The Missouri Mess continued…

A pastor here in Missouri who has proven to be a very effective, although a very sparse, blogger, has outdone himself again. Tom Willoughby, over at Transformational Truth, has written a tremendous piece entitled "A Spin that would make James Carville proud." You can read it at the original location here. I generally do not reproduce articles in their entirety but for the sake of Missouri Baptists, and my interest in this topic, I am going to do so at this time.

A Spin That Would Make James Carville Proud

By Tom Willoughby

Times Which Try Men’s Faith & Character

These are indeed tumultuous times within the Missouri Baptist Convention. As of late, it has been increasingly difficult to remain silent and to trust that truth will prevail via “the system.” Nevertheless, I believe that God is still in control and at the end of the day it will be truth, not fabrication or innuendo that declares the victory. Our state convention finds itself currently in the midst of an internal investigation by a committee appointed by the Executive Board. This committee is charged with investigating the actions of the MBC Executive Director, MBC staff and the MBC Executive Board. I want to state for the records that I believe this committee will fulfill the purpose for which it has been organized because it consists of Godly members who are not out to please a particular side. In the end, I believe they will present their report fairly and accurately regardless of how painful it may be for anyone to hear.

I feel that I need to clarify that point up front because of the way in which statements made by associations and groups as of late have been maligned as “blatant attempts at politicizing and undermining the work of our review committee.”[1] According to the editor of The Pathway, the official newsletter of the Missouri Baptist Convention, in an article which appears on page 1 of the March 6 issue entitled Resolutions show support for state exec; some leaders say action inappropriate, on February 12 the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association Executive Board unanimously passed a resolution of support for Dr. David Clippard and the MBC staff. The motion is quoted in The Pathway as follows:

Whereas, Dr. David Clippard has given innovative leadership to Missouri Baptists and has sought to refocus the attention and resources of our convention on evangelism and missions; and Whereas, Dr. David Clippard has by this leadership brought financial stability to the Missouri Baptist Convention; and Whereas, Dr. Clippard has assembled as outstanding staff to lead Missouri Baptists; and Whereas, Dr. Clippard and the Missouri Baptist Convention staff have been supportive partners with the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association staff; now therefore, be it Resolved that we express our appreciation, encouragement, and support for Dr. Clippard and the Missouri Baptist Convention staff; and be it further Resolved that we encourage all Missouri Baptists to support the leadership of Dr. Clippard and the Missouri Baptist Convention staff.”[2]

That there is an effort to see Dr. Clippard either controlled or removed from office is something that has been discussed for some time and was brought to the attention of the full MBC at the annual meeting in Cape Girardeau last fall by Dr. Gerald Davidson, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church Arnold, and Mitch Jackson, pastor of Miner Baptist Church in Sikeston, both past presidents of the MBC. In light of that information, it is understandable that some associations would feel a sense of urgency in expressing their support of their state staff and Executive Director. One association in central Missouri, Fellowship Baptist, passed a similar resolution last fall before the annual meeting and the Director of Missions requested specifically that their association’s resolution be printed in its entirety in The Pathway. To date that resolution has not seen the light of day. However, it did manage to prompt a small comment by The Pathway editor in a previous issue where the! editor referred to the resolution as having been passed “amid circulating rumors” and that “such speculation proved untrue.”[3]

Spin, Spin, Spin What seems even more troubling than this apparent desire to suppress or dismiss the views of his constituency is the slant from which The Pathway editor consistently writes and seems determined to marginalize any positive remarks concerning the MBC Executive Director and staff. It seems odd that when referring to the resolution passed by the St. Louis Metro Association, the editor is very clear to point out that this associational executive board represents “about 20 percent of the association’s approximately 135 churches and missions” as if to say that the board did not have the right to speak on behalf of every member of the 35,062 member association. This sounds like the rhetoric the liberals used when referring to the consecutive decisions of the MBC annual meeting messengers to move back toward a conservative base. In fact, one wonders from whence such tactics come. Ironically enough in the opening paragraph of the article the editor does not follow the statement ! that such resolutions “may be attempts to undermine the work of an Executive Board-approved committee” with such clarification as the fact that the committee was approved by 29 of the 54 Executive Board members representing 29 of the approximately 2000 Missouri Baptist churches or 29 of the 392,023 resident Missouri Baptists.[4]

The editor does the same thing again with an unprecedented resolution by the Fellowship of Directors of Missions which, according to The Pathway, was approved by “some members” on February 15. He states, “not all MBC leaders agreed with the actions taken by the St. Louis Association or the directors of missions (DOMs).” But since when was it a requirement that “all MBC leaders” needed to agree in order for an association or fellowship to speak its mind. Many Baptists do not require anyone to agree with them before speaking theirs (a rich heritage dating back to John the Baptist). For some reason, there seems to be more interest to The Pathway in finding a few individuals who disagree with the actions of corporate bodies than in simply sharing the actions of those bodies in an impartial and unbiased fashion. It would seem more prudent to operate with journalistic integrity and allow for a free-flowing exchange of perspectives and opinions than to become caught up ! in choosing sides on an issue which will eventually be resolved. But by that point, what damage will have been done to the influence of a paper that has shown an unwillingness to simply, as one past president put it, “print the Good News.”[5]

Perhaps the views of 39,097 resident members and 30 directors of missions who were speaking on behalf of their constituencies is trivial to The Pathway, but I believe that Missouri Baptists are interested in what their fellow Baptists are doing across the state and not about on which side of the political fence one stands. Equally as tragic are the remarks of the Chairman of the Administrative Committee of the Executive Board in essentially making an indictment before hearing the findings of the committee appointed by the Executive Board. He states, “there would be absolutely no reason to do this unless someone has something to hide.”[6] Perhaps this is illustrative of the need for an alternate list of members for the investigative committee which omitted the Administrative Committee. I suppose this type of disputation is what Mr. Moran was referring to when he said before the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that “the Missouri Baptist Convention ! is on the brink of a near civil war.”[7]

Somebody stop this spin and let me off! Throughout the conservative resurgence we said that we were about truth, the total truth of God’s Word. I would suggest that we return to that truth now and allow it to be our guide. If there is a question about someone’s ability to be an effective leader, then let’s allow the proper channels to be utilized in order to either exonerate or else to enlighten us as to what the issues truly are; but let’s refrain from using our state newsletter as a forum for propagandistic spewing that result only in more provocation and less sensibility. These things might make for good print in the tabloids but they have no place in sincere and Christ-like journalism.

Bibliography Palmeri, Allen. “Debate Intensifies Concerning Emerging Church in SBC.” The Pathway 5 Issue 4 (6 March 2007): 1–2. Hinkle, Don. “MBC Exec Board Affirms Clippard, Moran, Nominating Committee.” The Pathway, 25 September 2006. ------. “Resolutions Show Support for State Exec; Some Leaders Say Action Inappropriate.” The Pathway 5 Issue 4 (6 March 2007): 1, 16. [1]. Don Hinkle, “Resolutions Show Support for State Exec; Some Leaders Say Action Inappropriate,” The Pathway 5 Issue 4 (6 March 2007): 16 This comment is attributed to Jay Scribner, Chair of the Administrative Committee of the MBC Executive Board. [2]. Hinkle, “Resolutions,” 1, 16. [3]. Don Hinkle, “MBC Exec Board Affirms Clippard, Moran, Nominating Committee,” The Pathway, 25 September 2006, Online. [4]. These figures come the the 2006 Annual Church Profiles and will be printed in the 2006 MBC Annual. [5]. Challenge given by Jay Scribner during his presidential address to Bill Webb, editor of the MBC newspaper Word & Way, at the MBC annual meeting at Tan-Tar-A Resort 2000. [6]. Hinkle, “Resolutions,” 16. [7]. Allen Palmeri, “Debate Intensifies Concerning Emerging Church in SBC,” The Pathway 5 Issue 4 (6 March 2007): 2.