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Over litigation, MBC president bans Word & Way from meetings

EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. (BP)–David Tolliver, president of the Missouri Baptist Convention, has asked Word & Way, the convention’s former newsjournal, to stay away from future MBC meetings, beginning with the Dec. 8-9 executive board meeting.

Tolliver relayed the news to Bill Webb, editor of the Word & Way, in a Nov. 19 letter.

“Due to the actions taken by the Word & Way board of trustees to separate themselves and the news journal from the convention, it is with regret that I inform you that representatives of Word & Way will no longer be welcomed in the meetings of the Missouri Baptist Convention,” Tolliver said in the letter.

Word & Way was one of five MBC entities that have created self-perpetuating boards of trustees. The MBC has filed a suit for declaratory judgment against the journal and four other institutions — Missouri Baptist College, Missouri Baptist Foundation, Windermere Baptist Conference Center and The Baptist Home retirement facility — seeking a court ruling on who has the authority to appoint trustees.

“The Word & Way board of trustees initiated an adversarial relationship when they separated themselves from the convention by means of a self-perpetuating board,” Tolliver wrote in the letter. “We are now in litigation with one another. It is simply a matter of prudence that litigants not have direct communication or personal interaction with one another.

“For that reason I must require that you no longer attend any of the meetings of Missouri Baptist Convention committees, the Executive Board nor the annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention.”

Tolliver said he looks forward to the day when “this action” will not be necessary.

“I look forward to the day when our differences are resolved and we can return to our historic, friendly and cooperating relationship,” Tolliver said. “Until that day, this directive will remain in place.”

Tolliver said his letter does not apply to MBC employees who may interact with the Word & Way.

“That’s not my call. I wish they [MBC employees] wouldn’t talk to them, but that is [MBC Executive Director] David Clippard’s call,” Tolliver said. “I do plan to encourage executive board members not to talk to the Word & Way.”

Tolliver explained that his letter to Word & Way is a request.

“If they choose to show up at a MBC meeting, I will very kindly ask them to leave. I will do that privately. If they refuse to leave, I plan to ask them publicly to leave. If they refuse that request, I guess we will deal with it when it comes.”

Tolliver emphasized that he does not anticipate any problems.

“As I said to Word & Way when they called, there is nothing personal about this. What’s behind this, as the letter states, is the litigation.

“It’s simply not prudent for them to be in contact with us while there is litigation pending. Honestly, I have respect for them. And I do look forward to the day that things like this are no longer necessary.”

Because of the litigation between the convention and Word & Way, the MBC’s official journal, The Pathway, could not contact the paper for comment unless it is through attorneys for both sides. However, Bob Cox, chairman of Word & Way’s board, told the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF)-funded news service, Associated Baptist Press, in its Nov. 25 edition that he could not understand Tolliver’s reasoning. “The reason behind it doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.
Bob Baysinger is managing editor of The Pathway, the official newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

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