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New newsjournal ‘The Pathway’ launched by Missouri Baptists

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–Promising that it will “demonstrate a theologically conservative perspective,” the Missouri Baptist Convention is launching a new official publication June 8 to replace the embattled newspaper, Word & Way.

The new journal, The Pathway, derives its name from Jeremiah 6:16: “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.”

The MBC executive board’s newsjournal committee unanimously voted May 14 to hire veteran newspaper editor and reporter Don Hinkle as editor of The Pathway. Hinkle presently is a doctoral student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a national correspondent for Baptist Press.

Hinkle, who will assume the editor’s duties June 1, was ordained into the gospel ministry in 1999. He holds a master’s degree from Southern Seminary in church ministry and leadership and a bachelor’s degree in English from Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Va.

He was editor of The Daily Herald in Columbia, Tenn., prior to entering seminary and earlier was a reporter for The Tennessean in Nashville, The Courier-Journal in Louisville and The Daily Press in Newport News.

The new Missouri publication will be Web-based except for a one-time special print edition to be distributed to every messenger attending the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting June 11-12 in St. Louis. Churches will be able to access The Pathway at the MBC’s Internet site, www.mobaptist.org, and download it to print and distribute to members. Plans call for a print version to be published perhaps in 2003. The MBC executive board allocated $60,000 to start and maintain the publication through December.

“In response to the MBC annual meeting motion last October, we are establishing a new official newsjournal for the Missouri Baptist Convention,” said Ben Hess, chairman of the MBC executive board’s newsjournal committee and pastor of First Baptist Church of Herculaneum-Pevely. “The journal will focus on promoting unity in the MBC for kingdom growth.”

Creation of the new journal comes after messengers to the MBC’s annual meeting voted overwhelmingly Oct. 30 to escrow $2.1 million earmarked in the 2002 budget for five Missouri Baptist Convention entities where moderate trustees voted in the past two years to become self-perpetuating rather than seat trustees elected by MBC churches. Word & Way is one of the five entities said to have a combined worth of nearly $100 million. Of the escrowed monies, $450,000 was budgeted for Word & Way.

“Conservative Missouri Baptists have every reason to rejoice,” said Roger Moran, research director for the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association (MBLA). “For the first time, we will have a conservative newsjournal with a conservative editor who has a heart for evangelism, a love for the conservative Southern Baptist Convention — Missouri Baptists’ partner in making disciples throughout the world — and a belief in the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Indeed, it is a new day in Missouri.”

The Word & Way, which continues to occupy rent-free office space in the Baptist Building in Jefferson City, has been the recipient of millions of dollars from Southern Baptists in the state through the MBC budget — and subscriptions. In addition, the MBC has a long history of electing trustees to the Word & Way — until the current board voted to give themselves the sole power of selecting their successors.

After the trustees voted to become self-perpetuating on Oct. 19, 2001, then-MBC President Robert Collins, pastor of Plaza Heights Baptist Church in Blue Springs, stated, “It is now obvious that a small, but convincing, group of liberal-moderate CBF/Mainstream Missourians have been hard at work behind the scenes orchestrating the unethical, unchristian (and possibly illegal) takeover of a number of our agencies and institutions.”

Word & Way editor Webb defended the trustee action, saying it was necessary for a “free, open and responsible press, and a free, open responsible Word & Way.”

Collins responded, “That statement almost presupposes there hasn’t been a free press in Missouri. Bill [Webb] has never stated to me his hands were tied on reporting the news. I think if you’ll ask Bill Webb there are already limits as to what he will put in the newspaper, including advertisements. He is using that argument to his advantage without telling the whole truth. For a journalist, that is a problem.

“I would ask what evidence they have that they won’t have freedom of the press in the future,” Collins told Baptist Press. “There is none.”

More recently, Word & Way declined to publish an “open letter” to Missouri Baptists from MBC President Bob Curtis. The letter refuted statements by leaders of the five entities whose trustees voted to become self-perpetuating. Curtis’ letter explained how he had diligently sought meetings to discuss reconciliation and restoration and how leaders of the five entities had been uncooperative — until May 28. Word & Way ran a front-page news article about the letter May 16, but that led to Curtis charging the newspaper with reporting his comments out of the intended context.

Meanwhile, the MBC executive board’s legal issues task force continues to study the self-perpetuating trustee controversy and possible legal action against Word & Way trustees. The task force has secured legal opinions from three leading Missouri law firms who all three independently concluded that the trustees acted illegally when they voted to become self-perpetuating. The MBC executive board stripped Word & Way of its “official” MBC status in April, a move that prevents it from being distributed as the host state convention publication at the SBC meeting in St. Louis. Instead, that privilege now goes to The Pathway.

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