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Mo. convention ends ties to Word & Way newsjournal

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–Southern Baptists in Missouri will soon have a new official newsjournal, apparently marking an end to its 105-year relationship with the Word & Way.

By a solid majority on a voice vote, members of the Missouri Baptist Convention executive board moved April 9 to establish a new newsjournal as its official publication effective immediately. However, the board left open the possibility of the Word & Way returning as the MBC’s official newspaper.

“In the event the Word & Way trustees rescind their action to be self-perpetuating, they would once again become our newsjournal,” said David Tolliver, MBC recording secretary and pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church in Excelsior Springs. “Our new newsjournal will begin with an electronic version and will be accessible via the MBC website and via e-mail. We expect a contract with an interim newswriter to be signed soon, perhaps within a couple of weeks, with the new site going online shortly thereafter.”

Tolliver said the electronic journal will eventually go into print but gave no time frame for the print version to be published.

“We recognize this will miss some Missouri Baptists, but it will enable us to get the news out quickly,” Tolliver said. “Most every Southern Baptist church in Missouri has a member who has a computer and we’re counting on them to print out the electronic version and distribute it to their fellow members.”

Conservatives have grown increasingly disenchanted with the Word & Way, charging that it promotes more moderate and liberal points of view while ignoring conservative ideas and opinions.

“Word & Way is not ours,” Tolliver said. “It made itself not our paper when its board of trustees voted to be self-perpetuating. They say they serve all Baptists, but they don’t. This action clarifies that for the MBC.”

A call by Baptist Press to Robert Johnston, chairman of the Word & Way’s board of trustees and pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rolla, was not returned April 9.

The MBC continues to hold $450,000 earmarked this year for the Word & Way in escrow until the trustees rescind their action. Tim Palmer, former managing editor who had worked at the Word & Way nine years, resigned in October, citing the board’s decision to become self-perpetuating as one of the reasons.

In other action taken by the MBC executive board April 9, the board by a slight majority approved a motion calling for future contractual agreements between the MBC and the Windermere Baptist Conference Center to be contingent upon the Windermere board of trustees rescinding its vote to become self-perpetuating.

Messengers to the MBC’s annual meeting in October voted overwhelmingly to place $150,000 targeted for Windermere this year in escrow until the board rescinds its action.

The conference center, set on 1,300 acres on the Lake of the Ozarks in south-central Missouri, attracts more than 30,000 guests a year. Windermere’s board voted July 30 to become self-perpetuating, citing concerns over ascending/descending liability issues after it hired the St. Louis law firm of Gilfoil, Petzall and Shoemake to look into the issue.

The board also heard a report from the Executive Director Search Committee. The committee received 19 resumes from nine states, including Missouri, between Feb. 1 and its cutoff date of March 31.

The MBC has been without an executive director since October when Jim Hill resigned, citing an unwillingness to work with the growing number of conservatives on MBC boards. Hill is now supporting a new state convention, the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.

Kenny Qualls, chairman of the search committee and MBC first vice president, said the committee will be meeting through Thursday at Windermere “with the hope that the Lord will lead us to just five candidates.”

Once five are selected, background checks will begin and dates for interviews could be set when the committee holds its next scheduled meeting May 6, said Qualls, pastor of Springhill Baptist Church in Springfield.

There is no timetable to hire someone, but Qualls said the executive board is hopeful that a new leader can be in place before this year’s MBC convention Oct. 28-30 in Springfield.

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  • Don Hinkle