October 14, 2002
HANNIBAL—Fifth Street Baptist Church is not considering asking the Missouri Baptist Convention to return to the church its portion of Cooperative Program money being held in escrow after trustees at five MBC agencies secretly amended their charters to create self-perpetuating boards.
The idea that Fifth Street might take such action was introduced by W. B. (Bart) Tichenor during his recent tour of the state to drum-up support for his "friend-of-the-court" brief that he wants to file in the case involving the MBC and trustee boards of the five agencies. Of the 650,000 Southern Baptists in Missouri, Tichenor collected about 1,800 signatures for his brief, which the court may not accept. Tichenor claims they "represent" 130 Missouri Baptist churches, but opponents say they no more represent Missouri Baptist churches than any other individual.
Tichenor also said 22 churches have signed on as well, many of them with ties to the new Baptist General Convention of Missouri and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). There are about 1,950 churches and missions that are members of the MBC.
"If they came to me and asked about the validity of escrowing funds, I’d say let’s take a look at the (MBC) business and financial plan," Tichenor told a small audience at First Baptist Church, Columbia, on Sept. 18. "And there’s nothing in that plan that authorizes the escrowing of funds," he said, adding that Fifth Street was considering asking the MBC to return to the church its portion of the escrowed money.
"As of this date (Oct. 4) Fifth Street has taken no action and I would be very surprised if we did," said Vance Baugher, a deacon at Fifth Street who called The Pathway to express his concern. "Some individuals (at Fifth Street) have expressed concern over this issue and he (Tichenor) may have overheard what they said, but they do not speak for the church."
He said "some churches" have sent emails to him saying that they would like to join Fifth Street in taking such action, but Baugher said he does not expect Fifth Street to join in any such move.
Messengers to the MBC’s 2001 meeting in Cape Girardeau voted by more than 3-1 to escrow $2.1 million earmarked for the five agencies where trustees no longer want to be accountable to Missouri Baptist churches.
The MBC Executive Board is recommending to the convention that any 2003 funds normally earmarked for the five breakaway institutions be redirected to agencies–like the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, Southwest Baptist University, Hannibal- LaGrange College, and The Pathway–that remain loyal to the MBC.