Mineral Area Asscoiation affirms ties with MBC, SBC
By Allen Palmeri
October 7, 2003
POTOSI – The Mineral Area Baptist Association voted in its annual meeting Sept. 25 to approve a new constitution that requires singular alignment with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
By a 187-67 (74 percent to 26 percent) vote at Potosi Southern Baptist Church, messengers achieved the necessary two-thirds majority. At last year’s annual meeting – a raucous affair that featured long-winded out-of-order speeches, accusations of "lies," finger-pointing, hisses and boos — a similar amendment failed by six votes. Much of the contentiousness focused on First Baptist Farmington, the largest church in the association which had already aligned with the new Baptist Convention of Missouri (BGCM) and whose pastor, Bill Miller, now serves as BGCM president.
The new constitution, which goes into effect immediately, states: "The Mineral Area Baptist Association will consist of churches who by congregational action, history or tradition are singularly aligned with the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention." The amended constitution means that First Farmington is virtually assured of being disfellowshiped.
"They broke step with us," said John Garland, in referring to First Farmington’s decision to join the new convention. Garland is pastor, Providence Baptist Church, Bonne Terre, and a member of the MBC Executive Board.
Immediately after the Sept. 25 vote, in the vestibule of Potosi Southern, Miller said he had no comment for The Pathway.
The association’s executive board is expected to activate its credentials committee Oct. 16 as a first step toward officially charging First Farmington with being in violation of the constitution. However, executive board members are hoping Miller will avoid a confrontation by submitting a letter before Oct. 16 informing the association that First Farmington is withdrawing its membership from the association.
First Farmington had been able to stave off the necessary two-thirds majority to amend the constitution, in part, because it continued to give to the SBC Cooperative Program by sending its money directly to the SBC Executive Committee rather than by the customary route through the MBC. But Miller, who unsuccessfully ran for MBC president in 1998, led his church out of the MBC and had come under fire for his involvement in the forming of the BGCM – even as he continued to serve on the MBC Executive Board.
First Farmington is one of only a handful of churches who has joined the new convention thus far. Miller ultimately resigned from the MBC Executive Board and was replaced by Garland, who helped lead the constitutional amendment adoption effort. First Farmington accounted for about 20 percent of Mineral Area’s annual budget, but amendment supporters said they are confident that amount can be made up by churches that had been withholding money because of First Farmington’s continued membership and by new churches, like Lost Creek which petitioned the association for membership at the meeting, joining the association.
First Farmington had further alienated itself from the majority of Mineral Area churches this summer by hosting a commissioning service for a member who was planting a new church for the BGCM. The church planter, Rocky Good, is one of the trustees who voted to amend Windermere Baptist Conference Center’s charter, giving the trustees sole authority in naming their successors. H.K. Neely, BGCM executive director, was the guest speaker at the commissioning service and Randy Fite, Mineral Area’s director of missions, led the commissioning prayer.
The Mineral Area vote could portend of things to come as other associations grapple with pro-BGCM and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) "activities" around the state. Tri-County Baptist Association and Barry County Baptist Association both recently passed resolutions affirming the MBC and SBC. Many others, like Pulaski Baptist Association, have in recent years as well.
Garland described the winning strategy at Mineral Area as "kind of a replica of Project 1000," referring to the theologically conservative pro-SBC/MBC movement that moved the MBC from a middle-left theological position to middle-right.
"These little, often bi-vocational, churches do count," Garland noted. "That was the key to the victory. I think it was a great and glorious day for our association, and it may help some other associations across the state. What we did can be done in any association."
If First Farmington voted to leave the new convention and singularly align with the MBC and SBC, the church would be welcomed back into the association, he added. This is what Chestnut Ridge Baptist Church, Farmington, has done.
"We felt we had made the wrong decision, that the new convention wasn’t adhering to Baptist doctrine that we had taught and lived all of our lives," said Mike Counts, Chestnut Ridge’s minister of music. Counts and Gary Scott, a deacon, are helping lead Chestnut Ridge after their previous pastor, Rich White, a supporter of the BGCM, resigned July 13.
"Since we have gone back into the old convention, we have a tremendous spirit in the church, a great fellowship," Counts said. "Numbers are down but quality is way up."
Mineral Area Baptist Association has been meeting since 1832. Counting First Farmington, this year’s annual meeting included 45 churches with a total membership of 15,669. The change in the constitution means that the association will be known as a "peculiar people," said Randy Miller, pastor, Second Baptist Church, Fredericktown, and one of the amendment committee members who extensively studied the association’s governing document.
Paul Pope, pastor, Sonrise Baptist Church, Bonne Terre, said he was "just glad it is over with so that we can move on.
"I think that when the people become aware of the issues that they are going to come to the associations and vote their convictions and conscience," he said.