Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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Until the appearance of the first issue of the Baptist Messenger on May 15, 1912, Oklahoma Baptists had been informed of church news and denominational affairs by several short-lived organs, including the Cherokee Messenger, published in 1844-46, and the Indian Missionary, current in 1886-91. By the twentieth century most of the state's Baptists read the Texas Baptist Standard. Privately published in Oklahoma City, the Baptist Messenger was owned and edited by Clarence P. Stealey, a minister from Washington, D.C., who had settled in Oklahoma in 1909. A weekly, the Messenger consisted of sixteen pages and included agricultural news, humor, and retail advertising. Soon, however, it came to represent the doctrinal views and policies of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO).

In 1919 the BGCO purchased the organ, which at that time maintained a circulation of approximately five thousand. With the additional promotion and administration provided by the denomination, by 1920 circulation grew to approximately eighty-five hundred. Stealey remained as editor for almost a decade. In the late 1920s, however, he took some controversial editorial positions in the antievolution movement and was removed by the state convention's board of directors. In the meantime, in 1924 the Messenger had moved into the BGCO's new, three-story Baptist Building in Oklahoma City at 223½ Northwest First, home also of the Messenger Book House, which sold books and tracts published by the Messenger and other presses.

Stealey was succeeded by Eugene C. Routh, whose tenure lasted into 1943 and who tripled readership. Successive editors reached a larger and larger constituency, with the paper distributed as a benefit of church membership and through outside subscriptions. In 1954 the OGCB and the editorial and administrative staff of twelve moved to a new Baptist Building at 1141 North Robinson. By 2000 the Baptist Messenger had been in continuous publication for nearly a century. With editorial offices housed at the BGCO headquarters at 3800 North May Avenue in Oklahoma City, the newspaper reached approximately ninety thousand.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. M. Gaskin, "Baptist Messenger," in Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, Vol. 1 (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1958). J. M. Gaskin, Baptist Milestones in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Messenger Press, 1966). Eugene C. Routh, The Story of Oklahoma Baptists (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Baptist General Convention, 1932).

Dianna Everett

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