Missouri Baptist newspaper adopts self-perpetuating board
October 26 2001 by Bob Allen and Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press

Missouri Baptist newspaper adopts self-perpetuating board | Friday, Oct. 26, 2001

Friday, Oct. 26, 2001

Missouri Baptist newspaper adopts self-perpetuating board

By Bob Allen and Robert Marus Associated Baptist Press JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Trustees of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) news journal Word and Way have voted to become a self-perpetuating board, claiming a polarized political atmosphere among the state's Southern Baptists jeopardizes the paper's mission of providing a free press. The vote, finalized by a telephone poll Oct. 19, means that the board will no longer be elected by the state Convention. Trustees will instead elect their own successors.

Word and Way is the fifth Missouri Baptist agency to move to a self-perpetuating board in just over a year to prevent takeover by conservatives now in control of the Convention's leadership-nomination process.

The Convention's executive director, Jim Hill, resigned Oct. 4, saying he could not work with conservatives about to gain a majority on the MBC executive board.

While several Southern Baptist institutions, primarily colleges, have declared independence from sponsoring state conventions to distance themselves from political pressure, the 105-year-old Word and Way is the first denominational newspaper to take the step.

In a statement made public Oct. 23, trustee chairman Bob Johnston said the decision to amend the paper's charter followed "months of prayerful study and deliberation."

"Increasingly, the trustees came to believe that the mission of providing a free press for all Missouri Baptists was in jeopardy," Johnston's statement said.

That conclusion was supported, Johnston said, when the MBC nominating committee declined to nominate four Word and Way trustees eligible for re-election, even though three met the committee's announced criteria. Nominations for their replacements came without input from current trustees.

"As a journal for all Missouri Baptists, and not just a select group, Word and Way must stay true to its mission of providing Missouri Baptists with information that is accurate, free of distortion and helpful in decision making," the statement said. "Word and Way has a long history of carrying out this mission, and it is the intention of those serving to keep the paper on track."

Editor Bill Webb, who has been criticized by fundamentalist leaders, said editorial freedom, and not protecting current staff and trustees, was the board's main concern.

In an editorial in the paper's current issue, Webb said the change was neither an "anti-MBC" nor "anti-SBC" decision.

Webb said the paper desires "to remain an integral part of Missouri Baptist life." He said Word and Way would continue to support the Cooperative Program, and that trustees hoped the convention would continue to fund the paper through its unified budget.

Word and Way is slated to receive $450,000 in a 2002 Cooperative Program budget being proposed at Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting Oct. 29-31.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Tim Palmer of Word and Way contributed to this story.)

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10/26/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen and Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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