Next week, Nov. 12-13, messengers from across Oklahoma will come together at Moore, First for the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). This annual family reunion of Baptists has taken place each year since 1906.
The first meeting of the BGCO took place in Shawnee. Bob Ross, in his history of the BGCO, The Two Become One, tells the exciting story. In 1906, statehood was eminent. The unifying of Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory was placed on the fast track to become a brand new state through passage of the Enabling Act by Congress. In this historical context, Baptists from the Oklahoma and Indian territorial conventions determined they would set the pace.
On Nov. 8, 1906, messengers from both conventions met in Shawnee. The messengers from the Oklahoma Baptist State Convention met at the First Methodist Church and the messengers from the Baptist General Convention of Indian Territory met in the First Baptist Church. In each convention, resolutions of consolidation were passed; negotiations and groundwork for one new convention were made. Each convention was to meet separately the next day to disband the individual conventions in preparation for a marriage to take place.
At 10 a.m., Nov. 9, 1906, messengers from each group met at First Methodist Church. Four hundred men walked in pairs—one from the Indian Territory Convention and one from the Oklahoma Territory Convention. They marched to the Shawnee Opera House where a crowd of 200 was waiting. Together everyone stood and sang “Bless Be the Tie That Binds.” Ross suggests it must have been an electric and emotional moment. No doubt about it. Thus was the beginning of this great convention—the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. The marriage ceremony had been completed.
The heart of the convention of churches from the beginning was the propagation of the Gospel in Oklahoma and around the world. Baptists of Oklahoma saw very early that “we can do more together than alone.” Baptists are at our best when we contribute and cooperate together.
The annual meeting has always been a time to take care of business, celebrate “together” victories, and envision a “together” future. These meetings have always been punctuated with exhilarating music and dynamic preaching. So, each meeting has spice added to the business through worship.
These gatherings are like family reunions. Pastors and laity have opportunity to fellowship together. Each year, the convention is surrounded by special conferences like the Pastors’ Conference and the women’s Missions Celebration. One of my favorite events is a dinner given in honor of retired missionaries from Oklahoma who have served in the United States and abroad. What a thrill to engage these great heroes of the faith.
While messengers are given the privilege of voting, all Oklahoma Baptists are welcomed to attend the annual meeting. You are a part of the family and we want you to join us at the reunion.