Missouri Baptists… Save Our Convention?

Missouri Baptists have been up in arms recently (okay, so it seems we’re always up in arms, but bear with me) about the “Save Our Convention” movement. I’ve wondered what they’re all about for some time now, but simply wasn’t sure what to think. I greatly respect the leaders of the movement that I’m familiar with, yet I’ve heard nothing but anger and discord over what they’re doing. So… I’ve been conflicted. I haven’t heard their presentation directly, and I wasn’t sure I could trust the accounts of others (perception jades our accounts, it’s a fact of life), so I’ve simply tried to abstain from developing a strong opinion one way or the other on the group.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to hear from them firsthand… I attended the “Save Our Convention” meeting in Kearney. I think it’s safe to say I now have an opinion… albeit not necessarily just about SOC. To state it in brief?

Why would anyone want to take an active role in Missouri Baptist Convention life?

Yes, I’m serious. I attended as an interested layman, curious as to what all the uproar was about… and left wondering how Missouri Baptists will ever accomplish anything together. I’m left wondering if the MBC is even worth saving.

You’re probably wondering how I can say that, so allow me to elaborate.

Just over nine years ago, while I was a college student, I was engaged to a beautiful girl from the small town of Battlefield, Missouri. Nancy had insisted that if we were going to get married, that we needed to start going to church. Being head over heels for her, I agreed to go.

The first Sunday at First Baptist Battlefield blew me away. Pastor John’s sermon cut me straight to the heart… conviction. God started working on me. Nancy and I started attending Sunday School, and the wonderful folks there in the College and Career class accepted me wholeheartedly… even though I really didn’t have a clue about faith in Christ. I can’t remember how long we had been attending… but around April of ’98, God had been working on my heart long enough. While driving back to school late one Sunday, I asked Christ to save me and committed my life to Him.

At the time, I didn’t have a clue about the Missouri Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Convention, conservative resurgence, etc… all I knew was that I was now part of something far bigger and better than I could have imagined in years previous. My sins had been forgiven… my eternal destination was secure… I had a Lord that was with me every moment of every day… I had a church family that loved and cared for me… all because Nancy wanted me to attend a Baptist church with her.

I know… my testimony is nice and all, but how does it relate to SOC? Keep reading, I’ll get there (eventually).

Since that point, I’ve heard the news, and I’ve read the articles… and all I’ve seen is controversy after controversy, political fight after political fight in our convention. Project 1000 and the battle vs. the moderates… the “renegade” agencies and the legal battle to win back control… the blow-up at last year’s convention… the controversy over the Journey… the investigative committee, culminating in our executive director’s dismissal… the theological review committee… now SOC vs. MBLA…

In nine years as a Missouri Baptist, these are the things that stand out in my mind. I’ve racked my brain since the meeting yesterday, and I honestly can’t think of one “Missouri Baptist” news story about a ministry, mission, or service project that stands out. Not one thing… just controversy after controversy.

Now maybe that’s just my ignorance of the convention and its activities, or my tendency to remember the negative… I don’t know. But it makes me wonder… if this is all I see when I think of the Missouri Baptist Convention, how many others are in the same boat? Even if it’s just one in every ten Missouri Baptists, it’s a sad statistic.

The question I have is this… when will everyone lay down their swords? If you were there yesterday, Pastor Ken Parker made a point… he asked a series of questions… who believes the Bible is inerrant… who believes abortion is wrong… who believes in the deity of Christ… etc. The point was that the commonalities of Missouri Baptists (SOC, MBLA, or other) far exceed our differences. When are we going to focus on our commonalities, stop all this ridiculous fighting, and move forward in a united fashion to tackle the issue that’s really important… reaching the MILLION plus lost folks here in Missouri?

As for SOC itself and the meeting yesterday? I didn’t get the impression that others had (see the Missouri Baptist list for more). It seemed to me the meeting went quite smoothly, with presenters doing as good a job as possible presenting their viewpoints in a calm and loving manner… but that the meeting went VERY far south when the question and answer period began and the fur started flying. That’s not to say that I approved of everything SOC had to say… simply that given the choice of things shared, they did as good a job possible in presenting their message. I wish I could say the same for the question / answer period… the dialogue… both sides… was truly disheartening.

Anyway, to me, once you’re able to put aside the problems in their presentation, SOC’s message is a good one. As I see it, there are six main points:

  • We need change in our convention.
  • We don’t need closely associated individuals (be it MBLA folks, SOC folks, individuals from the same church, individuals from the same family, or other) in positions of influence year after year after year.
  • We need more strict rules prohibiting service on multiple committees, boards, and elected positions.
  • We need to learn to agree to disagree on debatable matters non-central to the gospel.
  • Missouri Baptists need to be better informed about convention activities.
  • Missouri Baptists need to be more involved in convention activities.

The problem, as stated above, lies in the presentation. I see several issues:

  • While generic descriptions of their concerns probably wouldn’t have been respected either (in a lot of ways, this group seems to be facing a no-win situation), pointing fingers at specific individuals as problems definitely detracts from the core message. Even if the things stated about MBLA and others are true, voicing them seems to me to create more controversy than it diffuses… it looks like a personal vendetta, no matter how many words are said to the contrary. In the end, it may work out, but I fear the cure may be every bit as bad as the disease.
  • The lack of continual public dialogue on these issues detracts from the message. In today’s age, we have come to expect an abundance of readily available information, delivered nearly instantaneously. I’ve seen nothing online about SOC’s concerns, so this hurts their cause. There are several venues this could take place… interaction on the existing Missouri Baptist mailing list, blogging, web forums, web sites, etc. This lack of information allows the few media outlets that have covered it to dominate the public perception of the movement. The few meetings held to date simply provide an insufficient level of communication.
  • The plan to address these concerns, showing 1100 messengers, makes the movement look very political (even if that’s not the intent). It’s most regrettable that this was included… if we want meaningful change in our convention (which is put in motion by the voting of messengers), pursual of a specific quota of messengers who will vote a certain way is politics at its very essence. Let’s simply make sure issues are known, and let messengers vote.

The bottom line? I left the meeting more discouraged about the Missouri Baptist Convention than ever… not because I view anyone in MBC life as having ill intentions for our convention, but simply because we’ve apparently got too much pride to reconcile our differences of opinion in regard to its direction.

I pray that God will break our hearts over the condition of our convention, drive us to our knees to seek His forgiveness for the time we’ve wasted fighting with each other, draw us together to reconcile our differences, and move us out in unity to push back against the darkness of sin and lostness that permeates our state.


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0 thoughts on “Missouri Baptists… Save Our Convention?

  1. John,

    Your comment that says, “I’ve seen nothing online about SOC’s concerns, so this hurts their cause. There are several venues this could take place… interaction on the existing Missouri Baptist mailing list, blogging, web forums, web sites, etc. This lack of information allows the few media outlets that have covered it to dominate the public perception of the movement. The few meetings held to date simply provide an insufficient level of communication.”

    This to me is the most incredible gap in the thinking of the SOC group imaginable. How and why they are not using the internet to get their message out is mind boggling!

  2. John,

    First, I recall meeting you. It would have been nice to sit and visit. I hope you are doing well.

    I have to admit…I read MoBaptistList post and thought “great…here we go…what a bummer.” Then I read your blog and I thought…wow…I am confused. I actually agree with several things…in fact, I agree with a LOT of this blog-post…

    Then, as a re-read it…(yes…it deserved a second read)…I thought…wait…I said some of those things. It truly is amazing how points of view change perspective.

    Bear with me…

    YOU STATE…I didn’t get the impression that others had (see the Missouri Baptist list for more). It seemed to me the meeting went quite smoothly, with presenters doing as good a job as possible presenting their viewpoints in a calm and loving manner… but that the meeting went VERY far south when the question and answer period began and the fur started flying. That’s not to say that I approved of everything SOC had to say… simply that given the choice of things shared, they did as good a job possible in presenting their message. I wish I could say the same for the question / answer period… the dialogue… both sides… was truly disheartening.

    I never said things did not go smoothly…and I never felt the meeting got into a shouting match. In fact, it did not. There was no shouting or yelling AT ALL. I never felt it even got heated to be honest…(but remember…I spend a lot of time in debate and so…to me the whole thing was VERY mild)….

    This is the ONLY thing in your blog I actually have an issue with. It frightens me that if I stand in front of a group of people and I am sweet enough and I use a nice-kind voice…that I can assassinate the character of people in the room, hand out papers and letters assassinating the character of people in the room, and be told that I did all of those things with a calm and loving heart.

    Now…John, I agree…I made an inflammatory comment. I admitted it. I apologized for it. Admittedly, I should have been more diplomatic. However, in my defense, I did ask some folks if I pointed my finger at anyone…and they said no. Was I firm…I am sure I was. However, my questions were valid…My specific question to who was contacting EB members and who was controlling the EB members was never really answered in full. You have to admit…David Sheppard denied that SOC said that the EB members were being controlled and influenced…and then the audience all nodded their head that this had been stated in their presentation. My point is this…just because it is nice…and done with a smile…does not make it right or OK.

    Further, I think that literature they handed was not nice…it was not sweet…it was not loving and it was hurtful. It is disingenuous to ignore that information when we all no how hurtful it is to those people. John, do you even know the 6 people they listed in that information. I had never heard of three of them. Yet, I am in church…in a meeting…being told how bad they are. Is that sweet…? Is that loving? What about using Jeff White, a man starting a new church, as an example of poor CP giving? Is that loving? Is that right? Is that sweet?

    John, I would also like to know how you took the CP threat – which I heard was used at the meeting the night before as well…? Was that nice and sweet? It sure sounded bad…Did SOC not say that those big giving churches could pull out…? Where was the love in that?

    Now…after that I agree with you…TOTALLY. You may not believe me…BUT I REALLY DO…

    You state – Anyway, to me, once you’re able to put aside the problems in their presentation, SOC’s message is a good one. As I see it, there are six main points:
    We need change in our convention.
    We don’t need closely associated individuals (be it MBLA folks, SOC folks, individuals from the same church, individuals from the same family, or other) in positions of influence year after year after year.
    We need more strict rules prohibiting service on multiple committees, boards, and elected positions.
    We need to learn to agree to disagree on debatable matters non-central to the gospel.
    Missouri Baptists need to be better informed about convention activities.
    Missouri Baptists need to be more involved in convention activities.
    Folks…I stated both in my post at to the group…that I supported the issues that SOC raised about getting people involved in our convention. I even agreed with Joe yesterday…that we do need some changes. In fact, to quote my post yesterday…I made it public to the group that I understand the process and procedure concerns of the Nominating Committee and other concerns. I think these are valid concerns. Discussing the rules and procedures by which we, as an MBC function is valid and legitimate. FURTHER, I made it VERY clear that SOC’s motivation to include MORE Missouri Baptists was important. FURTHER, my father (with whom I do agree with)…stated we should have 10 people run for MBC President…and all be involved. This is important…and I agree with this.
    .
    PLUS…I made it clear that to David Sheppard and David McAlpin…if they would drop the character assassinations…and stick to the issues…the issue of how we function…they would get a lot further. I asked them (after the meeting) if they would remove the letters from their packet that attacked people…they would not.

    You stated (as I quoted above)…that we need fewer people aligned with MBLA and SOC and the same church and the same family in rolls each year. It might be good to know that you can only have a certain number of members from your church on a board. I was told that is already in a rule. As for political groups…I AGREE. However, who is aligned now. I talked with several Executive Board members who attended the meeting in Kearney. Each one denied they are linked to one? Which is why I asked the questions I asked…SOC listed six people…but we have hundreds serving on trustee-boards, committees, and commissions. Are those the only six…and if so…can six people control everything? I DO AGREE WITH YOU…I am just trying to figure out where the problem is now…I just am not seeing it….

    John, in your blog you also stated – While generic descriptions of their concerns probably wouldn’t have been respected either (in a lot of ways, this group seems to be facing a no-win situation), pointing fingers at specific individuals as problems definitely detracts from the core message. Even if the things stated about MBLA and others are true, voicing them seems to me to create more controversy than it diffuses… it looks like a personal vendetta, no matter how many words are said to the contrary. In the end, it may work out, but I fear the cure may be every bit as bad as the disease.

    Um…ok…there was one other thing I did disagree with . Actually, generic descriptions would have been well received by me. I absolutely would have enjoyed the discussion of how to include more people…how to deal with secondary issues…how to communicate more. These are things I have said before…in fact…it would have TOTALLY disarmed me…In fact, if they had not made the accusations that the EB is being controlled by outside influences AND had left out the six-page gossip letter…I likely would not have stood up…(I know you have to trust me on that…but that is my honest assessment)…

    Your are EXACTLY CORRECT…voicing these concerns in this manner detracts from the core message. My question is simple…WHY do we need to assassinate the character of someone to get to these core issues? I honestly feel that much of the literature they handed did less to address the issues and more to hurt people…WHETHER OR NOT that was their intent…those discussions about individual people hurts the other more important issues YOU state above are valid. I agree with those issues…

    You are ALSO correct in how it looks like a personal vendetta.

    You state – The lack of continual public dialogue on these issues detracts from the message. In today’s age, we have come to expect an abundance of readily available information, delivered nearly instantaneously. I’ve seen nothing online about SOC’s concerns, so this hurts their cause. There are several venues this could take place… interaction on the existing Missouri Baptist mailing list, blogging, web forums, web sites, etc. This lack of information allows the few media outlets that have covered it to dominate the public perception of the movement. The few meetings held to date simply provide an insufficient level of communication.

    SOC has been discussed on the list quite a bit…especially when the first organized. However, there has been insufficient communication. However, I think we both agree…if more communication is created…it needs to be on the issues…and not on hurting the character of people.

    I can honestly say…I am concerned that a 6 page letter attacking the character of individuals not being seen as just gossip is not a concern to anyone. First-hand or not…what did that letter have to do with any of the issues that we agree are important? All it did was hurt people. What is interesting is…I have never had dinner with Roger Moran. I only see him at meetings. Nice guy. Even if he is wrong about something…that letter is not right. My question is…would we tolerate that kind of letter in our church? Yet, it was done in a sweet way…so it is ok? I am just asking…?

    John…you also state – The plan to address these concerns, showing 1100 messengers, makes the movement look very political (even if that’s not the intent). It’s most regrettable that this was included… if we want meaningful change in our convention (which is put in motion by the voting of messengers), pursual of a specific quota of messengers who will vote a certain way is politics at its very essence. Let’s simply make sure issues are known, and let messengers vote.

    TOTALLY AGREE…100%. My analogy at the meeting was inappropriate…you are much more “calm” and “loving” in your analysis. I do not say that sarcastically…I am bull in a china-shop. I admit it. I apologize again for my analogy.

    When you say…let’s simply make sure the issues are known…and let the messengers vote…AMEN.

    The fact is…folks…John has a good blog! Even in our disagreement…there is some agreement.

    Now…I will say this…Michael Knight stood up at the meeting in FBC Kearney and was obviously VERY hurt. I thought he was kind…and calm…and deserved to be heard. Roger Moran stood to give some defense of his position. He said nothing mean…but was obviously hurt by people he once called friend.

    John, all this to say…you may have been sitting behind me…and may have seen things differently…but it is odd that I agree with 90% of your post and assessment. Admittedly, my post also included the questions and comments made after the meeting when we were encouraged to ask SOC members more questions.

    I don’t want to serve in the MBC right now. One…my heart is not in it. I am saddened by what I saw. My heart is in my church. I spent 4 hours day running a basketball clinic and shared Jesus with eight young ball-players. That was much more productive than our meeting in Kearney.

    It is 5 AM…and I am preparing to meet with a banker…preparing to meet with some school officials…run a basketball clinic tonight. These things seem much more productive in the scheme of things…

    John, you state – The bottom line? I left the meeting more discouraged about the Missouri Baptist Convention than ever… not because I view anyone in MBC life as having ill intentions for our convention, but simply because we’ve apparently got too much pride to reconcile our differences of opinion in regard to its direction.

    Even when things were calm and loving…you still left sad. Me too! I left discouraged. In fact, in my post I stated how saddened I was. Your discouraged…I am saddened…MAYBE we can move forward now…

    I will admit my quilt of pride. There needs to be reconciliation. I too am discouraged. In my heart of hearts…I have this hope that when I get to Tan-Tar-A…I can put my arms around everyone involved and move forward. I don’t want to be at odds with David McAlpin. He and my father have been friends for many years. I don’t want to be at odds with guys like Joe Voga…who I know has a passion for Christ!

    Thanks for the blog!

    You brother in Christ…

    - Baker-

  3. I would agree with Jim’s comments. And yet the generation represented by both the MBC leadership and the SOC leadership are such that they have not acclimated to the new paradiym of communication. A quote by Spock to Kirk in the movie “The Wrath of Kahn” – “He is thinking only two dimensionally” – in space there are three dimensions. Today we have this great ability to communicate with others our views and yet the older generation (with Jim excluded :-)) do not seem to get it yet.

    Rob

  4. John
    First, let me say that I’ve not been shy about me perceptions concerning Save Our Convention. You can read them at: http://shepherdswalk.blogspot.com/

    Second, and I find myself saying this to a lot of young pastors lately: Don’t get discouraged. The MBC is NOT about what takes place at 400 E. High Street in Jefferson City. The Missouri Baptist Convention is all about what is taking place in 1900+ local New Testament Church across the state of Missouri. Across our state large churches and small churches, urban churches and rural churches and inner-city churches are telling the story of Jesus and trying to minister in their local. THIS is what the MBC is all about. If you remember that, everything else becomse somewhat superfolous.

    Third, hang in there with the MBC. Change does not happen quickly in Baptist life, but it does take place. As I said in another post somewhere, I was a young man when the SBC Conservative Resurgence began. By the time it was firmly in place I was an old fud. The changes you want to see take place in the convention will eventually happen — though you may be an old fud before you see it.

  5. Jim, Rob…

    I really wonder why the group didn’t enlist someone to assist them with establishing a web presence… I’ve gotta believe that there’s someone who would be available to assist. To be honest, I love that kind of thing, and would have been happy to help, especially if it means improved communications from the group leading to more meaningful dialogue over their concerns.

    Brian,

    I’ve finally had a chance to read through your post again, and have a few additional thoughts / clarifications.

    First, in regard to the accusations levied by SOC against others… I didn’t say that I felt these all of these things were okay, acceptable, or necessary. What I intended to convey is simply that I can understand why they felt a need to bring these items up, and thought they did a decent job in trying to present their concerns lovingly. If it is truly the perception of SOC leadership that certain individuals have an undue influence on Missouri Baptist Convention activities, and they felt bound by conscience to bring these concerns to light, then the message was bound to be unpopular to some, and likely to be seen by some as character assassination. I simply have a hard time believing that character assassination was their intent. Rather, I believe their intent was simply to provide support for their assertions from things they or others close to them have experienced first-hand… support that likely would have been demanded had they spoken in purely generic terms.

    You see, as hard as it is to do sometimes, and as likely as it is to mean that I’m going to open myself to being hurt, I simply feel I have to trust fellow believers… the alternative is not a place I’m willing to go. We can’t live our lives not trusting those that God has called out of sin, whom He apparently trusts enough to allow to represent Him here on earth under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    Now, that doesn’t mean I have to agree with my brothers and sisters in Christ, of course… but it does mean that I can’t allow myself to start their judging motives. Only God knows the heart, after all.

    In regard to the “CP threat”? Well… I didn’t see it quite the way you did Brian. I interpreted it as this: we have concerns about the direction of the MBC… concerns that have bothered us to the point we’ve wondered whether we want to stay a part of it. Now here’s the impact if we were to just throw up our hands and leave. I guess that could be perceived as a threat, but to me, it was simply another way of pointing to the magnitude of their concerns. Again, though, I’m trying to look at this assuming the best motives in everyone.

    Anyway, I know there’s more I should address in your reply, but I really want to get to everyone’s replies.

    David,

    Just to be clear… I’m not a pastor, although I get that a lot in interaction on this site.

    I have seen your thoughts on SOC… I appreciate your thoughts, even though I don’t agree with you on everything. It’s always interesting to read other’s viewpoints, but to be honest, what I really have been looking for recently is simply more information from SOC itself. I was able to get that at the Kearney meeting, but of course you’ve seen that in my post.

    Anyway, thanks for the encouragement about the MBC… it’s easy to get disheartened by the constant turmoil, and you’re absolutely right… focusing on the work of the churches that make up the MBC helps put things in perspective. I just really would love to see that turmoil die out so what we’d hear about the MBC would be how the churches are impacting lives rather than the constant bickering and fighting.

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