MBC listening session sparks lively debate
By Bob Baysinger
May 25, 2004
BLUE SPRINGS – The Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Team may have wrapped up their listening sessions in the Kansas City area feeling as if they had been playing the children’s game “red light, green light.”
The game, which features one child shouting out to playmates a series of “stop” and “go” instructions, resembled what David Clippard, MBC executive director, and his four associate directors heard on May 13, especially at the morning session at Plaza Heights Baptist Church, Blue Springs.
Two pastors and one director of missions urged Clippard and the MBC to abandon the legal action that is pending against five breakaway agencies. Other pastors challenged Clippard and the MBC to continue the fight, calling unity at any cost a “false unity.”
The afternoon session at Gashland Baptist Church, located in north Kansas City, included mostly pastors and a director of missions voicing complaints and criticisms of the MBC. Several pastors said they were opposed to spending Cooperative Program dollars to fund the lawsuit.
At Plaza Heights, Randy Messer, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oak Grove, renewed a call to drop the legal action that he made initially at the 2003 Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting at St. Louis.
“I don’t mean to beat a dead horse to death, but I still can’t see this legal suit against the five institutions,” Messer said. “I don’t agree with what they did, but I feel like we need to let that thing go. Why not just rather be wronged, just take it on the chin.
“I believe you and your team could lead us to revival by getting out of that suit,” Messer said to Clippard.
Ed Bell, pastor of Grain Valley Baptist Church, describing himself as having known every MBC executive director since early childhood, predicted that the Missouri Baptist Convention “is on the verge of disintegrating” if the Executive Board does not “let this suit go.”
Nodell Dennis, director of missions for the Blue River-Kansas City Association, joined Bell and Messer in the chorus of criticism.
“If my wife decided to leave me, I would ask her why she did that,” Dennis said. “I wouldn’t be saying bad things about her in the newspaper.” Dennis was also critical of The Pathway for a mistake made in a story about church planting in the Kansas City area. Unknown to Dennis a correction of the mistake had been already published prior to his criticism.
Ben Chatman, pastor, First Baptist Church, Adrian, countered Dennis, Bell and Messer, encouraging Clippard and the MBC to continue its conservative course.
Chatman said that earlier in life he was not a Southern Baptist because the Convention was “so influenced by the culture and diluted by liberalism.”
“As I was growing up and heard about the Southern Baptist Convention, I only thought of liberals like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter,” Chatman said. “The word ‘SBC’ meant liberal.
“When I examined The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and saw that people in the SBC were taking a stand, I decided that’s what I want to be a part of. When I came to Missouri, I was an associate under a moderate pastor. I went to the state convention at Tan-Tar-A, and it didn’t take any help for me to see what is right and what is wrong.”
Referring to the earlier calls for unification in the MBC, Chatman asked, “What kind of unity is false unity?
“It has come to a point where I find more fellowship in my ministerial alliance than I do in my association,” Chatman added. “I have more in common with the Bible-believing Assembly of God pastors than I do with some of the moderate Baptists.”
Chatman said he doesn’t like it that MBC leadership is accused of schism and disunity.
“I want unity,” Chatman said. “I want to find a place we can agree, but I am not going to compromise truth for the sake of unity.”
Steve Simko, pastor, First Baptist Church, Concordia, joined Chatman in encouraging MBC leaders to continue the legal battle. Referring to a message he heard at the MBC Evangelism Conference earlier this year, Simko said King David asked if he should “go after what was taken from me?”
“Christ didn’t stutter when He went to the cross,” Simko said. “And I stand on the side of King David when he said to “go and recover what was taken from us.”
Clippard defended current MBC actions and activities, explaining that “accountability” is a motivating factor in the legal action.
The executive director cited the scheduling of secular activities at the Windermere Baptist Conference Center and the growing indebtedness at Windermere as things that happen when there is no accountability.
“When you put an $18 million debt on Windermere, there aren’t enough Baptists in Missouri to keep it afloat,” Clippard said. “The debt service on that size loan is $1.2 million a year before you turn on the first light switch.”
Dennis told the director that his association would relate to the MBC the same way it had always related to the convention. “We will give you support in any way we can work with you,” Dennis said.
Clippard said the feeling is mutual.
“We will do the same,” he said. “We will work with anybody that wants to work with us.”