SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (BP)–Messengers to the 171st annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention Oct. 24-26 elected for the ninth consecutive year a slate of theologically conservative officers and overwhelmingly approved single alignment, the series of interdependent changes to the MBC Constitution that leading conservatives say will promote theological integrity and unity within Missouri Southern Baptist life.
The single-alignment measure — which required a two-thirds majority for passage and got 82 percent of the vote (976-217) — more clearly defines what it means to be a Missouri Southern Baptist. Under it, an MBC church cannot be dually aligned with another state convention or national organization, such as the Baptist General Convention of Missouri or the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Supporters were calling it historic, saying it was the first time a state convention had passed such a proposal.
Ralph Sawyer, a long-time leader in the state’s conservative resurgence and pastor of First Baptist Church in Wentzville, Mo., was elected without opposition. MBC Recording Secretary Harvey Parker cast the convention’s ballot for Sawyer, who is eligible to run for a second one-year term after messengers overwhelmingly approved a constitutional change that allows presidents to serve two one-year terms instead of one one-year term. Sawyer served this past year as first vice president.
Also elected as officers without opposition were: Mike Green, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Republic, as first vice president; Michael Knight, pastor of First Baptist Church in Viburnum, as second vice president; and Jason Rogers, a layman at Calvary Baptist Church in O’Fallon, as recording secretary.
Another highlight of the convention was a 10-minute address by Republican Gov. Matt Blunt. His speech was part personal testimony — he said he was saved as a child while attending Vacation Bible School and now attends Second Baptist Church in Springfield — and part politics. Blunt pledged to continue to fight abortion, protect churches from government abuse through eminent domain laws, and appoint strict constitutional originalists to Missouri courts. He also expressed support for embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning.
MBC President Mitch Jackson, pastor of Miner Baptist Church in Sikeston, noted that the governor’s views on therapeutic cloning puts him at odds with Missouri Southern Baptists who “agree with him on 95 percent of the issues.”
In a break with recent trends, no messenger offered a motion to discontinue legal action against the five breakaway institutions.
“I appreciate the way things are going and the spirit of unity in this convention,” Jackson said.
A slate of theologically conservative officers was elected again, and resolutions were passed to educate Missouri Southern Baptists on the dangers of embryonic stem cell research, to commend The Pathway newspaper for its journalistic endeavors and to support New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in its time of need after Hurricane Katrina.
A total of 2,004 messengers and guests attended the meeting.
Prayers for the return of Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Missouri Baptist College, the Baptist Home, the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Word & Way were made even as the MBC Legal Task Force provided an update on where the legal battle now stands.
The MBC has been locked in a four-year legal battle with the five institutions ever since their trustees voted to amend their charters, making their boards self-perpetuating. The case has gone back and forth as attorneys have spent months on procedural matters. The MBC has rattled off a string of court victories in recent months and MBC attorneys say they are hopeful that Cole County Circuit Judge Thomas Brown III will hear the case in January.
“I believe the cause is just, I believe it’s righteous, and I believe that righteousness will win out,” said Jackson as he presided in the Oct. 25 morning session.
The convention theme was “So send I you,” out of John 20:21. Guest speakers included Wade Akins, a missionary with the International Mission Board; Terry Hopkins, minister of missions at First Baptist Church in Snellville, Ga.; and H.B. London, a vice president with Focus on the Family. Wayne Isgriggs, pastor at First Baptist Church in Lincoln, preached the convention sermon.
Next year’s annual meeting will be held at the Show Me Center on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Gerald Davidson, immediate past first vice president of the SBC, will preach the convention sermon. Davidson is in his 30th and final year as pastor of First Baptist Church in Arnold. He is also marking 50 years of ministry.
In other business:
— Messengers approved a $17.05 million budget for 2006, up by $350,000 from last year. As is customary, 35.75 percent will go toward Southern Baptist Convention causes while 64.25 percent will go toward MBC causes;
— The 2009 annual meeting was scheduled for Oct. 26-28 at First Baptist Church in Raytown. The 2007 meeting will be held at Tan-Tar-Ra Resort at Lake of the Ozarks, and 2008 in St. Louis.
— Goals were approved for various offerings in 2006, ranging among the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering ($3.75 million), Annie Armstrong Easter Offering ($2 million) and World Hunger Offering ($325,000).