Unity reigns at MBC’s 171st meeting
Slate of conservative officers elected again; single alignment passes overwhelmingly, historic visit by governor marks occasion
By Allen Palmeri
November 1, 2005
SPRINGFIELD– Messengers to the 171st annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Oct. 24-26 elected for the ninth consecutive year a slate of theologically conservative officers and overwhelmingly approved single alignment, the series of interdependent changes to the MBC Constitution that leading conservatives say will promote theological integrity, unity and holiness within Missouri Southern Baptist life.
Ralph Sawyer, a long-time leader in the state’s conservative resurgence and pastor of First Baptist Church, Wentzville, was elected without opposition. MBC Recording Secretary Harvey Parker cast the convention’s ballot for Sawyer, who is eligible to run for a second one-year term after messengers overwhelmingly approved a constitutional change that allows presidents to serve two one-year terms instead of one one-year term. Sawyer served this past year as first vice president.
Also elected as officers without opposition were: Mike Green, pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Republic, first vice president; Michael Knight, pastor, First Baptist Church, Viburnum, second vice president; and Jason Rogers, layman, Calvary Baptist Church, O’Fallon, recording secretary.
Another highlight of the convention was a 10-minute address by Republican Gov. Matt Blunt. His speech was part personal testimony (he said he was saved as a child while attending Vacation Bible School and now attends Second Baptist Church, Springfield) and part politics. The governor pledged to continue to fight abortions, protect churches from government abuse through unjust eminent domain laws, and appoint strict constitutional originalists and not judicial activists to Missouri courts. He also expressed support for adult stem cell research, while opposing embryonic stem cell research except for the type known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
MBC President Mitch Jackson, pastor, Miner Baptist Church, Sikeston, noted that the governor’s views on SCNT put him at odds with Missouri Southern Baptists who “agree with him on 95 percent of the issues."
The single-alignment measure, which more clearly defines what it is to be a Missouri Southern Baptist, solidifies the MBC’s affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It needed a two-thirds majority for passage and got 82 percent of the vote (976-217).
Its passage is historic because no other state convention in the SBC has passed such a definite statement articulating the ever-strengthening ties between the MBC and SBC as both continue down their theologically conservative paths.
In a break with recent trends, no messenger offered a motion to discontinue legal action against the five breakaway institutions. On the final day of the convention, Jackson took note of the harmony in the sanctuary of Second Baptist Church, Springfield.
“I appreciate the way things are going and the spirit of unity in this convention," Jackson said.
A slate of theologically conservative officers was elected again, and resolutions were passed to educate Missouri Southern Baptists on the dangers of embryonic stem cell research, to commend The Pathway for its journalistic endeavors, and to support New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in its time of need after Hurricane Katrina.
A total of 2,004 messengers and guests attended the meeting.
Prayers for the return of Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Missouri Baptist College, the Baptist Home, the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Word & Way were made even as the MBC Legal Task Force provided an update on where the legal battle now stands.
The MBC has been locked in a four-year legal battle with the five institutions ever since their theologically moderate trustees voted to amend their charters, making their boards self-perpetuating. The case has gone back and forth as attorneys have spent many months on procedural matters. However, in recent months the MBC has rattled off a string of court victories and MBC attorneys say they are hopeful that Cole County Circuit Judge Thomas Brown III will hear the case in January.
“I believe the cause is just, I believe it’s righteous, and I believe that righteousness will win out," said Jackson as he presided in the Oct. 25 morning session.
The MBC Executive Board welcomed 12 new members to its ranks in addition to the four new officers elected. The new members are: Kirk Baker, pastor, Lawson Baptist Church; Don Rice, pastor, First Baptist Church, Hume; Keith Vawter, pastor, First Baptist Church, Mansfield; Harvey Parker, layman, First Baptist Church, St. Joseph; Larry Fackler, pastor, Fellowship Baptist Church, Warrenton; Bill Johnson, pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Versailles; Jay Scribner, pastor, First Baptist Church, Branson; Aaron Weibel, pastor, New Site Baptist Church, Monett; Tom Willoughby, pastor, First Baptist Church, El Dorado Springs; James Freeman, deacon, Oakwood Baptist Church, Kansas City; Kerry Messer, layman, First Baptist Church, Festus-Crystal City; and Jody Shelenhamer, layman, First Baptist Church, Bolivar.
The convention theme was “So send I you," out of John 20:21. Guest speakers included Wade Akins, missionary with the International Mission Board, Terry Hopkins, minister of missions, First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga., and H.B. London, a vice president with Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family. Wayne Isgriggs, pastor, First Baptist Church, Lincoln, preached the convention sermon.
Next year’s annual meeting will be held at the Show Me Center on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. One of the titans of the Missouri conservative resurgence and immediate past First Vice President of the SBC, Gerald Davidson, will preach the convention sermon. Davidson is in his 30th and final year as pastor of First Baptist Church, Arnold. He is also marking 50 years of ministry.
In other business:
Messengers approved a $17.05 million budget for 2006, up by $350,000 from last year. As is customary, 35.75 percent will go toward Southern Baptist Convention causes while 64.25 percent will go toward MBC causes;
The 2009 annual meeting was scheduled for Oct. 26-28 at First Baptist Church, Raytown. The 2006 meeting will be in Cape Girardeau, 2007 at Tan-Tar-A Resort at Lake of the Ozarks, and 2008 in St. Louis;
Goals were approved for various offerings in 2006, ranging among the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering ($3.75 million), Annie Armstrong Easter Offering ($2 million) and World Hunger Offering ($325,000).