MBC pastors miffed at Foundation, Word & Way
Information labeled ‘spin, propaganda’
By Bob Baysinger
March 30, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptist pastors statewide say they have not been influenced by recent mass mailings by the Word & Way newspaper and the Missouri Baptist Foundation, two of the five entities embroiled in a legal fight with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
The two former MBC agencies blanketed the state with a letter and copy of the newspaper, announcing that a Circuit Court judge in Jefferson City had ended the MBC lawsuit by dismissing the legal proceedings.
Using an old mailing list, the newspaper was sent to churches and other former subscribers, announcing that the judge had dismissed the MBC lawsuit.
“I called Bill Webb (Word & Way editor) and asked him to remove me from his mailing list," said Mike Jones pastor of First Baptist Church, Portageville. “I told him point blank that I didn’t appreciate what his trustees had done."
James Smith, president of the Foundation, announced in a letter on March 11 that the lawsuit was finished with a ruling in the Foundation’s favor. Smith later threw an office party to “celebrate" the disputed legal interpretation of what had – and will – occur in Cole County Circuit Court or at the Western Division of the Missouri Court of Appeals.
Paul Brooks, pastor of First Baptist Church, Raytown, said he received the Smith letter but added that it will not impact the 6,000-member church which will host the MBC’s annual meeting in October.
Brooks said First Raytown will continue to support the MBC and the Southern Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program.
Paul Callahan, pastor of First Baptist Church, Marshall, said he, too, received the Foundation and Word&Way mailings.
“I was disturbed with their spin on it," Callahan said, “but it will not impact our church. We took all of our money out of the Foundation some time back, and we will not be putting any of it back in.
“There is no accountability at the Foundation, so there is no way we could trust them. If they didn’t keep their word the first time, we’re not going to trust them to keep it the next time. They have destroyed their own credibility with our people here at Marshall."
Mitchell Jackson, pastor of Minor Baptist Church and MBC first vice president, said in a letter to The Pathway (see page 5) that he told his congregation to “ignore the misinformation of the Word&Way" and that he did not want “this propaganda sent to our people anymore. I assume that other churches are having the same problem," Jackson wrote. “I think it is shameful on the part of Word & Way to launch such an obvious propaganda campaign."
Mass mailings are nothing new for Word&Way. The embattled publication, which has lost more than 45,000 readers in the past 30 years, has mailed several fundraising letters in recent months. Late last year the newspaper, presumably using an extensive statewide Missouri Baptist residential/church mailing list that was formerly MBC property, mailed out a fundraising letter suggesting that it was the “only" reliable source of news of interest to Southern Baptists in Missouri while groaning about its growing debt.
“Some Missouri Baptists believe Word&Way has been replaced with another publication started by the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board (The Pathway) … . We believe more strongly than ever that our journal is still the only choice for balanced, fair, respectful and reliable coverage of the entire Missouri Baptist scene."
Later in the letter, signed by Webb, he states, “Many have asked how they can help Word&Way. One way is to help us financially," Webb wrote. “We need to erase a deficit by year’s end."
The newspaper reported in March that it finished 2003 with a deficit of about $76,000. Despite the deficit, the newspaper hired two new employees in 2003, including a development specialist tasked with fundraising responsibilities. Both of the new hires were recent former MBC employees, including the MBC’s former director of public relations who was hired by ex-MBC Executive Director Jim Hill.
It had previously announced that it would reduce the number of issues published in 2004 to 47, three less than in 2003. Since 2002, its circulation has fallen from approximately 36,000 to 17,000.
The MBC Executive Board stripped Word & Way of its title as “newspaper of the Missouri Baptist Convention" in 2002. That distinction now belongs to The Pathway.
Word&Way’s tenancy at the Baptist Building was terminated in 2003 and the newspaper left for new offices on the outskirts of Jefferson City. David Tolliver, MBC president and pastor, Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, announced in December that he was banning Word&Way from all MBC Executive Board and committee meetings.