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Conservatives in Missouri win top convention posts

ST. LOUIS (BP)–Conservative nominees won the four elected offices of the Missouri Baptist Convention during its 164th annual meeting Nov. 2-4 in St. Louis.
The conservatives’ election was fueled by a “Project 1000” campaign of a conservative group, the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association, although the group did not publicly endorse nominees.
During the meeting, the convention’s new executive director, James L. Hill, was installed, while messengers passed numerous resolutions and passed a $17.5 million budget. A total of 2,995 messengers and visitors were in attendance.
In the convention’s presidential election, Gary Taylor, pastor of First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, received a record 1,282 votes over Bill Miller, pastor of First Baptist Church, Farmington, who received 744. Taylor, a Missouri Baptist pastor for 25 years, is a member of the Missouri convention’s executive board and has served as a trustee for Hannibal-LaGrange College in Missouri and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky. He also is an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City and active in local Baptist association work.
Taylor said he wants to be an encourager to pastors. “I have been the pastor of many different-sized churches, from 10 members to 7,000. … I think I can identify with about any pastor in our state. I want to encourage them, help them and challenge them to reach people for Jesus.”
In other elections, all won by conservative nominees, Jay Scribner, pastor of First Baptist Church, Branson, was elected first vice president over Paul Jarrett, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Columbia, by a 757-469 vote; Bob Curtis, pastor of Ballwin Baptist Church, Ballwin, was unopposed for the second vice presidency; and Kerry Messer, a layman from Bloomsdale Baptist Church, Bloomsdale, and president of the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association, was elected recording secretary in a 521-389 vote over Nina Garrett, a retired state convention employee from Jefferson City.
The Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association “Project 1000” was coordinated by layman Roger Moran, the group’s research director and a businessman from Winfield.
In a two-page flyer about their cause, the association stated, “We are increasingly concerned about the theological and social liberalism inherent within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship [CBF] and the growing influence of the CBF within the Missouri Baptist Convention. … Our desire is to see the leadership of the Missouri Baptist Convention move from a center-left majority that has been willing to tolerate liberalism to a center-right majority whose leadership will reflect a commitment to sound Biblical truth.”
The group’s flyer further stated, “We believe the vast majority of Missouri Baptists are theologically and socially conservative. … Project 1000 is about identifying conservative pastors and conservative Missouri Baptist churches in every association and encouraging those churches to be good stewards of the tithes and offerings they send to the Missouri Baptist Convention. If we are faithful in sending our money to Jefferson City, we should also be faithful in sending our opinions and our convictions in the form of messengers to the annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention.”
The laymen’s group noted that the Missouri convention presidency “still carries with it the power to appoint the committee that in turn nominates those who set the agenda and determine the course of our state convention.”
The group said it will “present our views one on one or in small groups as the Lord gives us opportunity,” arguing that “our state paper, Word & Way, has failed in presenting the conservative side of the conservative/moderate controversy … .”
The group said “the battle belongs to the Lord. As faithful servants of Christ, we will speak the truth in love and remember the Scripture that declares: ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’ (Proverbs 15:1)”
The Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association, in addition to its criticisms of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, has issued flyers targeting the stances of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
In other convention business, Hill was officially installed Monday as MBC executive director during the opening session of the annual meeting. Baptists had the opportunity to learn more about their leader during a video called, “Who is Jim Hill?” The video traced his roots, his call to preach and his years as pastor and church planter for the former Southern Baptist Home Mission Board.
During his address, Hill said, “I can never repay the debt I owe Missouri Baptists. Missouri Baptists stand at a critical juncture in the history of the Missouri Baptist Convention.” He cited statistics showing Missouri Baptist churches have been either “plateauing” or declining in the past 25 years. He noted one of every nine Missourians is a Baptist. He encouraged Baptists to go in a new direction, pointing out a new strategic planning process that will reverse the trend of declining churches.
The convention’s $17.5 million budget for 1999 follows a 1998 budget of $16.4 million. As in recent years, the convention will continue to send 35.75 percent of Cooperative Program receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention’s national and international missions and ministries.
The Tuesday morning session included the annual convention sermon presented by John Swadley, pastor of Forest Park Baptist Church, Joplin. A special multimedia presentation on Missouri Baptist’s partnership with Wyoming and the Republic of Belarus was shown on Tuesday evening. James R. Smith, Missouri Baptist Foundation president, announced during the report Audre Hunn, a member of Charter Baptist Church, Festus, has established a $100,000 endowment fund to provide continuing support for partnership missions.
Other keynote speakers during the meeting included Jerry Cain, president of Judson College, Elgin, Ill., who presented five Bible study/theme interpretation messages; H.K. Neely, dean of Christian studies at Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar; William G. Tanner, former executive director for the Baptist Convention of Oklahoma; and Frank Pollard, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jackson, Miss.
Messengers approved resolutions on a variety of topics, including:
— to ratify, affirm and adopt the resolution on racial inclusion adopted by the executive board of Missouri Baptist Convention;
— to support and pray for the ministry of the Baptist World Alliance, an organization that unites 101 Baptist conventions and unions in more than 200 countries;
— to encourage Missouri Baptist churches to be educated and informed about the needs of hungry people and for hunger-related ministries in the United States and around the world, including observance of the annual World Hunger Day;
— to encourage Missouri Baptist churches to educate and inform their members about the oppression of people around the world related to religious liberty and the persecution of fellow Christian believers. Missouri Baptists also were encouraged to petition government officials to elevate religious liberty concerns;
— to affirm the legitimacy of home-based education and affirm the convictions of parents who choose public and private educational options and commend godly men and women who teach in public and private classrooms.
A motion adopted during the business sessions called for bivocational pastors to be included in serving on various MBC committees and boards.
In other business messengers defeated three motions that would have resulted in changing the convention’s bylaws. One would have limited standing committee members to one three-year term limit. A motion to require a three-fourths majority vote to adopt a resolution failed. The third defeated motion would have required resolution committee members be elected to rotating terms to insure a carryover of membership on the committee.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 1-3 in Kansas City/Liberty.
Reported by Art Toalston & Marty Blankenship.

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