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Missouri ‘Peace Committee’ gets up to $100,000 from reserves

BOLIVAR, Mo. (BP)–The Missouri Baptist Convention’s Executive Board voted July 14 to adopt the final report of their “Peace Committee” and allocate up to $100,000 out of reserves to pursue biblical reconciliation between two conservative groups in the state.

“They’ve given us not only a path to peace but also a strategy that’s going to help us in the area of church health and personal discipleship,” MBC Executive Director David Tolliver said. “I am pleased with the work of the Peace Committee and their final report. I have now been empowered to lead Missouri Baptists toward genuine peace. I look forward to that journey.”

The Peace Committee was established in April 2008 after disagreements arose between the conservative groups Save Our Convention and the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association.

During their July 14 meeting at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., Board members voted to adopt all of the original Peace Committee report except that a $250,000 cap on expenses for the reconciliation process was lowered to $100,000. That amendment, proposed by Jim Wells, director of missions for Tri County Baptist Association at Nixa, Mo., passed 29-13, meeting a two-thirds majority requirement the use of funds convention reserve funds.

The committee report and board action caps two years of infighting between SOC and MBLA over a variety of issues, ranging from disagreements about church planting to the termination of a former state executive director. The committee was formed in April 2008.

“I’m just happy it turned out the way the Lord sees it to be,” said Jody Shelenhamer, a member of First Baptist Church in Bolivar and the board member who made the motion to create the Peace Committee. “I always just wanted to see God’s will, and I feel like the committee did that. You spend your money where your priorities are, so I’m very excited about the willingness to spend some money to make this a priority to pray and to reach reconciliation with any brother or sister who may be offended. I think we need to do that in the whole state. I love that we’re going to get together and pray and try to have some church health.

“The Lord knew it was worth it. He just used me as a tool to make the committee, and He absolutely used the godly men who were on the committee,” Shelenhamer added. “Again, I think we got God’s intentions. He knew the whole time. I’m so thankful that they worked hard and did their job.”

The seven-member committee’s report was presented by its chairman, Jeff Purvis, pastor of First Baptist Church in Herculaneum-Pevely, Mo. He was joined by three other members: MBC president Bruce McCoy, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis; Jay Scribner, a retired pastor and former MBC president from Branson, Mo.; and Roger Moran, a layman from First Baptist Church, Troy in Mo.

In introducing the report to the Board, Purvis acknowledged that not all the issues between the groups have been resolved.

“It will take some time for the issues to be settled and for biblical reconciliation to be accomplished,” Purvis said. “However, we have already seen some reconciliation and some relationships being restored.

“Our report, with its attachments, shares the truth about the historical perspective of the key issues and events which are at the heart of our inner conflict,” Purvis added. “Does everyone agree with what was said in the SOC DVD and transcript? No. Does everyone agree with what was printed in the MBLA Viewpoint publication in response to the SOC meeting? No. But they give us an accurate account of what has taken place. The attachments are not meant or intended to be divisive.”

Mitch Jackson, pastor of Miner Baptist Church in Sikeston, Mo., and MBC second vice president, tried unsuccessfully to amend the report, proposing the board “adopt” the fifth point of the Peace Committee report and “receive” the other four points while rejecting the four attachments. Jackson called the attachments “divisive” and, after an attempt by McCoy to fashion a compromise, Jackson’s amendment failed, 24-19.

The four attachments included in the final report were an Oct. 28, 2008, interim report from the committee; the transcript and DVD recording of a Save Our Convention political meeting held May 15, 2007, at First Baptist Church in Harvester, Mo.; the May 2009 edition of the MBLA’s Viewpoint publication; and an Oct. 27, 204, resolution adopted by messengers to the state convention annual meeting, “Holiness and Cultural Forces of Influence.”

Johnny Johnson, a consultant with Peacemaker Ministries, trained board members July 13 on Peacemaker materials and will be active in the reconciliation initiative as it unfolds in coming months. Johnson also conducted a training session with MBC staffers July 16.

Tolliver said he hopes to put Johnson in front of as many Missouri Baptists as possible to help with the peace process. He added prayer meetings, biblical reconciliation sessions and worldview conferences also would be held around Missouri as part of the process.

In delivering the report, Purvis reminded directors that more than a decade ago conservatives in Missouri succeeded in doing what others in Texas and Virginia failed to accomplish.

“Let me share that what happened in our Missouri Baptist Convention 11 years ago, with the conservative resurgence, was nothing short of a miracle of God,” Purvis said. “We came together from all regions of the state to say, ‘We believe the Bible is God’s infallible, inerrant and inspired Word of God.’ We desire that what takes place in our MBC is honoring and glorifying to God, edifying to the church and is consistent with God’s Holy Word.”
Written by staff members of The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

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