November 5, 2002
KANSAS CITY — Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will withdraw $877,000 in seminary funds invested with the Missouri Baptist Foundation, one of five entities where trustees have voted to make their board self-perpetuating, thus removing Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) churches from a process in which they have been historically involved.
Seminary trustees voted unanimously to remove the funds from the foundation at their regular fall board meeting here, Oct. 21-22.
Trustee David Tolliver, pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, and MBC recording secretary, said the seminary took the action because of controversy over recent decisions by the foundation and four other Missouri Baptist agencies to move to self-perpetuating trustee boards.
The MBC has filed a declaratory judgment petition against the five institutions — The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist College, Windermere Baptist Conference Center and Word and Way. The petition asks a Cole County Circuit Court judge to determine if the trustees are accountable to themselves or to the churches of the MBC. It seeks no monetary damages and is directed only at the institutions and not individuals.
"Midwestern’s bylaws require us to invest in a Southern Baptist institution," Tolliver said. "Now, the Missouri Baptist Foundation is not connected to the Southern Baptist Convention, and in my opinion, we have no business doing business with the Missouri Baptist Foundation."
Foundation President James Smith said in a statement Oct. 25 that he was "grieved" by the trustee action and disagreed with charges that the agency is no longer Southern Baptist. Smith said the Missouri foundation has distributed about $6 million this year to ministries supported by the Cooperative Program unified budget. "That is more than some entire state conventions have given in Southern Baptist Cooperative Program support," he said.
Midwestern trustee Jay Scribner, pastor of First Baptist Church, Branson, said the current controversy surrounding the foundation was the primary reason for the board’s action.
"The foundation has made a wrong choice as an institution," Scribner said Oct. 25. "As an institution, we must make the choice to do what is in the best interest of our institution and what is in the best interest of the kingdom.
"We regret the decisions the foundation’s trustees and Dr. Smith have made, and we believe these to be wrong decisions."
Despite MBTS trustees’ decision, foundation officials said they plan to continue to promote gifts to the seminary, said Kim Quinn, foundation vice president.
Trustees directed President Phil Roberts and Chairman Dan Eddington of Carson City to explore other investment options. Board members did not set a deadline by which to remove the funds. Other investment options could include neighboring state foundations or the Southern Baptist Foundation.
In other business trustees:
Approved plans to launch the Midwestern Journal of Theology in spring 2003. Trustees approved the project during their regular fall meeting Oct. 21-22 in Kansas City.
Terry Wilder is the journal’s managing editor. He is Midwestern’s associate professor of New Testament and Greek and assistant director of the doctoral studies program.
"We wanted to start a journal as the first step in possibly beginning some doctoral research programs at Midwestern," Wilder said. "The journal will showcase the written scholarship of our faculty and others."
Stephen Andrews, professor of Old Testament, Hebrew and archaeology and the director of the Morton-Seats Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, is the book review editor.
Subscriptions will be available, and a preview of each edition’s articles will be available at the seminary’s Web site, www.mbts.edu.
Approved the launch of a five-year $2 million capital campaign to pay for the 34,000-square-foot building and 24 acres of property the seminary purchased last spring. Trustees also agreed to personally sponsor one room for $20,000.