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‘Peace committee’ within MBC formed

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–John Marshall and Jay Scribner had been good friends, but last year they wound up on opposite sides of denominational politics.

They decided to run for officer positions on opposing tickets at the 173rd annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., was elected second vice president on the Save Our Convention slate, and Scribner, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Branson, Mo., lost his race for first vice president on the Missouri Baptist Layman’s Association slate.

The activities of both conservative organizations are well-known in Missouri Baptist circles, with their differences of opinion on various issues projected all over the world by means of the Internet. Their perceptions about the firing of former MBC Executive Director David Clippard last April also have diverged.

Marshall and Scribner are tired of all that.

“The troubles began to set in a year or so ago, and we woke up one day and found ourselves on two different sides,” Marshall said. “We were kind of wondering, ‘What happened there?’ Yesterday (April 14) and last night, it didn’t take 15 minutes of me talking to Jay for us again to find out who we are and what we are. We’re sitting here today because we’re friends. We always have been friends. We love one another and we’ve got to get past the rancor.”

They hope that what they modeled on April 15 at the Missouri Baptist Convention’s headquarters building — sitting together at a table in the middle of the Gold Room — will wind up superseding factional politics in a Christ-honoring way and lead to the restoration of many other friendships.

“God demands truth in the inward parts from all of us,” Scribner said. “And so consequently, we’re going to have to do that. We’re going to have to be honest with one another. True fellowship means transparent acceptance. Somehow we’re going to have to get to the point and the place where that’s what we’ve got among Missouri Baptists.”

The MBC Executive Board voted with some opposition to appoint an ad hoc peace committee consisting of Marshall, Scribner, and five other men whose names have been associated with denominational politics over the past couple of years. The committee will work with a mediator — nationally known Peacemaker Ministries –in an effort to resolve the conflicts in Missouri Baptist life.

Others on the committee are: Bruce McCoy, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis and MBC first vice president; Wesley Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church in Paris; Jeff Purvis, pastor of First Baptist Church in Herculaneum-Peveley; Jeff White, pastor of South Creek Church in Springfield; and Roger Moran, a lay member of First Baptist Church in Troy. McCoy has been elected first vice president on both the MBLA and SOC slates. Hammond is a founding leader of SOC, while Purvis and White have been aligned with MBLA. Moran is research director for MBLA.

“We will have a good presentation of the feelings that are going on in the state,” Scribner said. “I’m not sure where you would stop with numbers [of committee members], because our different circles have taken us to where we’ve heard things, we’ve felt things, we’ve sensed things, so if you’re going to bring it down to seven, those seven probably will be a good presentation of the climate that’s out there in the state.”

Marshall agreed. “There will be no shortage of viewpoints brought to the table,” he said.

On April 14, Marshall and Scribner spoke about confession of sin and repentance during a meeting of the Executive Board’s Administrative Committee. In a room filled with leaders who had been at odds with each other for many months, if not years, Marshall risked rejection by initiating repentance.

“It wasn’t as big a risk as it looked like,” he said. “I do feel that we’re all just tired, this has gone far enough, let’s get to the table, let’s get on with life.”

Scribner spoke passionately about the need for honesty, transparency and biblical repentance. “I think it was the beginning of some open communication,” he said, “even though some of that might have been harsh. Again, people have to be honest. Even when you say things that might be harsh, if you speak the truth in love, then God can work through that.”

The following day, speaking before the entire Executive Board, Marshall said, “I do feel there is already a level of repentance going out into the committee that’s going to help make it successful.”

Jody Shelenhamer, a lay member of First Baptist Church in Bolivar, was the Executive Board member who brought the motion for the peace committee. Shelenhamer said he was up late April 14 praying with a group and remained awake into the early morning hours of April 15, praying by himself in his hotel room.

“I’ve been in several committee meetings and I’ve said to people, ‘What’s it going to take to get this fixed?'” Shelenhamer said. “I just want to see us come together united.

“We agree on way more than what we disagree on,” he added. “Everybody I’ve talked to in this building has wanted to be reconciled.”

Kent Cochran, a lay member of Calvary Baptist Church in Republic, had earlier proposed the idea of a Missouri Baptist peace committee based on a previous model used in the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s.

“I’m just glad to be a small part of what I hope is the beginning of a peaceful result,” Cochran said. “Peace cannot be our goal. Our goal has to be God’s standards, and peace will be the result of God’s standards.”
Allen Palmeri is senior writer for the Pathway, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

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