Past president, pastor recommends prayer as MBC legal battle with agencies continues
By Allen Palmeri
BLUE SPRINGS – One of the generals of the conservative resurgence in Missouri Baptist life is urging the current leadership to look beyond the potential discouragement of ongoing legal wrangling and rally around the flag of Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) moral certitude.
Bobby Collins, 57, pastor, Plaza Heights Baptist Church , Blue Springs , and MBC president in 2001, saw the convention through “an uncomfortable time of transition" when former MBC Executive Director Jim Hill resigned. Since the convention has voted to stay the course in a legal battle to regain control of five breakaway agencies, Collins said the choice is clear.
“I think the convention spoke pretty strongly about the fact that this is not something they can walk away from because of the legacy," Collins said. “It would have been a real violation of those who have gone before us to simply walk away from these institutions. I think that what we’re seeing now is the difficult task of being prayerful, of being Christ-like, but also understanding that we live in a society in which laws are meant to be obeyed. This is part of the pressure cooker we find ourselves in."
Windermere Baptist Conference Center , Word & Way, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist Foundation and Missouri Baptist College – with more than $200 million in assets — hang in the balance as MBC attorneys Mike Whitehead, Stan Masters and James Freeman remain at the point of attack. Pray for them, Collins said.
“This legal team has approached it as best they can, through prayer, and with the concern with how they and/or we would look in court," Collins said. “That’s encouraged me."
Cole County Circuit Court Judge Tom Brown ruled March 11 that the MBC Executive Board and six churches do not have legal standing to file suit against Missouri Baptist College .
“There are certain voices that would say we just need to cut bait and walk off," Collins said. “I would again feel that we would have betrayed those who went before us—I’m saying within the last decade, the people who have stayed the course.
“We’ve come too far. We’ll trust God through it."
Collins knows the veracity of the conservative resurgence. He said he kept on communicating with Hill right up to the point when Hill, saying he could no longer work with those who saw things the way he did, resigned in October of 2001.
“Those were, by and large, tense times," Collins said, “but the transition became good in the sense that we were able to communicate the fact that this was not just some type of rebellious spiritual tantrum that some or a few had, but this was the voice of the majority of Missouri Baptists."
In Executive Director David Clippard, who was hired in September of 2002, Collins said Missouri Baptists have a leader with “a like heart who wants to get Missouri Baptists back to a place where we can (put) major (emphasis) on evangelism and missions and planting churches."
Current MBC President David Tolliver calls Collins “one of my heroes." As Tolliver shoulders the burden of regaining control of the breakaway agencies, he knows there is moral certitude in the corporate body.
“We’re going to follow the wishes of the convention to do all we can to retrieve those agencies," Tolliver said.
Both the past president and the current president agree that Missouri Baptists need to keep on praying for the legal team.
“I think it’s proper to say we need to pray for them to not become discouraged," Tolliver said.
March 18, 2004