ST. LOUIS (BP)–In what was likely the most unified meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention in more than three decades, approximately 1,600 registered messengers voted overwhelmingly to defund William Jewell College of more than $1 million, passed a resolution in support of a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution and — without opposition — elected for the sixth consecutive year an entire slate of theologically conservative officers.
Messengers, by a more than an 8-1 margin, also approved a plan to allow the MBC to establish an Agency Restoration Fund to cover future legal expenses in its effort — where trustees voted to become self-perpetuating. The approved plan calls for expenses to be funded by a $1 million line of credit. Principal and interest payments will be covered by authorized gifts from churches and individuals and from any award of costs recovered from defendants or their insurers. Four to six churches reportedly have pledged to back the proposed fund. The identity of the churches has not been disclosed. The Agency Restoration Fund, as approved by the messengers, stipulates that no 2004 Cooperative Program funds will be used for legal expenses.
Meanwhile, attorneys representing the MBC and Missouri Baptist College, one of the five entities where trustees voted to become self-perpetuating, will be in Cole County Circuit Court Monday, Nov. 10. The hearing before Judge Tom Brown will focus only on a portion of the case that deals with the convention and the college. It is likely that Brown will schedule hearings involving the other four entities — Missouri Baptist Foundation, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, The Baptist Home and the Word & Way newsjournal — on that day as well.
The decision to defund William Jewell was no surprise since no accord emerged from a series of meetings earlier this year between MBC and William Jewell leaders to discuss the college’s tolerance of homosexuality and hosting of sexually promiscuous theatrical presentations such as “The Vagina Monologues” and “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” William Jewell President David Sallee, backed by a majority of college trustees, did not satisfy MBC leaders with his views on such matters but claimed that the MBC was attempting to interfere in the running of the college. The response by MBC messengers was to remove William Jewell from the 2004 budget and redirect much of the $1,050,000 the college would have received to four entities with theological views more in line with the MBC:
— $200,000 will be given to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, with $100,000 to go toward an endowment, while the other $100,000 will go toward the seminary’s associates’ degree program.
— $300,000 will be used for $150,000 endowments each at Hannibal-LaGrange College and Southwest Baptist University.
— $150,000 will go to The Missouri Baptist Children’s Home for an endowment.
— $100,000 will go to the MBC’s church planting ministry.
— The remaining $300,000 will be held in an MBC reserve account.
Messengers also approved overwhelmingly a motion to prevent any further 2003 money from being distributed to the college, an amount totaling about $160,000. No decision was made where the 2003 money will be used.
The action against William Jewell was contained in a $16.2 million 2004 budget — the same as in 2003 — approved by messengers. As customary, 35.75 percent will go toward Southern Baptist Convention causes while 64.25 percent will go toward MBC causes. The MBC portion includes funding for missions partnerships that the MBC has with Iraq and Romania. The Iraq partnership, which is composed of the MBC, the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and Iraq was approved by messengers for a three-year period. MBC leaders signed the official partnership agreement in front of the messengers, making it effective Nov. 5. The convention had just completed its first year of a three-year partnership with Romania. Messengers also authorized that a special offering for the Iraqi and Romanian partnerships be taken on the evening of Nov. 4, with more than $11,800 received.
In other action, messengers unanimously approved a resolution in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment. The resolution “affirms that marriage is the union of one man and one woman as God intends … and that we commit ourselves to pray for and support legislative and legal efforts to oppose the legalization of same-sex unions … and that we call upon all families to encourage their U.S. senators and congressmen to support the Federal Marriage Amendment.”
A resolution passed unanimously affirming the words “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance; the nation’s motto of “In God We Trust;” and for public displays of the Ten Commandments. “We express our dissatisfaction with the over-active federal judiciary that frequently subverts the will of the people of the United States,” the resolution stated.
Another resolution, expressing appreciation to Missouri state legislators who voted to override Gov. Bob Holden’s veto of a pro-life bill, also passed unanimously.
Messengers approved by at least a 9-1 margin the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as the confessional statement for the MBC staff. A similar proposal had been rejected in 1999. The change applies only to the convention headquarters and not to MBC churches. The motion acknowledges the autonomy of the local church and that each church has the right to adopt whatever confessional statement it chooses.
A slate of theologically conservative candidates as MBC officers was unopposed. David Tolliver, pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church in Excelsior Springs, will serve as president of the 600,000-member state convention in 2004. Tolliver, a trustee for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwest Baptist University, served as the 2002 MBC recording secretary and is now a member of the convention’s legal task force charged with overseeing the legal effort to recover the five breakaway entities.
Mitchell Jackson, pastor of Miner Baptist Church in Sikeston; Tim Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ewing; and Connie Urich, wife of Gary Urich, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Bolivar will serve as first vice president, second vice president and record secretary, respectively.
Speakers at the annual meeting included Robert E Reccord, president of the SBC North American Mission Board; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; D. James Kennedy, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Roy Fish, professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The convention sermon was delivered by John Duncan, pastor of First Baptist Church in Cassville.
One of the highlights of the meeting was a NAMB commissioning service during which more than 80 missionaries were commissioned.
Next year’s annual meeting will be in Kansas City.
Don Hinkle is editor of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention, online at www.mbcpathway.org.