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 November 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,” new-as-of-August Executive Director Dr. 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.”
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.
Jeremy Westbrook, SCBO Executive Director
“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 November 1, 2020 and October 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 November 14-15, 2022, at Cuyahoga Valley Church in Broadway Heights, part of Metro Cleveland.