Oklahoma Baptists Prepare 100 Year Anniversary

Sunday, November 12th 2006, 2:59 pm

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Oklahoma's Southern Baptists plan to celebrate a Centennial Reunion on Tuesday at the First Baptist Church of Del City, a recognition of the religion's first 100 years in Oklahoma.

The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma was formed November 9, 1906, when members agreed to become ``dually aligned'' with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Northern Baptist Convention, said the Rev. Robert L. Ross, author of the book, ``The Two Became One: The Story of Oklahoma Southern Baptists.''

The Southern convention prevailed around 1914, when Oklahoma Baptists, flush with an influx of Southerners from other states, decided against dual alignment, Ross said.

The Southern Baptists in Oklahoma are known for many things, including the popular Falls Creek Youth Camp near Davis, its dedication to missions and disaster relief efforts.

Ross, 70, said the faith group has persevered to grow from 882 churches and 40,617 members in 1906 to 1,700 churches representing 750,000 people across the state.

He said in addition to promoting godly values and challenging perceived immorality, Southern Baptists were among those instrumental in Oklahoma entering into the United States as a prohibition state and remaining one of the last states to repeal Prohibition (in 1959).

``Obviously Oklahoma Baptists have always stood for moral values,'' Ross said. ``We're remembered for what we are against, but we should be remembered what we are for.''

Historian Bob Blackburn, Oklahoma Historical Society executive director, said half of the people who participated in the 1889 Land Run came from the South, and many were Southern Baptists. He said following their Southern tradition, Baptist migrants quickly established churches in their new home.

Ross said Oklahoma Baptists are a ``good fit'' with the state's pioneering spirit.

``The populace movement to Oklahoma really fit into the Baptist way of doing things,'' Ross said. ``It was a 'people's movement.' We are a church of the people, a congregational movement rather than hierarchical.''

Marlin Hawkins, the convention's historical secretary, said Baptists from other states have visited Oklahoma and often congratulated the state's Southern Baptists on their leadership and their cooperative spirit.

Hawkins, 71, said those two things will benefit the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma as it plans for the future.

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