November 19, 2002
STEELVILLE—One church among the 35 who signed Bart Tichenor’s amicus brief is not supportive of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).
First Baptist Church, Steelville, has no connection with the CBF and supports the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) – except when it goes to court, according to its pastor.
"Neither I nor our church is ‘moderate’ nor have we in any way associated ourselves with the CBF," said Curtis Bryan. "We have never even received designated funds to send to them. Our church considers itself to be very conservative and loyal to the MBC and the Southern Baptist Convention. We give 21 percent of our undesignated offerings to SBC, MBC and associational causes."
He said FBC Steelville chose to side with Bart Tichenor because they believe it is wrong for Christians to sue each other.
"I realize that the MBC has chosen to interpret 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 to apply only to individuals and not corporations because it says in verse 6, "But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.’ However, the MBC has chosen to interpret Matthew 18: 15-17 to apply to corporations. This seems odd to us when verse 15 states, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee … .’
"It is our position," Bryan explained, "that both apply in principal to all Christian activity: Individual, church and convention. It is inconsistent to throw out one passage the MBC disagrees with because it says we should not sue each other and claim another because it says we can treat the uncooperative one "’as a heathen man and a publican.’"
Indeed conservatives within the MBC have debated among themselves over this issue, with a few conservatives opposing legal actions, including a handful on the MBC Executive Board. However, the majority have said neither passage specifically addresses the MBC legal circumstances, but that both provide sufficient principles for the church to follow. Conservatives believe they followed the three steps prescribed by Jesus in Matthew 18 and that the five rebellious agencies refused to submit to the authority of the church, thus giving the church license to impose restorative discipline, or in this case, seek legal remedy that will make the five agencies accountable once again to the church.
MBC leaders, who also view the controversy as a stewardship issue, have pointed out that the MBC was not the first to seek legal action. Conservatives note that a position taken like that of FBC Steelville is usually absent of criticism or judgment concerning the Missouri Baptist Foundation’s secret legal maneuvering to change its charter or threats by The Baptist Home attorneys to have MBC-elected trustees arrested for trespassing should they attend trustee meetings.
Conservatives have also said Christians must be able to seek legal redress if wronged, else they are left without any defense against those who would do them harm.
The churches on Tichenor’s brief represent less than 1 percent of the 1,950 MBC churches in the state.
Another MBC church supporting the amicus brief, First Baptist Church, Bolivar, voted to stop sending designated contributions to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in January.
"For a 10-year period prior to that less than three percent of our Cooperative Program giving was designated to the CBF," said Ray Leininger, pastor.