September 15, 2002
CAMDENTON—W. Bart Tichenor probably wondered if he had found the right location when his amicus brief tour stopped at First Baptist Church in Camdenton Sept. 24.
With the church serving as home to Frank Shock, director of the breakaway Windermere Baptist Conference Center, and some of the center’s employees, Tichenor may have expected an audience 100 percent sympathetic to his plea for support. But such was not the case.
Several attendees, identifying themselves as "conservative Baptists," peppered Tichenor with questions about his involvement with the anti-Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and the pro-homosexual, pro-abortion Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He also was grilled on the accountability the five breakaway agencies Windermere, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, the Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist College and Word & Way— have to Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) churches, his stand on the inerrancy of Scripture, and the timeliness of the pull out from the MBC by the five agencies.
Tichenor calmly responded to questions but displayed a touch of anger when confronted with questions about the "liberal" tag that is used by conservatives to identify the attorney and others in support of the CBF, the new Baptist General Convention of Missouri, and the breakaway institutions.
When Roy Dameron of Concord Baptist, Jefferson City, used the world "liberal" during a question, Tichenor fired back: "When people use the words moderate and liberal to describe me, I ask them what they mean. All I get is a blank stare. What do you mean by liberal?"
Dameron responded that he considers a "liberal" to be one who does not believe the Bible to be the Word of God without error and added that he considered Tichenor to be of that persuasion.
"We’re not here to discuss that," Tichenor snapped. "I tell you what I’ll do. My attorney fee is $125 per hour. You pay that and I’ll come here and discuss that issue with anybody!"
Norma Chapman, First Baptist Church, Buffalo, told Tichenor she believed the legal battle boils down to an issue of accountability.
"You haven’t mentioned the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF)," Chapman told Tichenor.
"I support the CBF," Tichenor responded. "I was their parliamentarian."
Said Chapman: "But we don’t agree with things the CBF stands for. We don’t agree with homosexuality and abortion and women being ordained. I think that’s what this struggle is all about."
Tichenor told the audience of approximately 50 gathered in the auditorium of FBC Camdenton that the institutions needed to breakaway because of the ascending-descending liability issue. He used a hypothetical example of students dying in a dorm fire at one of the Baptist colleges in Missouri and attorneys involved with ensuring lawsuits going after the large assets of the Baptist Home because the institutions were interconnected.
Tichenor could cite no real examples but said nursing homes have been sued in similar situations.
Steve Simko, pastor of Concordia Baptist, challenged Tichenor to provide "likeness of institution" examples. "A nursing home is a very different entity," Simko said. "They’re set up differently and are strictly driven by money."
Simko agreed with Chapman, that the real issue is accountability. With the five institutions no longer led by the MBC, Simko predicted that in 10-15 years they will not be recognizable as a Baptist institution.
"The end result will be what has happened at Baylor University in Texas. It is now basically a secular school."
Tichenor was asked why the liability issue is so important now and was not considered important 10 years ago.
"It wasn’t an issue 10 years ago," Tichenor replied.
Tichenor reported that he is pleased with the response to his tour. At Camdenton, he said more than 1,400 individuals from 80 different churches and 22 individual churches have agreed to be party to the amicus brief.