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MBLA leader reflects on defeat

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. (BP)–Gerald Davidson “has a very strong presence in the room, and I think people appreciate that greatly.”

The compliment was voiced by Kerry Messer, president of the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association -– the organization whose nominees were roundly defeated by Davidson and three other “Save Our Convention” candidates during the election of officers at the Missouri Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. Davidson, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Arnold, garnered 68.4 percent of the 1,213 votes cast in unseating the convention’s incumbent president, Mike Green, while the other three nominees on Davidson’s slate won by similar margins.

The defeated nominees include Roger Moran, founder of the MBLA, whose “Project 1000” campaign had garnered a string of unopposed victories for the convention’s top offices in recent years, and Jay Scribner, a former MBC president and retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Branson.

Messer, in an interview with The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention, credited Davidson, a former MBC president and former Southern Baptist Convention first vice president, as having “the influential personality and demeanor to set the stage for how [the convention’s] executive board operates.” Davidson, as convention president, also will serve as chairman of the MBC executive board chairman.

“He is clearly a thermostat in a room…. As a result, when it comes to bridge-building” -– leading the convention out of a time of turbulence –- “he is the major builder who can determine how many lanes will be on the bridge and the directions they flow,” Messer said.

The Save Our Convention slate may reflect “a new trend of challenges from multiple candidates,” Messer said, noting, “This can be a healthy trend. For the last several years the MBLA offered endorsements because so many folks kept asking for reassurance of candidates during a season of uncertainty following some historically dramatic experiences. Our legal task force report [on the efforts to regain five entities that broke away from the convention] even this year once again reminds us of how far we’ve come.”

Messer was a bit philosophical about the turn of events at this year’s MBC annual meeting.

“We just came through a convention where there were some tensions over elections,” he said. “Since going through the major stresses and strains the convention’s gone through, transitioning from the [former MBC executive director] Jim Hill administration to today, there have been tensions. The MBC is a large institution in which tensions will always wax and wane, but for the last several years we have enjoyed conventions without challenges for elected officers. In fact, the point that there weren’t challenges has become a big question, and it carried with it concerns from some people whether that was healthy.

“Today we look to the future. As issues of concern continue to come and go, and sometimes come back again, the health of our convention will always be in a state of flux,” Messer said. “The true measure of our health at any given point in time can only be measured by the Lord. It is spiritual measure. If we are to be healthy, today or tomorrow, we must yield to His examination under the standard of His plumb line. As temporal beings, this can only be accomplished through the accountability of continued, open and transparent dialogue over whatever issues we are confronted with.

“I have high expectations. Bro. Gerald is well-known for hosting such conversations,” Messer said.

This year’s balloting was the first contested election since the 2000 annual meeting, when conservative nominee Bob Collins defeated a moderate opponent, Harlan Spurgeon, 1,984-1,253, for president. Conservatives that year also won elections for first vice president, second vice president and recording secretary and have since been leading the convention.
Compiled by Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press, with reporting by Allen Palmeri, associate editor of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

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