Identity of MWMU clarified at annual meeting
MBC resolution met with mixed reaction, anti-MBC sentiment expressed at Q&A
By Allen Palmeri
April 19, 2005
ELLISVILLE – Members of the Missouri Woman’s Missionary Union (MWMU) came to their 81st annual session April 15-16 at First Baptist Church, Ellisville, determined to find out who they are as stated in their own bylaws – however those bylaws read.
In a 20-minute question-and-answer time April 15, members learned that their leaders had printed in their official program the wrong set of words for Article III, Section 3 of their bylaws. The wrong language read: “MWMU shall cooperate with such state and national entities as determined by the Board of Directors with focus on Missouri Baptist Convention/Southern Baptist Convention missions.” The correct language omits “Baptist Convention” after Missouri. On April 16, Vivian McCaughan, MBC WMU/women’s missions and ministry specialist, re-stated the language that was clarified April 15, urging members to cross out the two erroneous words.
“That’s just an oversight,” MWMU President Lorraine Powers said, apologizing to a questioner in the April 15 question-and-answer forum. She later apologized to another woman in the audience over the same issue.
“I’m sorry we overlooked that,” Powers said. “That was a change that was made last year at this meeting and we just didn’t catch it when we reprinted the bylaws.”
A member rose to ask Powers to explain what “Missouri” means in the bylaws.
“All Baptist churches,” Powers said.
“So is it just Baptist churches, or is it Southern Baptist churches?” the member asked. “Aren’t there some churches that are Baptist without being Southern Baptist?”
“There are,” Powers responded.
“So is it both?” the member asked. “I think we ought to not be sitting on the fence. I think we ought to make it clear.”
Powers, who was elected April 16 to serve a second year as MWMU president, then told the member that the MWMU Board has spoken on the matter.
“The board has determined that so far we are affiliated, will work with, any Missouri Baptist church,” Powers said. “The board should speak all for themselves. My personal opinion is that WMU is WMU regardless of affiliation or denomination.”
The MWMU Board March 15 decided to not accept funds from the 2005-2006 Baptist General Convention of Missouri (BGCM) budget and mission offering. That prompted an April 12 resolution by the MBC Executive Board praising the MWMU, which in turn triggered an April 15 controversy in Ellisville after members watched Powers receive a framed version of the resolution. The MWMU receives $55,000 a year from the MBC.
A member during the question-and-answer time voiced her disapproval.
“I think the low point of this meeting has been for me when we presented that resolution and all it did was just bring another big chasm between all the Missouri Baptists,” she said. “I’m really upset about that.””
After waiting for a burst of applause to die down, Powers thanked the woman for expressing her opinion.
“I don’t know if it will help you or not, but the Missouri WMU Board did not request that resolution and we had no knowledge of its existence until a few days ago,” Powers said. “The presentation of the resolution was not on our agenda. Ladies, the choice that I had to make was during which general session it would be presented. I chose this evening so that it would be presented before this forum so that you would be able to express that opinion. I am sorry we disappointed you on that.”
Another MWMU member chose to publicly defend the MBC. This MWMU member said the MBC Executive Board did the right thing by unanimously approving the text of the resolution that Powers chose to accept from MBC Executive Board member Eleanore Warner on behalf of the entire MWMU.
“I just happen to agree with that resolution,” the MWMU member who defended the MBC said. “Now if I’m the only one, so be it, but that’s where I stand. I just am Missouri Baptist, and I love what Missouri Baptists do in the way of missions.”
The controversy brought back memories of the 2003 MWMU annual meeting at William Jewell College, when MBC Executive Director David Clippard asked members what type of Baptist – Primitive, Free Will, Southern, etc. – they are.
“Leaders lead somewhere,” Clippard said that day in Liberty. “Where are you all going?”
Two board members, Lucy Wagner and Barbara Popp, rotated off April 16. Martha Hall, a member of Carpenter Street Baptist Church in Moberly, has replaced Wagner as MWMU Prayer Advocate. Board member Joan Dotson has taken over for Popp as MWMU Missionary Advocate, and a new board member, Julie Norris, of First Baptist Church in Hillsboro, has been appointed as MWMU East Central Region Consultant to replace Dotson. Another board member, Wandalea Sconce, has resigned.
“I think that the leadership of Missouri WMU is interested in Missouri WMU attending to the mission task,” McCaughan said. “We’re willing to do whatever it takes to be on mission, Christ followers, and seeing people come to know Christ.”
There were 301 members and guests in attendance.