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CBF, Mainstream leaders fill leadership of new convention

ST. LOUIS (BP)–A former board member of Mainstream Missouri Baptists, an organization critical of the Southern Baptist Convention, was elected president of the new Baptist General Convention of Missouri, a group that says it wants to cooperate with the SBC.

Richard Lionberger of Savannah, Mo., was unanimously elected president of the new convention during its organizational meeting April 19-20 at the St. Louis-area Fee Fee Baptist Church.

Lionberger, a former board member of the now-defunct Mainstream Missouri Baptists, led his church to reduce Cooperative Program giving by 50 percent in 2000 and allowed members of his church to send money directly to Mainstream Missouri Baptists and the CBF, according to the March 2001 issue of a Mainstream publication.

Owen Taylor of St. Louis was elected vice president of the group and Sondra Allen was elected secretary.

Noting their frustration with what they called denominational politics, about 350 Missouri Baptists gathered at the BGCM’s organizational meeting. Registration officials said they were not sure how many of the 350 were actually voting messengers and how many were observers.

Randy Fullerton, pastor of Fee Fee Baptist Church, presided over the meeting. Organizers originally expected hundreds of participants. More than 300 chairs set up in an overflow room were left unused.

“This is going to be a convention for people who don’t want to fight anymore,” Fullerton said in his opening remarks.

He said the new convention expects to provide financial support to the SBC. However, SBC Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman has indicated that he will recommend against doing the same with the BGCM, noting that it is in competition with the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Just how supportive the new convention will be to the SBC remains unclear. During one business session, Paul Powell, a member of Third Baptist Church in St. Louis, called for removing the SBC funding portion of the budget.

“It’s almost for sure we are going to be rejected by the SBC,” he said. “I think many of us here are tired of being kicked around by the fundamentalists.

“I think a lot of us are disappointed we are not making the statement we need to be making,” Powell added. “I really regret that the incorporators are asking us to support something we don’t want to support.”

The new convention also featured a number of Mainstream Missouri Baptists and CBF participants.

Glen Haddock, Charles Davis and Martin Barker, three Mainstream board members, were elected to the BGCM’s board of directors, along with Nan Olmsted, a former member of the Missouri Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Coordinating Council.

Charles Wade, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, was a featured speaker for the convention. Wade, who spoke about Baptist history, told Baptist Press he welcomed the opportunity to work with the new convention.

“I’m really puzzled about why the Southern Baptist Convention has turned its back on this new convention,” Wade said. “Why has the SBC isolated them?”

The BGCT, Wade said, “has always partnered with everyone and we would be open to working with them.” In recent months, however, the BGCT has been critical of the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas, a group of pro-SBC churches that broke away from the more moderate BGCT. Since 1998, more than 1,000 churches have joined the conservative convention.

Wade said the situations are different. “These Missouri churches felt pushed away … ,” Wade said. “In Texas, we did not push them out.”

Wade wasn’t the only individual with ties to the CBF present at the Missouri meeting. Also seen at the meeting were:

— Mike Olmsted, pastor of University Heights Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., a prominent Missouri CBF congregation. Olmsted served on the Missouri CBF Coordinating Council.

— Rudy Pulido, pastor of Southwest Baptist Church in St. Louis and longtime president of the St. Louis chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

— George Noble, CBF regional representative in charge of pastoral placement.

— Bart Tichenor, former Missouri CBF moderator.

— Harold Philips, coordinator of the Missouri CBF.

— Harlan Spurgeon, former associate coordinator of the national CBF.

— Cynthia Holmes, former Missouri CBF moderator, Americans United trustee and national CBF Coordinating Council member.

— John Hughes, former national CBF Coordinating Council member.

— Pete Hill, former CBF national Coordinating Council member and brother of former MBC Executive Director Jim Hill.

— Doyle Sager, former president of Mainstream Missouri Baptists.

— Scott Shaver, former coordinator in Louisiana for Mainstream Baptists

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes