The Death of Oscar Romo

The Baptist Press is reporting that Oscar Romo, the former Director of Ethnic Evangelism for the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, died on January 16, 2009, at the age of 79.

The following is an excerpt of the press release published by the Baptist Press:

CUMMING, Ga. (BP)–Oscar I. Romo, a pioneer in ethnic evangelism and church planting for the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board), died Friday, Jan. 16, of pneumonia related to Parkinson’s disease.

A memorial service for Romo, who was two weeks shy of his 80th birthday, was held at John’s Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Ga., on Monday, Jan. 19. Featured speakers included Fermin Whittaker, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention.

Two years ago, during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio, Romo was honored by Hispanic Southern Baptists for his nearly 50 years of strategy development and work with ethnic groups, dating back to his first pastorate in 1948 until his retirement from the mission board in 1995.

I worked with Oscar Romo while I served as pastor of Spanish-speaking churches in California and as a missionary with the Portuguese and Brazilians in San Francisco. My association with Romo dates back to 1966 when I began working with the Home Mission Board; it lasted until 1978 when I moved to Kentucky to attend The Southern Baptist Seminary.

Romo was a visionary leader who opened the doors to hundreds of young leaders to study, to be trained, and to serve in ethnic ministries. With Romo’s help, I was able to finish my college and seminary education while serving as a pastor and as a missionary.

Oscar Romo had a vision for ethnic evangelism and he believed that educated leaders could make a difference in the Southern Baptist Convention. In 1968, when the Southern Baptist Convention met in Houston, Texas, I made a motion from the floor of the Convention, that the Southern Baptist Convention elect more ethnic pastors and leaders to serve on the Boards and Committees of the Convention.

The motion was defeated, but Romo told me that the motion alone would move the Convention to elect more ethnic pastors and leaders to its Boards and Conventions. He was right; today many ethnic leaders serve in various positions within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Oscar Romo leaves a great legacy behind. This legacy is present in the lives of leaders he trained and in the ministries of the many churches he helped organize.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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