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$2.1M to be escrowed if Mo. entities retain independent trustee boards

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (BP)–Messengers to the Missouri Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly Oct. 30 to escrow $2.1 million allocated in the 2002 budget for five Missouri Baptist Convention entities in which trustee boards had voted in the past 13 months to become self-perpetuating.

The action was prompted by growing fear among Missouri Baptists who perceive the trustee votes as attempts to shift control of the entities from the state convention. Those concerns have been heightened amid rumors of a new state convention being formed by moderates and liberals affiliated with Mainstream Missouri Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri.

The five entities are The Baptist Home for senior adults, Windermere Conference Center, Missouri Baptist College, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, and Word & Way, the state’s weekly newsjournal.

“It is clear that these self-perpetuating boards want the money of Missouri Baptists, but they have rejected the will and authority of the messengers representing hundreds of Missouri Baptist churches,” said David Sheppard, pastor of the First Baptist Church of St. Charles. Sheppard, who resigned as a trustee at Missouri Baptist College after the trustees voted Aug. 23 to become self-perpetuating, made his comments while offering an amendment to the budget that messengers ultimately approved by more than a 3-1 margin.

Sheppard’s amendment stated that funding would not be restored until the trustees of the five entities agreed to rescind their actions and return trustee selections to the MBC. Any other institution to create a self-perpetuating board would face the same consequences.

“None of us want to divorce or defund any of these entities,” Sheppard said. “However, neither do we want to support those who have so brazenly broken the rules, denied our votes and ignored our pleas.”

Some trustees have defended their action, citing liability concerns for their institutions. Others, like Randy Fullerton, trustee chairman at Missouri Baptist College, cited concern over the current political climate in the MBC as another reason for the trustee action.

Messengers approved a $20 million budget beginning in January 2002. Approximately $7.1 million — 35.75 percent of the budget is earmarked for SBC causes, the same percentage as the current year. About $12.8 million — or 64.25 percent – is designated for MBC ministries. If the self-perpetuating boards of the five entities are not rescinded by January, then the money for those will be escrowed. At that time $400,000 will be withheld from The Baptist Home; $150,000 will be withheld from Windermere; $950,000 from Missouri Baptist College; $200,000 from the Missouri Baptist Foundation and $450,000 from Word & Way.

In a separate, but related vote, messengers by a 3-1 margin rejected a proposed covenant agreement between the MBC and The Baptist Home. Under the covenant agreement, The Baptist Home board would have continued to be elected by its own board members and receive $400,000 annually from the MBC. In return, The Baptist Home would agree to give consideration to trustee recommendations by the MBC and other Missouri Baptists.

Bob Curtis, pastor of Ballwin Baptist Church, Ballwin, was elected over Martin Barker, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, Marceline, by a margin of 71 to 25 percent. Curtis, the fourth consecutive conservative to be elected to the presidency, received 1,486 votes to Barker’s 517. Barker was honored the evening of Oct. 30 at a Mainstream Missouri Baptists’ fundraising dinner attended by about 120 people.

In other votes, messengers by a 3-1 margin supported a credentials committee recommendation to unseat about 10 messengers from Second Baptist Church of Liberty. The committee ruled that Second Baptist was in violation of Article Four of the MBC constitution that requires members to be affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention as well as the MBC. The church voted earlier this year to end its affiliation with the SBC.

Second Baptist’s pastor, Steve Graham, appealed the committee’s recommendation to the entire convention, saying the church desired to remain affiliated with the MBC and is “in sympathy” with much of the MBC’s ministries.

However credentials committee chairman David Tolliver responded by saying, “You must be an SBC church to be an MBC church.”

Following the vote, Second Baptist messengers walked to the front of the convention floor and turned in their credentials.

In a matter related to the Word & Way, messengers were informed that the journal’s managing editor, Tim Palmer, had resigned in disagreement with the trustees’ self-perpetuating vote and in a desire to spend more time with his family. After his resignation on Nov. 8, he will take a job with Jefferson City Public Schools.

In a statement carried in the Word & Way, Palmer said, “I owe my education, my family, my livelihood for many years and, most important, my assurance of salvation to cooperating Baptists. It breaks my heart to see it all unraveling.”

Messengers are scheduled to vote Oct. 31 on a variety of motions. One would instruct the president and executive board to seek a legal opinion on self-perpetuating boards. Another would authorize the hiring of three full-time staff people for a Christian Life Commission, including an executive director and legislative liaison.

Messengers also will consider a collection of resolutions including one dealing with terrorism.

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  • Don Hinkle