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WRAP-UP: Mo. messengers rebuff Project 1000 leaders

REVISED 8:25 a.m. November 4, 2007.

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. (BP)–Messengers to the Missouri Baptist Convention elected a new president in a battle among conservatives over the direction of the convention during their Oct. 29-31 annual meeting in Osage Beach.

The convention also maintained its historic position on refraining from alcohol consumption and put prayer front and center toward maintaining biblical unity through continued cooperation.

Gerald Davidson, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Arnold, was elected MBC president with 68.4 percent of the ballots cast by 1,218 messengers, defeating the incumbent president, Mike Green, director of missions for Twin Rivers Baptist Association. Green immediately congratulated Davidson from the platform after the 832-381 vote.

“You are my president,” Green said. “I will pray for you and I will stand beside you.”

Davidson, 71, who was first elected MBC president in 1992, was nominated by another former convention president, Kenny Qualls, who succeeded Davidson in the pulpit at First Baptist Arnold. Green, attempting to become the first president to be re-elected since messengers voted to permit that option in 2005, was nominated by former MBC president Jay Scribner, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Branson and a messenger from Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Springfield.

It was the first contested election since the 2000 annual meeting, when conservative nominee Bob Collins defeated a moderate opponent, Harlan Spurgeon, 1,984-1,253, for president. Conservatives that year also won elections for first vice president, second vice president and recording secretary and have since been leading the convention.

Davidson’s election, however, marks a conservative-versus-conservative turning point for the convention, departing from the election of nominees promoted by the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association led by Roger Moran of Winfield, who lost a race for second vice president to John Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield.

Davidson, Marshall and the first vice president, Bruce McCoy, who was re-elected, were supported by “Save Our Convention” (SOC), an organization founded to oppose the Project 1000 campaign Moran had led for several years in conjunction with the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association that successfully had elected a slate of unopposed nominees in recent years.

David Sheppard, pastor of First Baptist Church in St. Charles and one of SOC’s 11 founding leaders, promoted in SOC rallies during May a goal of enlisting 1,100 messengers “to turn our convention around and move it back from the legalism to the center where it needs to be.” Qualls and Marshall also are among SOC’s founders.

McCoy, who defeated Scribner 577-310 in the race for first vice president, said he predicts “that this next MBC ministry year will be one where angst gives way to accomplishment, where suspicion dissipates by the strength of sweetness and fretting will largely end and friendships will begin again.” McCoy is pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis.

Marshall won the race against Moran for second vice president 649-160. Marshall’s Springfield church leads the MBC in gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong missions offerings. Moran is a member of First Baptist Church in Troy.

For recording secretary, SOC-supported Chadd Pendergraft, 31, pastor of Splitlog Baptist Church in Goodman, defeated Jerry Williams, director of missions in Barry County Baptist Association, 601-174.

Davidson wasted no time letting messengers know whom they elected.

“You have four men who despise the use of alcohol, pornography, gambling, and you can throw in a few other sins along with that,” he said.

On Oct. 31, he presided as chairman over the MBC executive board and flatly declared, “I have no personal agenda and I don’t think any of those who have been elected this week have a personal agenda, and I hope that you don’t have. I hope that we can come together.”

Six resolutions were recommended by the resolutions committee and adopted by the messengers. Much of the attention, however, went to a resolution opposing the use of alcohol, which was passed from the floor, 503-360, after originally not being reported out by the committee.

Also adopted were resolutions recognizing the 150th anniversary of the Dred Scott decision and expressions of support for the upcoming Cures Without Cloning campaign; tighter regulation of pornography; restriction of gambling in the state; and for family worship.

Prayer was the heart of the annual meeting. David Tolliver, the convention’s interim executive director, kept bringing the messengers back to it, saying during a solemn assembly the day before the convention that it was “the most important meeting you will attend.” At one point during the annual meeting he had messengers hold hands across the aisles and pray for specific leaders (Green and Davidson) and universities (Hannibal-LaGrange College and Southwest Baptist University).

“I believe that the difficulties are turning to questions and will soon be answered as we turn to God for those answers,” Tolliver said.

A total of 1,657 people from 546 churches, including 1,336 messengers, registered for the Oct. 29-31 meeting at the Tan-Tar-A family resort on the Lake of the Ozarks. “Building Kingdom Focused Churches” was the convention’s theme, based on Acts 1:8.

Messengers approved a $16.5 million budget for 2008, with 1 percent set aside for Cooperative Program missions education and promotion. That is the same budget as 2007, except for a .25 percent-of-budget increase for Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries. Missouri convention missions and ministries, then, will be funded by 63.75 percent of the remaining $16,335,000 budget; SBC causes will receive 36.25 percent of that budget.

Rodney Albert, pastor of Hallsville Baptist Church and outgoing chairman of the MBC’s Christian Life Commission, delivered the convention sermon. John Swadley, pastor of Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin, was chosen to preach the 2008 convention sermon during the Oct. 27-29 annual meeting at the Millennium Hotel in St. Louis. Hosea Bilyeu, pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Springfield, will be the alternate.

Featured speakers at the convention included Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas; Mike Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church in North Spartanburg, S.C.; Carlisle Driggers, recently retired executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention; and David Gibbs III, Christian attorney and author from Tampa, Fla.

Tolliver described two people as his heroes of the faith when he recognized them on the platform Oct. 30: Kay Robertson, a 30-year staffer with the MBC, and Bobby Shows, retiring founder of the Sports Crusaders ministry. The MBC executive board also passed a resolution celebrating the ministry of Shows and his wife, Jane.

The convention’s legal task force provided messengers with an update of the six-year legal battle with five entities whose trustees voted to make their boards self-perpetuating by amending their charters. The task force reported that the status of Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Missouri Baptist College, the Baptist Home retirement center, the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Word & Way newsjournal remains uncertain as the legal maneuvering continues.

As the MBC said concluded its partnership with Romania, the El Salvador partnership moved into its second year with reports of much ministry activity in the Central American nation. The MBC is also continuing its partnership with Colorado Baptists.

Acting on a recommendation made by the credentials committee, messengers recognized and accepted 1,984 churches as Baptist churches affiliated with the convention. With little opposition, the committee’s rules and procedures were forwarded to the MBC Committee on Continuing Review for final approval. The amended rules would stipulate that any church which contributes to the work of the MBC through the Cooperative Program on at least an annual basis shall be singly aligned with the MBC. Continuing Review chairman David Krueger, pastor of First Baptist Church in Linn, expressed concern that the committee may only have the choice to vote up or down on the changes, without an option to revise the language.
Allen Palmeri is associate editor of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

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