Well, the political jockeying continues in the Missouri Baptist Convention. Today the following letter was released. As I said before, I am unfamiliar with any of the candidates set forth and am just looking forward to attending my first MBC, however in the sense of fairness I will post it just as I posted the press release from the “other side”. I believe that this will be the last publication I will post dealing with the MBC unless something incredible just comes my way. I am simply becoming a bit disenfranchised with the political side of life in the MBC. Oh well, here goes.
Save Our Convention?
Baptist are, after all, an intriguing lot. Bible believing, strongly conservative, Missouri Baptists struggled for years to reclaim the Missouri Baptist Convention from those who no longer emphasized the inerrancy and infallibility of Holy Scripture. Many good Pastors and Laymen suffered isolation, rejection, and marginalization because they aligned themselves with others of like conviction to challenge the status quo and bring about meaningful change. Many of us felt that real change would not occur, but it did.
Through God’s grace and prevenient mercy, these strong conservative folks ware able to bring genuine revolution and revitalization to Baptist life, even throughout the Southern Baptist Convention. In Missouri, we were the first state convention of Baptists to reclaim our executive board and staff. The price tag high; there were many wounded; and five of our state institutions were stolen before conservatives could gain access to boards of trustees. In asking the civil courts to determine who actually owns these entities, we have become embroiled in lengthy and expensive litigation.
We also demonstrated a lack of wisdom by bringing leaders into our state who had good intentions, but did not fully comprehend the history and inner dynamics of the situation. I do believe these men had good intentions but were overwhelmed by the complexities of a very fragile, as well as loose knit, coalition of conservative leadership.
The results have been regrettable. I feel badly for Dr. David Clippard and others who have paid the price for our lack of wisdom. Even though I am aware that they are fully responsible for what ultimately took place, I also believe that such an outcome may have been inevitable no matter who would have been put Into positions of leadership. Remember, the Liberal/Moderate group left us with a mess.
In 2002,I was put on the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board to serve out an unexpired term, My election to the board sent shock-waves throughout our state. Within days of the first meeting I attended, nine Liberal/Moderate members of the board resigned. One of them commented to me, “If you are now a member of this board, the battle for the convention is over.” In just a short time later, a search committee brought a recommendation to a special called meeting of the board to hire a new executive director. The board voted to call David Clippard. Many of us were uneasy with the timing and the process, but we had no apparent reason not to move ahead. In retrospect, I wish I had been more vocal about my own concerns.
Within days we were faced with a real crisis. While our books showed significant cash reserves, in reality, we did not have the money to move our new Executive Director onto the field. Through a series of convention and board actions, previous convention leadership had made a series of loans, transfers, and expenditures which literally stripped the convention of its reserves. It Is my own belief that these leaders were attempting to prevent the convention from asking for a legal judgment on ownership of the five renegade agencies. Certainly, we were left in a precarious financial situation. We had no Idea how were going to fund any legal action.
The next year, I was placed on the MBC Executive Board Administrative Committee. In the spring of 2006,I served on an annual review committee to evaluate our Executive Director. Convention by-laws call for an annual evaluation of all staff. An appointed Executive Board committee evaluates the Executive Director each year. In these positions, I had access to the developing conflict which arose between David Clippard, Roger Moran and some members of the Executive Board. From that vantage point, I want to comment on the “Save Our Convention” movement new afoot among some Missouri Baptist Convention.
First, there is no need to ‘save’ the Missouri Baptist Convention. There is no secretive ‘good ole’ boy’ network that controls Missouri Baptist life. Baptists are notoriously independent. Getting conservative Baptists even to agree on anything is like herding cats.
Second, I do not know of any Executive Board member who has been overtly influenced to do anything. When I served on the board, people from all across our state called me and offered their opinions on a wide variety of issues. Virtually all of them wanted to tell me what they though I should do. I have the same experience as a Pastor. I listened to each one and tried to be kind. Then I did exactly what I had prayerfully determined to do.
Third, every member of the executive Board, at least while I serve, seemed thoughtful and sought to be well informed. None walked in lock-step with any particular group. I believe they were mature and prayerful Christians who sought to do the right thing. I sometimes questioned their judgment, but never their integrity.
Fourth, Roger Moran is not the devil. Roger is a good man with a heart to do the right thing. He is also a gifted researcher, organizer, and advocate. Roger and I have not always agreed. But I have a deep respect for this good man. We own him much for helping the conservative movement. We should not turn on him because we fear his influence.
Fifth, we need to love and trust each other. The liberal/Moderate brethren are rejoicing in our division. They are convinced that those of us who are conservative in our theology will ultimately turn on each other and destroy our own movement. We must prove them wrong.
Finally, we should be aware of false teaching in our midst. Conservatives are not immune from the influence of fad Christianity. We must hold to the old truths of our faith rooted in solid biblical exposition. We must also hold ourselves to a higher standard morally and ethically. We must strive for genuine righteousness combined with compassionate service. We must proclaim the Gospel to the lost with great intensity. And in the midst of it all, we must be kindly affectionate towards one another.
Dear friend, let us have a great Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting in Tan-Tar-A on October 29-31. Let us lift up every local church in love and commit ourselves to live humbly at the foot of the cross.
God Bless You,
Pastor, Heartland Baptist Church