November 19, 2002
JEFFERSON CITY – Involvement by Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) leaders and churches in the legal confrontation between the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and five breakaway agencies where trustees have voted to become self-perpetuating is far more extensive than first reported.
That is the finding following an extensive analysis by The Pathway of the churches and names of individuals listed on an amicus curiae brief opposing the MBC’s legal action against the five renegade agencies. The brief — filed by attorney Bart Tichenor, an outspoken supporter of the CBF and the fledgling Baptist General Convention of Missouri (BGCM) — opposes the MBC’s declaratory judgment petition that seeks to restore accountability of the Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Missouri Baptist Foundation, Word & Way, The Baptist Home, and Missouri Baptist College to MBC churches.
Motions to dismiss the MBC petition — filed by attorneys representing the five agencies – will be presented before Circuit Court Judge Tom Brown in Cole County Circuit Court here Nov. 19. If Brown decides to hear the case, he is likely to set a trial date for sometime next year, a move that could trigger a chain of legal events that some observers believe will lead to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Nearly half of the 2,485 individuals who signed Tichenor’s brief are members of churches sympathetic to the CBF, Missouri CBF or the BGCM. Counted among the 1,096 signees from the three theologically moderate organizations is a virtual who’s who among the moderate/CBF movement in Missouri. That number increases to 1,212 if it includes Missouri churches that either include the CBF in their budgets or allows individual members to give to the CBF through the church. There are 38 churches in Missouri that allow both giving options, according to the February 2001 edition of Connect, the newsletter of the Missouri CBF, and 24 of those have members appearing on the amicus brief.
The list includes several trustees and administrators of the five breakaway agencies, a plethora of national and state CBF leaders, and several of the BGCM’s board of directors.
In a rather odd twist, 287 people listed on the brief are not even from churches affiliated with the MBC: Kirkwood Baptist Church, St. Louis; Wornall Road, Kansas City; Second Baptist, Liberty; and First Baptist, Columbia. Keith Herron, a current member of the Missouri CBF Coordinating Council and senior pastor at Holmeswood Baptist Church, Kansas City, said his church will sever ties with the MBC Nov. 18. Holmeswood is one of the 35 churches supporting the brief, but only 25 members from the church actually signed the document.
Supporters of the MBC’s legal action say the heavy CBF influence among those listed on the brief demonstrates just how far disgruntled, pro-CBF moderates will go in their attempt to move the MBC away from the theologically conservative Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and toward the more theologically liberal CBF.
"We have said from the beginning of this controversy more than five years ago that this is really been about whether the MBC will be SBC or CBF," said Roger Moran, research director for the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association. "Moderates could not get the MBC to leave the SBC, so now they are trying to steal its agencies."
The Pathway analysis suggests that the CBF movement in the state may have more bark than bite. For example, the amicus brief’s list of supporters is miniscule when compared to the 650,000 Southern Baptists in Missouri. Also, the 35 churches that signed, while among the most vocal critics of the MBC and SBC, are but a fraction of the MBC’s 1,950 member churches.
"If a full investigation were completed, I believe it would find the same CBF influence that exists on the brief also exists among the boards that have gone self-perpetuating," said David Tolliver, pastor, Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, MBC recording secretary and a member of the MBC legal task force.
At least seven trustees with the five renegade agencies are among the names on the amicus brief: John C. Howell, Second Baptist, Liberty, The Baptist Home; Walter Rarrick, South Gate Baptist, Springfield, Windermere; Paulina Scott, Fifth Street Baptist, Hannibal, The Baptist Home; Bill Gutshall, First Baptist, Trenton, The Baptist Home; Rocky Good, First Baptist, Farmington, Windermere; Charles L. Limbaugh, First Baptist, Farmington, The Baptist Home; and Author L. Mallory, First Baptist, Springfield, chairman of the board, Windermere. More than a dozen additional trustees, while not listed on the brief, are members at eight of the 35 churches lending support to the brief. Among them: Randy Fullerton, pastor of Fee Fee Baptist, Bridgeton, who is trustee chairman at Missouri Baptist College.
There are 48 individual signees on the brief that are considered leaders among the ranks of the national CBF, Missouri CBF and BGCM, including Cynthia Holmes, Overland Baptist, St. Louis, moderator-elect for the national CBF and a former Missouri CBF moderator; John Tyler, Kirkwood Baptist, former national CBF moderator and an ex-member of the Missouri CBF Coordinating Council; and Laura Webb, a member of Second Baptist, Liberty, who serves as editor of Connect. (See the related story for a complete list of the 48 and their CBF connections.)
Holmes, a respected St. Louis attorney, has garnered Missouri Baptists’ attention due to her involvement (along with Tichenor) with Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU). AU was once funded by the MBC until it raised the ire of conservatives who made AU’s pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, anti-school prayer positions known to Missouri Baptists.
AU was ultimately defunded as a growing number of CBF leaders’ involvement with the organization became known and its clashes with more conservative Southern Baptists seemed to intensify. In the past decade more than a dozen CBF leaders — including John E. Hughes, pastor of First Baptist, Independence and a former CBF Coordinating Council member, who is among the signees of Tichenor’s amicus brief — have served on AU’s governing board. Rudy Pulido, pastor of Southwest Baptist, St. Louis, is the long-time leader of AU’s St. Louis chapter. Southwest Baptist contributed 25 names to Tichenor’s brief.
Most recently AU has stepped up its support of evolution being taught as scientific fact in public schools. It also opposed the Boy Scouts of America’s right not to accept homosexuals into leadership positions and was among the most ardent supporters of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent ruling that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because it contains the phrase, "one nation under God." AU threatened to sue First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1998, after Pastor Robert Jefferies and the church’s deacons called on citizens not to vote for local council members who supported the placement of tax-funded, pro-homosexual books in the children’s section of a public library.
There are 12 former Mainstream Missouri Baptist leaders listed on the amicus brief. The now defunct Mainstream Missouri operation was a political front group for the CBF and Missouri CBF, guiding both organizations’ political activity in the state so the CBF could appear detached from any political fray. Two of the 11 are former Mainstream endorsed candidates for MBC president, Harlan Spurgeon of University Heights Baptist Church, Springfield; and Jimmy Albright, pastor of Wyatt Park Baptist Church, St. Joseph. Both were among four consecutive defeats Mainstream presidential candidates suffered at the hands of the growing conservative movement in Missouri between 1998 and 2001.
University Heights had 182 members sign the brief, while Wyatt Park contributed only nine, yet was among the 35 churches that supports Tichenor’s brief. Another "Mainstream" leader, Scott Shaver, pastor of Third Baptist, St. Louis, is the former coordinator for Mainstream Louisiana Baptists. Third Baptist was among the 35 churches supporting the brief as well.
There are at least seven board members of the BGCM on the amicus brief. The BGCM has not said how many churches have aligned with the new convention, but it is widely believed to be less than a half dozen. Among the churches reportedly leaning toward some type of alignment with the BGCM are First Baptist, Farmington and First Baptist, Lee’s Summit. First Baptist, Farmington, was just four votes shy of being thrown out of the Mineral Area Baptist Association last month after it was learned that the church was making overtures to the BGCM. First Lee’s Summit voted recently to cut off mission offerings to the MBC and divert its offering to the BGCM. Both churches had a total of 209 individuals sign Tichenor’s brief.
Also on the list are administrators and employees of the five renegade agencies, including Frank Shock, president of Windermere, Keith L. Ross, vice president, institutional advancement at Missouri Baptist College, and Steven R. Jones, administrator of The Baptist Home’s Chillicothe facility. Several employees and employee spouses are among the names on the brief as well. It was James Morgan, pastor of First Baptist, Chillicothe, who signed the article of incorporation for the BGCM.
Jones was among 10 people from First Baptist, Chillicothe, to sign the brief. The other nine included an employee and eight residents of The Baptist Home in Chillicothe. The Baptist Home was among Tichenor’s stops while traveling the state last month promoting his amicus brief. It appears he was persuasive. The Pathway has confirmed that at least 17 Baptist Home residents at the Chillicothe facility and at least two more at the Ozark location signed the brief.