‘Laundering’ term gets BGCM leader in hot water; CP gifts not going through Texas
By Bob Baysinger
October 21, 2003
JEFFERSON CITY – The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) has not "laundered money" for the Baptist General Convention of Missouri (BGCM) to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), according to David Nabors, BGCT chief financial officer/treasurer.
Dick Lionberger, who served as the BGCM’s first president in 2002 and continues as a member of the BGCM board of directors, told a First Baptist Church, Richmond audience during a debate with Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Associate Executive Director Kenny Qualls on Oct. 2 that the new Missouri convention launders money through Texas to the SBC.
The ability to send mission money to the SBC is crucial issue to the BGCM because the convention advertises itself as having the ability to do so because many members of BGCM churches still claim allegiance to the SBC and the Cooperative Program.
When told that Lionberger said the BGCM had "laundered" money to the SBC through the BGCT, Nabors’ quick response was, "That is not correct."
Nabors said a plan that would allow the BGCM to send money to the SBC via Texas was discussed earlier this year.
"We did work early this year trying to identify a way to do what the churches in Missouri wanted to do," Nabors said. "We visited with the SBC Executive Board about this idea, and they determined it wasn’t possible."
Nabors said the BGCT received one check from the BGCM.
"But when the SBC said we could not do that, we reversed the check. We did not accept the money," Nabors said. "The money has been returned to us from the SBC and we are working out the details to send the money back to Missouri."
An SBC leader with knowledge of the matter, said the check was written for an approximate amount of $37,000.
When contacted by The Pathway about Nabors’ response, Lionberger denied that he used the term "launder."
"The term ‘laundering’ is not my term," Lionberger said in an e-mail to The Pathway. "In one of the earlier three-way discussions with MBC, CBF and BGCM the term was used," he said, referring to part of the format used for the debate. The first part allowed each of the representatives to speak for 15 minutes without interruption. The second part featured 60 minutes worth of questions from the audience to Lionberger, Qualls and Missouri Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) President Harold Phillips.
"We were talking about the fact that the BGCM was sending CP funds through the BGCT and the term ‘laundering’ was brought up by the pastor of the church," Lionberger stated in his e-mail.
Dallas Bundy is pastor of FBC, Richmond, and said little throughout the discussions except to introduce those involved.
Others attending the meeting said they distinctly heard Lionberger use the term "laundering" at least twice, including Qualls, Bob Caldwell, MBC state evangelism director, and Don Hinkle, editor of The Pathway.
"BGCM has been sending CP funds through the BGCT. If that has changed, I haven’t heard of it. I don’t know the exact process,’ Lionberger said.
Qualls said he was surprised by Lionberger’s statement because "it had been my understanding that the SBC would only receive funds from the MBC or if a local church sends its funds directly to the SBC.
"Morris Chapman has been very clear concerning the differences between the new convention and the MBC and that funds will be received only through the MBC," Qualls said. "And the statement from the controller at the Baptist General Convention of Texas affirms that again."
Several attempts have been made to send money to the SBC by circumventing the Missouri Baptist Convention.
Jim Hill resigned as MBC executive director and quickly aligned with organizers of the moderate-led BGCM. Hill wrote a letter to Morris Chapman, SBC president and chief executive officer, asking if the SBC would accept money from a new convention.
Chapman responded: "I cannot recommend the Southern Baptist Convention enter into a relationship with your proposed new Baptist state convention in Missouri whereby you would collect Cooperative Program gifts to forward to us."
Chapman reminded Hill that a state convention is to be in friendly cooperation with the SBC.
"The Missouri Baptist Convention remains our Cooperative Program collection agent for Baptist churches in Missouri," Chapman said. "It continues to act faithfully in regard to promoting the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention among Baptists in Missouri and forwards Cooperative Program gifts for national and international causes exclusively to the Southern Baptist Convention."
Qualls believes it is important for BGCM churches to have a tie to the SBC because it fits their "wean to win" philosophy.
"In many cases, they know they cannot pull a church away from the SBC immediately," Qualls said. "So they are trying to wean churches away so they can eventually take them completely away from the Cooperative Program and the Southern Baptist Convention.
"I also believe there are people in the pews of new convention churches that are unaware that the SBC does not recognize the new convention," Qualls added. "They’re not aware that the Southern Baptist Convention will not receive funds from the new convention."