma Baptists have given high priority to mission support at home and abroad through the Cooperative Program," he noted. "Each of the last seven years we have set new records in giving. This has allowed us to make dramatic advancement in our mission efforts in Oklahoma, and pass on to Southern Baptist Convention causes additional resources to fund an ever-expanding response to a needy world.
"We must resist every effort to dilute the Cooperative Program as our means for support of Southern Baptist causes."
Elected as the convention's officers: president, Wendell Lang, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pryor; first vice president, Robert Griffin, pastor of Brookwood Baptist Church, Oklahoma City; second vice president, Walter Mullican, pastor of Portland Avenue Baptist Church, Oklahoma City; and recording secretary, Lonnie Latham, director of missions for the Tulsa Baptist Association. Outgoing President James Robinson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Durant, told messengers as he celebrated his 50th birthday he has been thinking about crossing the finish line.
"I want to finish well," he said.
He noted the contrast in pastor Emmitt Boydstun who died of cancer, and preached up until two weeks before his death, and Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight who was removed from his job the same week Boydstun died.
He said there are three things Baptists need to finish well -- passion, discipline and faith.
"Conservatives have been accused of replacing love for Jesus with a love for the Bible," he said. "If in my zeal for the integrity of the Bible, I have placed anything above my Lord Jesus Christ, I ask your forgiveness."
He said the things Baptists are passionate about -- prayer, family, missions, evangelism, the Word of God -- are because they emanate from Jesus.
"There is no greater thing than knowing the power of the risen life of Jesus," he said. "Oklahoma Baptists, let it not be said of us that we have lost our passion for Jesus Christ. You will hit the finish line in full stride if Jesus is your passion."
Robinson said there is physical discipline, discipline of the mind and discipline of the heart.
"Passion without discipline is dangerous, and discipline without passion is dead," he said.
Faith, he said, is not losing the ability to trust Jesus.
"What I learned most from my dad is to trust Jesus," Robinson said.
He added that God put bookends in his life, with his dad on one end and his son on the other, when he walked into his son's room and told him God was moving the family from Clinton to Durant in his senior year.
"I left my son's room with a new hero in the faith," Robinson said. "My son said, 'Dad, if this is what God wants, we can trust Jesus.'"
In the convention's annual sermon, Lee Cooper, pastor of Prospect Baptist Church, preached on "When God Shows Up," with a text from the book of Joshua.
"When I was growing up, my dad told me life gets tough, and sometimes life can be unfair," Cooper said. "I dismissed all of what he was saying, because I knew I was going to be a preacher, and everyone would fall in line because I was preaching the Word of God.
"But that was before I pastored my first church, before I had children, before indebtedness, before leading people through a church split, before medicine I had to take every day, before my wife was on life support. I found out my daddy was right. Life does get tough."
He said God has promised victory and will show up and do something he has never done before if he needs to.
"We are living beneath our promises," he said. "God has left us with riches, but we are living beneath them because we don't open the Book where his promises are."
Without faith, it is impossible to please God, he said. "When Joshua told the sun to stand still, that was some kind of faith," Cooper said. "When is the last time you asked "God for something more than you can do? When we, as Oklahoma Baptists, decide to move beyond ourselves, we'll see God in miraculous ways."
Keith Russell, former pastor First Baptist Church, Elk City, now at Westside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., told how his church turned around in the last three years.
"We are drowning in a sea of church growth materials," he noted. "The tragedy, even with all these materials, is that most of our churches are still not growing."
He said two years before he went to Westside, the church peaked with 1,700 in Sunday school.
"By the time I moved there in 1997, Sunday school was down to 1,100," he said. "But in the last three years, we have increased to 1,465, and had 300 baptisms last year."
He emphasized the growth didn't happen because of location, because of innovation or changing the message to make it more palatable.
"A church will never change until those who claim the name of Jesus get a burden for their friends to meet Jesus," he said. "We need a conviction that says every person without Jesus is lost, every person who dies lost spends eternity in hell, and the only way anyone gets saved is through Jesus Christ."
The best way to grow a church is through Sunday school, he said.
"Our church is Sunday school driven," he noted. "We see people get saved in Sunday school. We need to get Sunday school off high center, and get it back to winning people."
He added that there is no easy way to grow churches.
"We have to preach the gospel and be unapologetically evangelistic," he emphasized. "Realize that someone is hearing the gospel for the first time, and make it clear. And someone is hearing the gospel for the last time, so make it urgent."
The bottom line, he said, is that without Jesus, we can do nothing.
"The presence of God must be in the place," he said.
In other action:
-- Jordan announced the Falls Creek "For Sake of the Call" campaign has raised $6.5 million toward the $34 million needed before the campaign has officially started.
-- The Native American Task Force reported 240 Indian congregations in the state. Chairman Victor Cope said the findings of the task force will be shared in regional meetings. He asked each church to find a congregation that is different and begin walking together, dedicated to be instruments of reconciliation.
"We have the largest number of Native American churches of any state, and we want to see them strong, healthy and growing," Jordan said. "It's one thing to say we want that, and another to pay the price to do that. My heart cry is we have Native Americans, blacks, Asians all working together. The Oklahoma Baptist family is not middle class white."
-- Indiana Executive Director Charles Sullivan reported Oklahoma's 10-year partnership with Indiana, which will end in 2001, has seen new works begun and the kingdom expanded. There are now 40 Hispanic congregations, the convention will be adding a new catalytic missionary to Hispanic people and the foundation has grown in assets from $150,000 to $750,000.
-- Partnership mission coordinator Rue Scott reported Oklahoma Baptists sent 225 people from 55 churches to minister in Malawi last year. Emmanuel Phiri, former ambassador to Mozambique and Zambia and new president of the Baptist Convention of Malawi, thanked Oklahoma Baptists for their part in the partnership, and said he believes Malawi can be a springboard for the Gospel in other parts of Africa.
-- Bill Agee, director of missions and partnership coordinator in Phoenix, said with the help of Oklahoma Baptists there have been 26 new congregations started in the Phoenix area, professions of faith have increased 152 percent and baptisms are up 150 percent, and there has been a 21 percent growth rate in the churches. Oklahoma has sent 50 groups to work with 100 churches.