Second Missouri convention slated to launch in April
January 25 2002 by Bill Webb , Editor, Missouri Word and Way

Second Missouri convention slated to launch in April | Friday, Jan. 25, 2002

Friday, Jan. 25, 2002

Second Missouri convention slated to launch in April

By Bill Webb Editor, Missouri Word and Way

SEDALIA, Mo. - About 350 Missouri Baptists representing more than 100 churches laid the groundwork on Jan. 17 for a new state convention.

They agreed to formally launch what is tentatively being called the Baptist Convention of Missouri on either April 18-19 or April 19-20 at Fee Fee Baptist Church in suburban St. Louis.

Saying they had grown weary of factional strife in the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), speakers said the time had come to consider something new.

Plans call for the new convention to relate to the Southern Baptist Convention and commit to the welfare of all nine Missouri Baptist agencies, with particular attention to support the five institutions that were defunded during the MBC annual meeting in October.

The five institutions include: The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist College, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Word and Way, whose decisions to elect their own trustees drew the ire of a strong majority of messengers last fall.

A second state convention in Missouri would bring to three the number of states with separate organizations relating to the SBC. Conservatives formed breakaway conventions in Virginia and Texas, both moderate strongholds. The alternative Missouri convention would be the first for moderates in a state controlled by conservatives.

Speakers described what they view as a growing exclusiveness in MBC life and criticized recent actions to seek legal opinions in an effort that could result in lawsuits against one or more of the five institutions.

Other grievances include the state convention's decision to escrow Cooperative Program and missions offering funds budgeted in 2002 for the five institutions and the unseating of messengers from Second Baptist Church in Liberty.

The meeting featured presentations by host pastor Drew Hill and his brother, Jim Hill. Jim Hill resigned as MBC executive director last year, saying he opposed defunding the institutions and would not be a part of proposed legal action against them. "The only reason Baptists should form a new convention in Missouri is if they believe it is the will of God," he said.

Other speakers, who described themselves as lifelong Missouri Baptists, gave testimonies under the title "Why I would consider becoming a part of a new Baptist state convention."

Randy Fullerton, pastor of Fee Fee Church in Bridgeton, lamented the rancor at the MBC annual meeting. "The world looked at us last fall," he said, and couldn't see any difference between messengers and themselves. "I don't recognize the Missouri Baptist Convention anymore. That's why we must begin a new convention."

H.K. Neely, vice president for denominational relations at Southwest Baptist University, called for a convention (1) "that is willing to represent all Missouri Baptists;" (2) "that understands the nature of Baptist cooperation;" (3) "that recognizes the nature of Baptist confessions of faith;" (4) "that understands the relationship between conventions and agencies;" and (5) "just to do the work."

Bill Miller, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmington, said he was concerned that if a church sends funds to the MBC with instructions that the money is to go to all the budgeted entities with nothing escrowed, those funds are classified as "designated" gifts and are not counted as part of the Cooperative Program unified budget.

"When Cooperative Program giving is not called Cooperative Program giving by the entity that receives it, then that spells the beginning of the end of the Cooperative Program," he said.

Miller also expressed concern that the MBC nominating committee rejected a respected member of his church for re-election to a Missouri Baptist board position.

Questions surfaced regarding the new convention's proposed relationship with the SBC and whether Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) churches would be included.

"As far as cooperating with the SBC, we're not all on the same page," Drew Hill acknowledged. Citing a respect for local church autonomy, he said, "There are many, many Missouri Baptist churches that are committed deeply to the SBC."

"In order for a new convention to really honor our heritage and history, two kinds of people in our churches are going to have to be willing to come together," he said. "Churches who have gone through the process of pulling from the SBC would have to be respectful of the others" and vice-versa.

"What matters is the kingdom," he said. "What matters is reaching our state."

Fullerton added, "We're Southern Baptist. That's who we are."

Jim Hill predicted some churches that relate to CBF would be interested in the new convention and others would not. He and others said they did not necessarily feel that churches should be excluded from participation in a new convention on the basis of where they send their money.

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1/25/2002 12:00:00 AM by Bill Webb , Editor, Missouri Word and Way | with 0 comments
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