News Articles

Mo. investigative report made public

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., (BP)–The report which led to David Clippard’s April 10 dismissal as executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention is public.

The redacted, or edited report cites reasons for Clippard’s dismissal; notes issues related to Don Hinkle, editor of The Pathway, MBC’s state paper; and relates other matters regarding the MBC’s nominating committee, Cooperative Program and church planting.

Released April 16, the edited report omitted specific details in certain personnel matters regarding Clippard. MBC legal counsel Michael Whitehead said in the board’s April 10 meeting that redactions would be necessary so as to minimize embarrassment to various individuals and legal liability.

The MBC executive board approved a motion last December brought by board member Wesley Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church in Paris, Mo., to form a committee to investigate rumors affecting Clippard’s character and other matters related to the board. Hammond’s motion also called for the investigative committee to follow the biblical principles of “discipline and reconciliation and bring back a report.”

After hearing the report and discussing it for four hours, the MBC executive board voted April 10 to dismiss Clippard, 44-7 on a secret ballot.

While board members are privy to specific details from the original report, the edited report cites six findings that led to Clippard’s termination. Three findings are in their original form; three appear below in their edited form per the committee’s public report:

— “David Clippard’s answers have not always been sufficiently forthright when confronted on various issues.”

— “David Clippard acted unwisely in managing the settlement of a lawsuit against the Convention, the Executive Board and himself by providing insufficient information to the Board about the facts of the case and the terms of a settlement and confidentiality agreement entered by Clippard on behalf of himself, the Convention, and the Board, his employer, in a case in which he was the employee-defendant accused of wrong-doing; and by asserting the authority to sign the settlement and confidentiality agreement for the Convention and the Board, without adequate knowledge or approval by the Board.”

— “Attorney-client communications about the risk of future lawsuits or liabilities being brought against the MBC.”

The three unedited findings noted in the report are as follows:

— “Employee morale at the Baptist Building is low because of David Clippard.”

— “The reputation of Missouri Baptists is being portrayed unprofessionally because of David Clippard’s conduct and comments.”

— “David Clippard demonstrated a spirit toward the Investigative Committee that was divisive.”

Based on evidence reviewed, the five-member investigative committee voted 4-1 to tell the full board in executive session April 10 that members of the ad hoc committee had “lost confidence in David Clippard” and recommended “that he be discharged of (MBC executive director) responsibilities effective immediately.”

In an April 15 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about Clippard’s departure, Whitehead was reported as saying Clippard was shown a copy of the report April 9 and was then given the opportunity to resign, but refused. The news story also said that Clippard’s pastor, Monte Shinkle –- a member of the MBC ad hoc investigative committee and pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City — urged Clippard to resign.

Clippard told Baptist Press in an April 16 e-mail that he had never seen the report. Baptist Press later sent Clippard a copy of the report on April 16 and 17 and invited his response.

In a telephone interview with Baptist Press April 17, Clippard said: “The first time I ever saw the report in print was on the Pathway website.”

Acknowledging he “is not a perfect man,” Clippard noted his “disappointment” that he was excused from the MBC’s April 10 meeting and was “not allowed to address the board or speak to the issues” or “face my accusers.”

Whitehead told the Post-Dispatch that Clippard was not welcome to participate in the board’s private meeting because he was not a governing board member. He said Clippard already had plenty of opportunities to plead his case. “This was a deliberation room, and the person on trial does not come into the deliberation room,” Whitehead told the Post-Dispatch.

While Clippard still has “personal questions” about each of the six items noted in the report, he told Baptist Press that he’d asked three of the five ad hoc committee members if he was guilty of “anything that was immoral, unethical, unbiblical or financially irresponsible. I asked about those issues very directly, very pointedly, and they all told me that one-word answer, ‘No.’ For that I was grateful,” he said.

Clippard attributed his demise to differences in “management styles,” he told Baptist Press.

“Nobody does everything exactly the same,” he said.

In the Post-Dispatch article, Whitehead characterized Clippard’s downfall as a management issue.

Clippard related specific information to Baptist Press that reflected a portion of the MBC’s official April 10 statement regarding his dismissal: “There have been many positive accomplishments for the Missouri Baptist Convention during [Clippard’s tenure]; not the least of which includes financial stability, increased emphasis and budget given to church planting, evangelism, partnership missions and the assembling of a fine staff to serve Missouri Baptists. Both parties express their gratitude for one another in accomplishing these and many more advancements. We believe the Kingdom is richer for it.”

Referring to a lawsuit that included allegations regarding sexual harassment, which was cited in the ad hoc committee’s report, Clippard said, “The federal judge exonerated us completely. I had two attorneys guiding me through that and I followed their instructions.”

MBC bylaws allow the executive director “wide latitude in making independent decisions” regarding MBC operations, Clippard further said.

“I was trying to act within the framework of those guidelines and act in the best interest of our convention,” he said.

The suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money.

“The board had a right to terminate (me),” Clippard concluded. “I understand that, and that’s OK.”

The investigative committee’s report cleared Don Hinkle, editor of The Pathway — MBC’s official newsjournal — whose credibility came under the committee’s scrutiny regarding an incident involving Clippard and Hinkle. Clippard initially denied the matter, but later recalled it and apologized after an eyewitness came forth.

The ad hoc committee considered other matters regarding Hinkle, but because most matters “given to this committee regarding Don Hinkle were from individuals who have never taken their issues or concerns to Don directly” and who had not given the matters “appropriate Biblical due process as prescribed in Matthew 18,” the report states, “this committee believes it would be inappropriate to make a final determination regarding Don’s continued employment with MBC based on these types of rumors.”

The committee did offer an opinion, however, that “morale of the MBC staff has suffered because of the perception that Don lacks accountability to anyone in the Baptist Building.”

Like a number of other Baptist state papers and their editors, the Pathway is not under the purview of any MBC staffer. Rather, the Pathway editor serves at the pleasure of the MBC’s elected board members.

The report also stated: “We understand there is significant consternation regarding some of the editorials Don has written. Many Missouri Baptists are concerned to the point of passing resolutions to condemn some of his writings. We are fully cognizant that the issue of Don’s employment with the Missouri Baptist Convention has become a matter of controversy. Further, there are a number of MBC employees who have expressed to this committee that they have great personal difficulties with Don.”

By a 4-1 vote, the ad-hoc committee recommended April 10 and the board approved “that the Executive Board refers (sic) the matter of evaluating Don Hinkle’s ministry work performance to the Administrative Committee of the Executive Board along with the appropriate involvement of the Pathway Workgroup. We recommend that the MBC Administrative Committee report back to the full Executive Board at the July 2007 meeting.”

Hinkle told Baptist Press: “As editor of The Pathway, I have a role not unlike the God-honoring pastors across our great Missouri Baptist Convention, who stand week-to-week and speak prophetically from God’s Word to God’s people.

“Like other Christian journalists, I struggle with the balance between doing this job redemptively as well as professionally. While these terms are hardly mutually exclusive, they still represent the balance that must be struck. So, to all my fellow Missouri Southern Baptists, who believe my words or actions seemed to have tipped those scales inappropriately, I express to them my deepest, heartfelt regret and apology.

“We have a new day in the Missouri Baptist Convention, and I humbly and publicly recommit myself to that ministry to which God has called me, and also to those principles of operation for The Pathway that we have posted on our office wall, the first of which is to bring honor and glory to God.”

The report cited concerns with the MBC’s requirement that all its new church starts contribute to the Cooperative Program 10 percent of undesignated receipts, and that some board members attend churches that give 1 percent or less.

The committee recommended and the board approved the MBC nominating committee “seek to nominate men and women who are members of churches that show strong and ongoing support, including financial support, for the Cooperative Program, while not endorsing a certain percentage,” and that “the Executive Board members … be examples in their own church’s financial support of the Cooperative Program, particularly since the Executive Board has responsibilities to recommend a Cooperative Program budget to the convention for approval, to promote the Cooperative Program and to exercise wise stewardship as it relates to how Cooperative Program Funds arc used in Missouri to advance the Kingdom of God.”

For the entire current board, the average is 8.6 percent of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program.

The committee investigated concerns about alleged improprieties regarding the MBC nominating committee process but found that the nominating committee “acted accordingly as sub-committees and then as a full committee.”

To read the edited report in its entirety, go to www.mbcpathway.com.

    About the Author

  • Norm Miller