Single alignment moves forward
Messengers to decide at MBC’s annual meeting
By Bob Baysinger
August 3, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Some Baptist churches in Missouri will be forced to make a big decision if messengers attending the 2004 Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) annual meeting say “yes” to single alignment.
Single alignment – if approved – will require a church to be aligned only with the MBC in addition to its participation in the Cooperative Program.
“A church which votes to send messengers or representatives to, to budget funds to — or allocate funds to — an alternative state convention in Missouri is not singly aligned,” said James Freeman, chairman of the MBC Continuing Review Committee.
The committee voted unanimously July 20 to recommend that messengers adopt single alignment as a requirement for churches to be part of the MBC. The annual meeting is scheduled Oct. 25-27 at First Baptist Church, Raytown.
“The purpose of the change is to clarify that Missouri Baptist Convention churches are to be Southern Baptist churches that are singly aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention as well as the Missouri Baptist Convention,” Freeman said.
“This will enable us as a convention to know that we are fellowshipping with believers who are of similar doctrine whose goal and purpose is to come together and spread the Gospel for Christ.”
Because the single alignment issue would be an amendment to the MBC Constitution, it requires that 2004 messengers adopt the report of the Continuing Review Committee and two-thirds of messengers approve the change at the MBC’s annual meeting in 2005.
The recommendation report will stipulate the MBC Credentials Committee become a standing committee that operates year round to deal with membership issues. The committee is now appointed by the MBC president and functions only during a period before the annual meeting and during the annual meeting.
The committee, if approved, will operate under a strict set of rules and procedures to determine eligibility as an SBC church. To be considered an SBC church and eligible for membership in the MBC, a church must:
• Adopt a doctrinal statement which is consistent with and not in contravention of accepted, historical Southern Baptist faith, polity and practice;
• Contribute financially to the Cooperative Program of the SBC; and
• Not send representation or messengers to, nor financially support or budget funds for any other state convention or national convention or organization which serves and/or acts as a national convention.
The Continuing Review Committee drafted wording to ensure that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) could not use its argument about not being a convention as a loophole for churches wanting to participate in both the MBC and the CBF. The report states that any organization which independently sends and ordains ministers to the United States military “shall be considered a national convention.”
The report defines a singly-aligned Missouri Baptist Convention church as one that contributes undesignated Cooperative Program funds to the MBC on at least an annual basis and does not belong or contribute financially to any other state convention or organization which serves and/or acts as a state convention in Missouri. The committee recommendation gives the MBC Credentials Committee the authority to “investigate the qualifications of a church to continue as a member of the convention or the qualifications of any person to sit as a messenger to the annual meeting upon a challenge from a church or messenger or upon receipt or discovery of any information which causes the Credentials Committee to believe that, if true, the church or messenger no longer meets the qualifications to continue as a member of the convention.”
Freeman said he is unsure how many churches would be impacted by single alignment. The February 2001 edition of Connect, newsletter of the Missouri CBF, said there are 38 churches in Missouri that allow multiple giving plans.
An example of a church that would be affected is First Baptist in Jefferson City. Doyle Sager, pastor, reported recently that the church is giving $32,581 to the CBF, $12,253 to the Baptist General Convention of Missouri (BGCM) and $7,800 to the Cooperative Program.
“Generally, we have taken care of everything in this report,” Freeman said. “Local churches are autonomous. We want to remember that and not have the convention step in and control the local church. The purpose here is to make sure the church as a whole has a proper doctrinal approach of being likeminded to traditional Southern Baptist faith, polity and doctrine.”
The start of the single-alignment adoption process was delayed until 2004, Freeman said, because it was decided “to answer all the questions in one giant package” rather than dealing with the questions over a two-to-five year process.
The Continuing Review Committee also will recommend to 2004 messengers that they change the constitution to allow the MBC president to serve two consecutive terms. Presidents are now limited to one-year terms.