February 15, 2003
Using the example of Oklahoma Baptist forefather Cortez Stubblefield, Oklahoma Baptist University President Mark Brister challenged OBU students to be forces of unity in their spheres of influence.
Speaking at the annual OBU Founders' Day Chapel, Dr. Brister told students of the "John Wayne / Jesus cowboy" who left his comfort zone to become a Baptist pioneer and a unifying force wherever he went.
Stubblefield Chapel, a small church structure on the campus of OBU, should remind students of the turn-of-the-20th century pioneer's resolve, Brister said.
Stubblefield, as an active layman in church, came under the influence of Dr. B.H. Carroll, the first president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"Carroll challenged Cortez Stubblefield to live faithfully for Jesus Christ," Brister said. "He finally yielded to the voice of conscience and 15 children later, he went through a midlife crisis and devoted himself to the ministry."
In doing so, Stubblefield carried with him some of his background as a straightforward cattle drover, using vivid, but not crude language. That drew the admiration of the hearty souls of the farmers and businessmen in what was then Indian Territory, said Brister.
Stubblefield became pastor of a Baptist church in Ardmore in the late 1880s, and saw the church grow to 159 members in 1895.
In 1899 Stubblefield was appointed general missionary for the entire territory, overseeing and coordinating the work of more than 40 missionaries in the Indian Territory. During the ensuing year, Stubblefield visited 57 churches, preached 363 sermons, held 71 prayer meetings, made 132 religious visits, baptized 124 people, wrote 520 letters and collected $432.57 on the field.
In 1898 was instrumental in bringing two Baptist mission agencies together to help the territory, as he and others met in South McAlester to plan a dual alignment whereby both groups would contribute to the work.
"It was important to Cortez Stubblefield that Baptists work together," Brister said. "He worked to find the common ground in the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Through the 1898 agreement, churches could be aligned with either the Northern or Southern Baptist conventions, but would act together through a single territorial convention.
There was still work to be done in the unification process, said Brister, and Stubblefield would prove to be a driving force in bringing about the necessary cooperation.
While serving as a pastor in Durant, Stubblefield continued work as a territorial leader. In 1906, as Oklahoma moved toward statehood, Baptists arranged to meet in Shawnee to dissolve their separate entities and join together in a single Oklahoma convention. Stubblefield was placed on a committee to write a constitution for the new convention. On Nov. 10, 1906, the two sides joined as the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Stubblefield would go on to pastor in Ada and serve as the convention's president. Under his leadership, the BGCO became a Southern Baptist entity and Oklahoma Baptist University was born.
Cortez and Mrs. Stubblefield worked OBU through its early growing pains, assisting students, said Brister. At the age of 68, the Oklahoma Baptist pioneer became pastor of a church in Miami.
Whether his battles were political or spiritual, Stubblefield worked not to conquer but to unify, Brister said.
"He was fearless to follow Christ," Brister said. "His courage impressed people. He knew that he was teamed with God, and in that confidence he found power."
When Stubblefield died at the age of 89, he was mourned publicly and his family prayed for by the state's leadership. "He was mourned when he died," Brister said.
"When you were born you cried and others smiled. My challenge to you is to live your life in a way that when you die, you will smile and others will cry."
Brister then challenged the students to live out the legacy of Stubblefield.
"When you walk past that little white church on the OBU campus and see the plaque that says Stubblefield Chapel, remember what it stands for," said Brister.
"It stands for fellowship with other believers that brought OBU into existence. It stands for the leadership to build bridges in lasting partnerships. It stands for statesmanship to speak the truth in love in a way that endures beyond your years here at Bison Hill. It speaks of the stewardship to build companionship with Christ so much so that others will want to and will share in His citizenship.
"Most of all it stands for a healthy, contagious relationship with Christ proving our service by lasting workmanship that outlives us."
OBU, founded in 1910, offers nine bachelor's degree programs, with 77 majors. The university, situated on its 189-acre Bison Hill campus, had 1,851 students enrolled for the 2002-03 academic year. OBU also offers a master's degree program in marriage and family therapy.