NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A disgruntled former missions leader for the Southern Baptist Convention assailed the SBC in a speech in Missouri which was immediately called “intemperate” and “bitterness” by SBC leaders.
R. Keith Parks, retired missions leader for the moderate protest group, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and a former head of the SBC’s Foreign Mission Board, claimed conservatives gained control of the SBC through deception, according to the story in the Associated Baptist Press news service.
“This whole takeover was based on deceit, on lying, on cheating,” Parks told CBF-sponsored rallies May 8-11 in Missouri, ABP reported on its Internet site May 18.
SBC leaders were quick to respond.
“Dr. Parks has a well-founded reputation of being unpleasant in his dealings with people he disagrees with — but in this case he is particularly intemperate in his remarks,” said Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee. “It is sad when anyone determines that he can only build up his work by tearing down that of others. Disgruntlement and bitterness spoil a man’s spirit, jades his judgment and sometimes warp his integrity.
“When Dr. Parks was being paid by Southern Baptists, he was an unashamed advocate of the Cooperative Program. After finding new employers, Dr. Parks championed societal giving as though it is a new discovery instead of the tried and rejected thing it is in Baptist history. It now appears he will devote his retirement years to anti-Southern Baptist diatribes in hopes of damaging the Southern Baptist Convention, its work and its people.
“We could wish better for him and for those he wishes to infect with his spirit,” Chapman said.
Many SBC leaders were puzzled by Parks remarks because for many years, both as a missionary in Indonesia and as head of the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board), his salary was paid from Cooperative Program funds given by cooperating Southern Baptist churches. Parks has said in earlier CBF meetings that he changed his mind, that now society-type giving was better than the unified missions approach of the SBC.
Parks spoke for the CBF-aligned Mainstream Missouri Baptists, a moderate group formed to attack state convention leadership controlled by conservatives.
In his remarks Parks charged SBC leaders resort to coercion and control, with rewards for those who do as they’re told, according to the ABP story. Parks described their approach as decisions made on legalism instead of grace. Parks said SBC leaders bragged they had “lied, cheated and deceived” and then Parks added his judgment of the SBC leaders activity: that Satan is the father of lies.
He also said he believes Baptists across the land, if they “really understood what has happened,” would rise in opposition to the convention’s leadership.
SBC leaders, however, point to record Cooperative Program giving for six years in a row, with year-to-date gifts totaling more than $11 million over the SBC budget, and record missionary appointments as an indication the vast majority of Southern Baptists support the direction of the SBC. In addition, SBC leaders said, the number of churches cooperating with the SBC and their membership continue to grow while CBF-related growth appears to have plateaued.
One SBC leader said he was amazed that in a full-page advertisement for Parks’ rallies in the Missouri convention paper, Parks was identified as only the former SBC missions leader and with no identification as the recently retired head of the CBF missions agency.
“That’s the kind of integrity problem which seems to plague the CBF,” the official told Baptist Press.