February 11, 2003
Missouri Baptist Convention leadership is questioning the motive behind a “Where Do We Belong?” brochure that has been mailed to Southern Baptist pastors throughout the state.
The pamphlet promotes a March 4 seminar at Memorial Baptist Church, Columbia. According to the mailing, the seminar will be co-sponsored by First Baptist Church, Lee’s Summit, and Overland Baptist Church, St. Louis. Both churches are financial supporters of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Memorial pastor Bob Webb is vice-moderator of the CBF of Missouri Council.
The brochure states the purpose of the seminar and why it is important.
“The Missouri Baptist Convention is in the midst of dramatic changes,” the pamphlet says. “The convention has removed funds for five institutions and agencies. Another institution is being investigated. A significant number of MBC employees have been terminated in a re-organization.
“Institutions and agencies are deciding to stay with or change their relationship with the convention. The convention has lawsuits against five institutions.
“Missouri Baptists are facing issues that we have no experience in confronting.
“Members of congregations are beginning to question how the church should respond to the situation in the state convention. Some members are beginning to realize that other changes have taken place on the national level in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Kenny Qualls, MBC assistant executive director for church and family equipping, said he’s not sure about the seminar sponsor’s motivation.
“I do not know what others are doing or what their agenda is about, but I do know what we are doing and what our agenda is,” Qualls said. “We are Southern Baptists and our agenda is for the glory of the Lord and the Great Commission. In love and without shame we stand on the absolute truth of the word of God. Sin is still sin. Jesus still saves and is God’s only solution to sin and death. The gospel is for ‘whosoever will’.”
Seminar promoters say their event is important because “a healthy congregation involves having a clear identity, behaving with integrity and compassion and accomplishing ministry that is aligned with the mission.
“One part of a congregation’s identity is its relationship to the denomination,” the pamphlet says.
Qualls says there’s no doubt about who Missouri Baptists are.
“As Southern Baptists from our almost 42,000 churches in 1,200 associations located in 41 state conventions, we have the great blessing of serving together through our Cooperative Program,” he said.
“There is so much more to do, but God in his grace has allowed us cooperative together to see 5,000 international missionaries in 153 nations through the International Mission Board. There are more than 5,000 missionaries supported in North America through the North American Mission Board
“In 2000 there were 865,958 people baptized worldwide. There are more than 13,400 future preachers and missionaries being trained in our Lord’s word in our six seminaries. What an exciting day as the Great Commission is being fulfilled before our eyes.
“Why would anyone want to leave our Cooperative Program?” Qualls asked.
“In Missouri, we will continue to stand for holiness and righteousness. Under David Clippard, we have a renewed passion and a strategic focus on church planting, evangelism/missions and the family. We desire to do all we can to strengthen the church, our Lord’s bride.
“The goal of the MBC across the street and across the world is for people to be touched and changed for the glory of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The brochure promises that the conference will offer practical tools from two pastors who are experienced in leading a congregation to deal with issues regarding denominational relationships. “You will receive help in determining what steps are most likely to be helpful in your church, given your situation,” the brochure says.
Scott Harrison, Lee’s Summit pastor, told the Pathway he sees the purpose of the seminary as giving pastors a chance “sit and chat” and talk about “how does your church fit …”
“As we all know, people feel strongly about the issues,” Harrison said. “But some churches have not made a decision where they stand. In part, what Bob and I want to do is sit down in a Christ-like manner and help them avoid some of the landmines as they go through this decision making process.”
Harrison said the seminar “is not an attempt to lure churches away from the Missouri Baptist Convention.”
Harrison said his church is strongly Southern Baptist “but also give some money to the CBF.” On the national level, he said, one-half of the church’s mission money goes to CBF and one-half to the CBF.
“One of the things we often say here at First Baptist, Lee’s Summit, is that we want to pitch a tent big enough for Baptists of all stripes to feel comfortable here,” Harrison concluded.