June 26, 2002
ST. LOUIS – A leader among moderate Baptists has curiously embraced the same argument Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) leaders have used since trustees on five MBC agencies voted to become self-perpetuating — that trustee boards are accountable to convention messengers.
Bruce Prescott, executive director of Oklahoma Mainstream Baptists and a past member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) Coordinating Council, introduced a motion at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting June 11-12 that would have rescinded the International Mission Board’s (IMB) request that SBC missionaries affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message. The motion was ruled out of order by the chairman of the committee on order of business and was referred to the IMB for consideration. When it became clear there would be no debate on the matter Prescott went to a microphone on the floor of the convention and addressed the messengers.
He first noted the numerous references about accountability that come with discussions of the 2000 BF&M and then stated:
"If trustees can hold missionaries accountable, who holds the trustees accountable? I believe it is the messengers who meet here this week. We will thwart the constitution if we do not allow them to speak on this issue and vote."
MBC leaders were astonished at Prescott’s remarks given the actions taken by fellow moderate trustees in the "Show Me" state who have seized control of five MBC agencies by becoming self-perpetuating, thus ignoring the will of a large majority of Missouri Baptists.
"I think Bruce Prescott, who is no friend to the SBC’s conservative resurgence, stated it best with what we are dealing with Missouri," said Bob Curtis, MBC president and pastor of Ballwin Baptist Church, Ballwin.
"When he said messengers have the right to hold the agencies accountable through their trustees, likewise, we have a right in Missouri to hold our agencies accountable to the trustee process that has been the historic practice and tradition for years in Missouri Baptist life. I would call on all five agency presidents and their boards to take to heart the comments by Reverend Prescott.
"He has stated our case very clearly," Curtis added.
Prescott’s comments carry weight among disgruntled moderates who do not like the conservative direction of the SBC and MBC. David Currie, the intrepid Texas leader of the so-called "Mainstream" Baptist and "Baptists Committed" movements, has called Prescott the "Mainstream" network’s "in-house theologian." The "Mainstream" and "Baptists Committed" organizations are political-front groups for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and are attempting to woo state conventions and their assets from the SBC.
Prescott has made no secret of his contempt for the conservative direction of the SBC. He routinely uses the term "fundamentalists," in a pejorative sense, to describe conservatives in the SBC and has referred to them as, having "the inside track to God’s outhouse." Prescott later apologized for the remark.
He has accused Southern Baptist leaders of "demoting Jesus, turning a deaf ear to God’s Spirit" and leading Baptists into "Bible idolatry."
Prescott again made headlines in April when he said "conflict is not necessary, nor is it inevitable" while participating in a panel discussion concerning the relationship between evolution and religion sponsored by the University of Oklahoma Zoological Society.
Prescott was also among the harshest critics of Jerry Vines’ statement June 10 at the SBC Pastor’s Conference in which Vines – in pointing to the exclusivity of Christ for salvation — said there was no comparison between Jesus, the sinless Son of God, and Mohammad, "a demon-possessed pedophile."
"That language is so offensive that it tears down any bridge we might have to speak to Muslims about Christianity," Prescott said.
Interestingly, Prescott reaffirmed the statement he made at the SBC meeting about trustee accountability in a June 24 letter sent to Jerry Rankin, president of the IMB. He also implies that newly elected SBC President Jack Graham "slandered" IMB missionaries because Graham, in attempting to describe why missionaries should be accountable to the SBC, drew a comparison between their relationship with the SBC and one that a worker has with an employer.
Prescott concludes his letter by asking to meet with Rankin and then signs it as a "messenger" from First Baptist Church of Norman, Okla.