MBC President urges Missouri Baptists to stay the course, remain loyal to the SBC
By Allen Palmeri
October 26, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – If the annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention goes the way that MBC President David Tolliver wants it to go, the several interdependent changes of single alignment will be adopted.
“It’s not about excluding anyone,” Tolliver explained. “It is about defining us. We’re loyal to the Southern Baptist Convention, and we do missions and ministry through the Cooperative Program. It has been my desire for years that we would be defined as a convention of Missouri Southern Baptist churches. I really don’t want to exclude anyone, although those churches that cannot identify in that vein will want to exclude themselves.”
In addition to single alignment, Tolliver pointed to his idea of allowing an MBC president to run for a second term as well as making the Credentials Committee a standing committee of the MBC Executive Board as “fairly significant issues” during his presidency. When Missouri Baptists objected to the idea of using Cooperative Program dollars to fund the legal effort to regain five breakaway agencies, Tolliver said MBC leaders responded properly by stating that no such monies would be spent.
“I don’t think that’s an issue,” Tolliver said. “It may be an issue in the future.”
As a fourth-generation Missouri Baptist preacher, Tolliver said he thought he knew a lot about the state before his presidency. He was wrong.
“I thought I knew Missouri as well as anybody,” he said, “but I’ve learned a lot about Missouri this year—just driving through and seeing some of the towns that I had never been through before.
“The trips to Jefferson City, the time on the telephone, the time on e-mail and the time in prayer have been quite a bit more than what I anticipated.”
Hanging over his head throughout his entire term was the legal situation, which is ongoing. Tolliver said that he feels good about what has been accomplished because he has been part of an effort that is following the pattern that Missouri Baptists have laid down for their leaders.
“We’re doing what Missouri Baptists have instructed us to do, and we’re doing that to the best of our ability,” said Tolliver, who has been involved with the Legal Task Force since its inception in 2002. “In my convention sermon, it is going to be publicly stated that I’m theologically opposed to lawsuits, but some of the godliest people I know disagree with me on this issue. I do not impugn their integrity or their spirituality because we disagree on this issue.”
Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, is looking forward to having its pastor back, Tolliver said. Associate pastors Gary Barkley and Jamie O’Dell have helped fill in for Tolliver this year the times that he was away on MBC business, and retired pastors Jess Taylor and Edwin Shelton pitched in, too. Tolliver said he also is grateful that his deacons helped.
“The entire church has been supportive,” Tolliver said. “There have been times when they’ve covered for me. There have been other times when they’ve let things go so that in that sense, they’re covering for me.”
Tolliver’s first vice president, Mitch Jackson, is expected to be elected MBC president. Tolliver’s advice to Jackson is identical to the advice that the immediate past president of the convention, Monte Shinkle, gave Tolliver—stay the course.
“I would echo Monte’s statement in terms of staying the course in regard to many of the things we are doing,” Tolliver said. “We’ve been heading down a course, and we’re about to see the light at the end of the tunnel—a convention that is fully aligned and loyal to the Southern Baptist Convention.”