Messengers likely to decide whether to use some CP funds to recover five former CP agencies
By Bob Baysinger
April 13, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Messengers attending the 2004 Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) annual meeting will likely have the opportunity to decide whether to use a portion of the Cooperative Program allocation budget in the legal effort to recover five former Cooperative Program agencies.
MBC Executive Board members approved a motion at its quarterly meeting April 13 directing the MBC staff to develop a budget plan that will bring the matter to a vote when the convention meets at First Baptist Church, Raytown, Oct. 25-27. That will happen once the Executive Board gives its final approval to the proposed 2005 budget at its July meeting.
The motion calls for the MBC staff to include in its 2005 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget a category for the five institutions. The budgeted funds, however, would be allocated to the Agency Restoration Fund until the legal proceedings are finalized. The fund was established last year to pay for legal expenses incurred in recovering the five Cooperative Program ministries for the MBC family.
David Clippard, MBC executive director, will propose that about $1.2 million will be budgeted for the five agencies in the 2005 budget. In 2001, about $2.2 million was allocated to the five agencies.
Clippard said the plan would serve a two-fold purpose. It would be the first step toward phasing the agencies back into the MBC budget, in anticipation of the day when the five will be legally restored to Convention accountability. The plan would also provide immediate funding for the continuing legal effort to restore the agencies. The plan must be approved by messengers attending the October annual meeting.
The concept was approved overwhelmingly by the executive board, with only two board members speaking against a continued effort to recover accountability for the five agencies – Word & Way, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist Foundation and Missouri Baptist College.
“To bring the financial issues into perspective, please consider the facts that from 2002 to the present date our total legal costs are just a little more than what these entities would have received from our CP budget in just six months," Clippard told The Pathway April 15. “This represents one-half of one percent of their asset value in trying to recover them. So, in perspective, we have spent a very small amount."
Valerie Eades, a lay member of the board from Scott City , made the motion that would allow CP money to be budgeted for the agencies and for the legal process to recover them.
John Justice, pastor of Grant Avenue Baptist Church, Springfield, and Michael Graves, pastor of South ate Baptist Church, Springfield, opposed the motion. Justice said he believed the task force had promised that Cooperative Program dollars would not be used for legal fees and costs. Eads responded that her motion would let the Convention decide whether to change its plan as to future expenditures, so that the Board was not breaking any promises regarding past expenses.
In 2003, the Convention adopted a motion which created an agency restoration fund to which churches and individuals could make designated gifts. The motion said that Cooperative Program funds in the 2004 budget would not be used to pay legal fees or costs.
Graves and Justice both expressed concern that some churches would not give to the Cooperative Program budget if it included legal expenses. Other board members noted that churches could give with a designation excluding the agency restoration fund for the five agencies.
“I would urge caution," Graves said. “I know it will push some people away from the CP."
Eades urged other board members to approve her motion. She reminded them that the board would not be forcing a decision on anyone. Her motion would simply give the Convention the opportunity to discuss and decide how best to fund the continued legal effort.
David Baker, pastor of First Baptist Church, Belton, spoke in favor of the Eades’ motion.
“I do not understand why Missouri Baptists would not want to use CP money to save CP institutions," Baker said. “I’ve wondered why we didn’t vote to do this at the last convention. My messengers came back from the Convention wondering why we did not vote to use the CP money to recover these agencies. "
Earl Wood, pastor of First Baptist Church, Louisiana, also supported the motion, but told The Pathway after the board adjourned that he believes “the best way would be to encourage individuals and churches to give designated gifts directly to the Agency Restoration Fund. “We have enough churches that if everyone would give – and they wouldn’t have to give that much – we could continue this fight without using CP money." Wood noted that 2,000 churches should be able to support the agency fund easily, if everyone would give something. For example, 400 churches giving $50 per week would produce nearly $1 million a year. If 1,000 people gave $20 per week it would yield more than $1 million.
Wood said he doesn’t have a problem using CP money to retrieve institutions built with CP money.
“It’s just frustrating to know there are some who are riding the fence. It comes to a place where we need to say that you are either with us or against us. I’m mighty glad that our forefathers in 1778 didn’t develop that attitude. I’m glad that Winston Churchill didn’t cut and run.
“God didn’t reveal to me what the end would be when we started this fight. He doesn’t call us to understand. He calls us to be faithful. God is going to use us if we stay the course and stay faithful."
Mike Whitehead , lead attorney on the MBC legal team, told the board that Eades’ motion to put the five agencies back in the budget would not create a legal right in the agencies to demand the funds without accountability.
“The conditions would be clear that the Executive Board would provide funds for the agencies only after they return to accountability. Meanwhile the Board would have authority to use the funds, as needed, for the restoration effort," Whitehead said.
He noted that the legal team will ultimately seek to recover legal expenditures from the Convention’s insurer, which would, in effect, reimburse the CP budget for any funds expended. Any surplus in the Fund after the legal action is concluded would be available to help the agencies when they return..
Justice said he doesn’t want the Convention to misinterpret his remarks at the board meeting.
“I want to make it clear that I don’t for one moment agree with the actions that the agencies took," Justice said. “I am a fundamentalist in that I believe in Scripture. I am in total support of the Missouri Baptist Convention and I supported the (conservative) resurgence, but I didn’t support the lawsuit."
If the Convention approves the use of CP money for legal purposes, Justice said he knows of some “very large churches" that will turn away.
Justice said he was saddened that more executive board members did not stand up and make their feelings known.
“It will be the lightning rod, so to speak, but I have to vote my own conscience," Justice said. “There are people in this area who asked me to serve on the executive board. I’ve called those pastors and asked them to tell me what they think about the lawsuit. To a man, they have said, “Let it go. It is not honoring to God.
“I embrace totally the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and stand behind the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy," Justice said. “The Apostle Paul said that sometimes when you are wronged, you need to move on. We were wronged by those agencies. If we lose them, we have learned a lesson. The next time – if we decide to have other agencies – we will put them under the control of the executive board.
“We got bamboozled on this one. Maybe we need to learn our lesson and move on."
David Baker, pastor, First Baptist Church, Belton, told the board that I Corinthians 6 had nothing to do with this case.
“That passage deals with manipulating the legal system to take another man’s property for yourself when you’re not entitled to it."
Baker said the agency case involves a trust responsibility for the Convention to stand up for those Baptists who gave money for generations, expecting that the agencies would remain accountable to the MBC.
The legal battle has been funded by the Convention’s Strategic Initiatives Fund and an Agency Restoration Fund that was established by Convention action in 2003.
Shinkle appointed both Benton and Holstein to serve as parliamentarians at the 2003 MBC session in St. Louis.