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Missouri layman Moran counters challenges posed by 3 CBF leaders

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–A Missouri layman who has been prodded for a public apology by the leader of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and has stirred Texas Baptist moderates to form a so-called “slander committee” debunked a barrage of accusations from three CBF leaders at a Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary class Oct. 11.
Roger Moran, research director for the Missouri Baptists Laymen’s Association and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, has become a frequent target of CBF leaders since his organization released two lengthy videos and various publications charging the CBF with social and theological liberalism.
MBLA materials have linked more than 30 CBF leaders with various organizations supportive of homosexuality, abortion and opposition to prayer in schools.
Criticism against Moran reached a crescendo in June when CBF coordinator Daniel Vestal issued an open letter to Moran demanding he stop making statements tying CBF leaders with liberal organizations.
That demand resurfaced during the Midwestern class, in what became the first public confrontation between the MBLA’s Moran and CBF leaders, in front of approximately 80 students, faculty and guests present for the class on the history and governance of state Baptist conventions.
Barry Pennington, moderator for the Missouri CBF, said he believed Vestal tried to follow Matthew 18:15 to reconcile his differences with Moran and that Moran had refused. Moran, in response, said all he had received from Vestal was a March 1999 certified letter demanding an apology and retraction for materials MBLA had published.
“This untrue accusation that I refused to meet with Dr. Vestal goes to the heart of the CBF’s defense, when in fact, it was Vestal who severed the process to meet,” Moran said.
Moran said it was not Vestal who called for the Matthew 18:15 process of reconciliation, but rather Moran’s pastor, Gary Taylor. Vestal had sent a letter to Taylor, president of the Missouri Baptist Convention, asking Taylor to intervene in the dispute. In Taylor’s April 23 letter replying to Vestal obtained by Baptist Press, Taylor encouraged Vestal to talk to Moran, if the MBLA leader had sinned against Vestal, and noting that Moran was willing to meet.
Moran said it was Vestal who chose not to meet in person and issued a June 1999 open letter to Moran, ignoring Taylor’s counsel as well as a response Moran had penned to Vestal’s certified letter.
“You need to get your facts straight,” Moran told Pennington before telling the audience that copies of all five letters — those by Vestal, Moran and Taylor — were available in the foyer.
Pennington was followed by Pete Hill a former CBF Coordinating Council member and a board member of Mainstream Missouri Baptists, an organization of moderate Baptists opposing the MBLA’s efforts to elect conservatives to the top offices of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Hill demanded that Moran reveal the names of CBF people associated with liberal organizations.
“Everything I’ve read seems to me to be kind of a McCarthyism from the 1950s that would relate to us today,” Hill told Moran. McCarthyism is a term referring to Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s search for communists in the U.S. government and other areas of American society in the 1950s.
“I don’t believe you can give us names” of CBF people connected to liberal organizations, Hill said.
But Moran said the MBLA has published names, using CBF documents and publicly available published articles as sources. “They are listed in our ‘Viewpoint’ publication which has 92 footnotes documenting where we got our information,” he told Hill. “You just need to read it.”
“Viewpoint” is the booklet published by the MBLA; its April 1999 edition linked past and present CBF leaders to various organizations holding views contrary to Southern Baptist beliefs.
A third unidentified CBF supporter quizzed Moran about his assertion that state organizations like Mainstream Missouri Baptists were running political interference for the CBF, a tactic that Moran said enables the CBF to appear to stay removed from politics while trumpeting its efforts for the mission field and in other areas of church work.
Moran said such moderate organizations were receiving out-of-state funds, some of which are from Texas Baptist Committed, an organization sympathetic to the CBF and antagonistic toward the SBC, which has offered 15 states $25,000 loans to start similar organizations. He said organizations like Mainstream Missouri Baptists, Mainstream Tennessee Baptists, Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists and Arkansas Baptists Committed have been created to undermine the SBC and win support for the rival CBF.
“They are political front groups for the CBF,” Moran said amid occasional applause, including one standing ovation. “They run in front of the CBF, throwing the bombs with the whole purpose of moving the state convention away from the SBC and toward the CBF.
“Mainstream is a descriptive term of choice pushed by CBF for years,” Moran continued. Mainstream Missouri Baptists is “anything but mainstream.”
“Out of your board of directors from Mainstream Missouri Baptists you have three members of the board who either currently or formerly served on the CBF Coordinating Council; one more member who serves on the Missouri CBF Coordinating Council; plus the president of Mainstream Missouri Baptists and the former president of our state convention, Dr. [Doyle] Sager, who served as host pastor for last year’s Missouri CBF General Assembly,” Moran said.
“So the point we are making is that they are certainly sympathetic to the CBF and they certainly despise the SBC leadership. That’s just the way it is,” Moran said.
The questioner, responding to Moran’s documentation, acknowledged, “I can’t deny what you are saying.”
“Southern Baptists have never been told these things because moderates still control most of the state conventions and state newspapers,” Moran said. “The MBLA is our way of saying what we think the [state Baptist paper] Word & Way should have told Missouri Baptists in the first place. That’s the reason we formed — to offset the absence of information from our perspective.”
In response to questions seeking specific concerns about the Missouri Baptist Convention staff, Moran said the convention “is pretty clean, but we have kept it in check.”
He also stated, “We want to save our convention from going down the road of Texas and Virginia [which have seen new conservative conventions formed in recent years] and to compete against falsehood and error.
“Truth matters,” Moran said. “Theological liberalism manifests itself in different ways, and the CBF is full of such manifestations. They have no parameters for acceptable theology and social issues. The CBF should not be allowed to run roughshod over our state conventions.”
Hill questioned Moran’s assertion that the CBF was funding the leftist and controversial Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. The BPFNA caught the eye of Southern Baptists in 1995 when its board declared the organization a welcoming place for homosexuals and pledged to work with them for full equality.
“We would not fund something that supported homosexuality,” Hill told Moran, claiming that the BPFNA had retracted its position on homosexuality.
Moran acknowledged that the CBF did not fund the BPFNA in 1995, but that funding has resumed — and even increased — yet the peace group has never retracted its pro-homosexual stance.
“They got $8,000 in 1996 [from the CBF], and in June in Birmingham, they got over $11,000 — more than they have ever gotten,” Moran said.

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  • Don Hinkle