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Mo. conservatives prevail again; ‘New Directions’ thrust approved

LIBERTY, Mo. (BP)–For the second year in a row, conservatives were elected to the top four offices of the Missouri Baptist Convention, while messengers also approved a “New Directions” strategic plan to help Missouri Baptists grow in the new millennium.
The convention’s 165th annual meeting, Oct. 25-27 at Liberty’s Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, drew 2,430 messengers from the state’s nearly 2,000 Southern Baptist churches.
Messengers passed a resolution thanking the Missouri General Assembly for overriding Gov. Mel Carnahan’s veto of the Infant Protection Act of 1999, which outlaws partial-birth abortion. Among other resolution, marriage was affirmed as a covenant that unites a man and a woman in a lifetime commitment.
Jay Scribner, pastor of First Baptist Church, Branson, was elected convention president by a 58-42 margin, according to convention officials, receiving 1,275 votes over Jimmy Albright, pastor of Wyatt Park Baptist Church, St. Joseph, who received 894 votes.
Scribner was the nominee supported by the conservative Project 1000 campaign led by layman Roger Moran, research director of the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association, which is fighting any expansion of influence in the state by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a national organization of Baptist moderates. Moran, a member of Ridge Road Baptist Church, Troy, has targeted the CBF for not taking a stand on such moral concerns as homosexuality and abortion.
Scribner was elected first vice president in the initial Project 1000 thrust last year.
Albright was the nominee supported by the Baptist moderates’ organization, Mainstream Missouri Baptists, which placed a half-page advertisement in the state Baptist newsjournal, Word & Way, Oct. 21 in behalf of Albright and Baptist moderate nominees for first and second vice president, followed by a quarter-page ad in the Oct. 28 issue. Mainstream Missouri Baptists, which has hired a full-time coordinator, contended prior to the convention they are not an arm of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Project 1000-supported nominees elected by similar margins for other convention offices were:
— Bob Collins, pastor of Plaza Heights Baptist Church, Blue Springs, as first vice president over E.M. Hay, pastor of Noland Road Baptist Church, Independence.
— Paul Pope, pastor of Sonrise Baptist Church, Bonne Terre, as second vice president over Dawn Phillips of Chillicothe, a former president of the Missouri Woman’s Missionary Union.
— Richard Stone, a member of First Baptist Church, Winfield, as recording secretary, whose margin rose to 63 percent over Martin Barker, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, Marceline.
Scribner said the vote sends a message that “Missouri Baptists are a conservative people who love the Lord, love his Word and have a heart for missions and evangelism,” according to a report in one newspaper.
Mainstream Missouri Baptists’ leader, Doyle Sager, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, which hosted the 1998 Missouri Cooperative Baptist Fellowship assembly, meanwhile was quoted as saying that many Missouri Baptists “don’t really grasp what’s going on. They want to pretend that there’s no division and no takeover.” Sager, a former Missouri convention president, said he feared a narrowing of Baptist life that might lead to people having to pass “a litmus test of the things you believe before you can serve in leadership.”
Among Albright’s reactions to the election, according to one news account: “One of my biggest concerns is that if this goes on for years under the control of people who are so legalistic, our church [Wyatt Park] would have to make a decision as to who we’d like to align with.”
Concerning the approval of the New Directions strategic plan, Scribner described it as “historic,” and noted of its inauguration, “What I would ask from myself is much prayer, that God’s spirit would prevail, not only in my life but in all the transactions that take place between this meeting and next year.”
The New Directions plan seeks to lead Missouri Baptists over the next 20 years to strengthen existing churches and start hundreds of new churches; increase the number of Missouri Baptist members from 620,000 to 1 million; increase baptisms as well as missions giving; and involve more people in volunteerism.
The plan divides the state into eight distinct ministry regions, with MBC staff assigned to work in the regions to assist Baptist churches and other Missouri Baptist institutions and agencies. A ministry resource team of MBC staff members will work in each region, in tandem with five statewide ministry support teams of MBC staffers.
New Directions is a response to statistics reporting that 75 percent of all Missouri Baptist churches have experienced a decline or plateau in attendance in recent years. New Directions creates separate agencies for Windermere Baptist Conference Center in Roach, Mo., and for the Word & Way newsjournal.
“I believe in New Directions,” said James L. “Jim” Hill, MBC executive director, during a message to messengers. “I believe in Missouri Baptists. I believe that, by the power of God, we can move in a new direction as a people and help our churches become healthy and vital. By the power of God, we can move in a new direction.”
The Future Generations endowment campaign, coordinated by the Missouri Baptist Foundation, was introduced during the convention. The campaign is designed to support the Missouri Baptist colleges and institutions: William Jewell College in Liberty; Southwest Baptist College in Bolivar; Hannibal LaGrange Baptist College in Hannibal; Missouri Baptist College, St. Louis; the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home; and the Baptist Home.
A “Partners in the Harvest” presentation kicked off the 75th anniversary celebration of the Cooperative Program and other mission offerings supported by Missouri Baptists. In Missouri, Partners in the Harvest will celebrate all missions giving in addition to the Cooperative Program. Baptists throughout the country support national and international mission efforts through the Cooperative Program by designating a percentage of their receipts to the offering.
A Cooperative Program budget goal of $18 million, with an added $425,000 Partners in the Harvest challenge goal, was approved for the coming year, up from the current $17.5 million budget. The CP allocation is unchanged: 58.25 percent for Missouri Baptist causes; 37.5 percent for Southern Baptist Convention causes; and 6 percent for joint MBC/SBC causes.
The annual meeting also highlighted Missouri Baptists’ partnership with Wyoming and Belarus Baptists, in addition to its support of disaster relief activities in Nicaragua.

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