Oklahoma CBF celebrate excellence

The Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma honored four ministers for decades of outstanding achievement during its 2018 Celebration of Excellence banquet in Oklahoma City Oct. 21.

CBF Oklahoma presented its annual Celebrating Excellence Awards to:

• Jeni Cook Furr, a native of Enid and longtime chaplain who became the first woman to serve as the national director of the Chaplains Service for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

• Linda Hood Hicks, a charter member of CBF Oklahoma, three-time member of its coordinating council, former editor of its newsletter, and longtime assistant to the pastor of First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

• Jacqueline Norris Jemison, first lady of St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, leader of the Oklahoma Lupus Board and administrator at the University of Central Oklahoma.

• Major Jemison, senior pastor of the 2,500-member St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, former president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, and a leader in the Baptist World Alliance.

Keynote speaker Molly Marshall told “a testimony … of a young woman from Muskogee, Okla., who has lived through some interesting times in Baptist life.” Marshall grew up in eastern Oklahoma, graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and taught at that seminary until the then-new fundamentalist administration forced her out. Now, she is president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

Marshall told the audience, “You know it’s your vocation if …”

• “It summons your true self.”

She reported being “a church mouse at First Baptist Church in Muskogee” and sensing a call to ministry as a 14-year-old, even though she did not have women role models for ministry.

Through the years, however, “a calling to ministry has been a claim of grace on my life,” she said.

• “It has dimensions of paschal mystery,” or the passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus, and the work Jesus came to accomplish on earth.

Marshall described her unrest “about the role of women in the church” as a teen and young woman. She told about men who thought she should not pursue a Master of Divinity degree and about how, after she received or Doctor of Philosophy degree, she sent 120 letters to every Baptist college and seminary, but none wanted her as a teacher.

Then, after President Roy Honeycutt hired her at Southern Seminary, students taped her lectures and sent them to leaders of the group then taking control of the Southern Baptist Convention. She talked about her ouster at Southern Seminary and, later, wondering if she could love her new school, Central Seminary, as much as she had loved Southern.

“If there is no suffering in our vocation, we are not following Jesus enough,” she insisted.

• “It brings you joy.”

“The grace with which I have been lavished brings me great joy,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s not easy being first,” she added, but noted she has exulted in the kinship she has felt with two other female Baptist seminary presidents, Lillian Lim at Asia Baptist Theological Seminary and Linda McKinnish Bridges at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

Banquet participants also celebrated the recent calling of four pastors to CBF churches in the state—Becky Jackson to Northwest Baptist Church in Ardmore, Bob Searl to Spring Creek Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Sarah Stewart to First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and Jakob Topper to NorthHaven Church in Norman.

Jay Pritchard