Missouri Baptist Convention marks resources
to defeat deceptive clone-to-kill ballot initiative
By Allen Palmeri
December 13, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) held a “Cloning Summit” Dec. 6 at the Baptist Building that resulted in approximately $137,000 being put toward winning the fight to stop a ballot initiative in 2006 that would amend the state constitution to prohibit therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cell research from being banned.
The bulk of the money, $90,000, is coming out of the Cooperative Program budget to produce 10 monthly bulletin inserts from January to October on the issue. Another $27,000 is being pledged from the Christian Life Commission (CLC) budget, and $20,000 is being earmarked out of the budget of MBC Executive Director David Clippard.
“I’m not sure that I remember, as a Missouri Baptist, the last time this kind of money was allocated to a moral, biblical issue,” said CLC Chairman Rodney Albert, pastor, Hallsville Baptist Church. “The convention leadership is contributing a sizeable financial gift, and that is hopeful.”
Building on successful tactics developed last year for similar ballot issues concerning biblical marriage and gambling, the MBC has adopted a broad-based, grassroots strategy designed to maximize limited funding through simple, direct means of communication.
The strategy involves the use of such tools as bulletin inserts, Web sites, a DVD loaded with resources, a sermon outline, the setting of a date in the spring for pastors to preach on the issue, bulletin updates through email, radio spots, anti-cloning champions in every church, press releases and continuing coverage and commentary by The Pathway.
Billboard advertising was not a part of the official strategy. It was left out of the shopping cart, so to speak, because it is too expensive. However, MBC President Ralph Sawyer volunteered the financial resources of the church that he pastors, First Baptist of Wentzville, to help pick up the slack.
“We’ll do a billboard in my area,” Sawyer said.
Albert came away encouraged by that type of can-do attitude.
“We have an energized leadership in the Missouri Baptist Convention that is on target and together on this,” he said. “We understand what we’re up against. We understand the morality of it. We understand what’s at stake biblically.”
Albert has said the key to victory in November 2006 will be getting Missouri Baptist pastors to preach educational and motivational sermons on the issue. The idea is for the church members to, in turn, contact others in their spheres of influence to get them to vote “no” Nov. 7. A formal date of May 7, the Sunday before Mother’s Day and precisely six months before the actual general election date, was established for pastors to think about delivering messages on the topic of the sanctity of the human embryo. Sawyer agreed to provide a suggested sermon outline for pastors to preach on that day.
CLC Lobbyist Kerry Messer said it is important to note that there is no danger of a church losing its Internal Revenue Service tax exemption if the pastor preaches against this non-partisan cloning ballot initiative. It is perfectly legal, lawful and acceptable for a pastor to preach against embryonic stem cell research, Messer said. It is also important for pastors to remind their people that they are for adult stem cell research, which does not involve the taking of human life.
Cooperative Program (CP) Specialist David Tolliver was eager to contribute the bulk of the strategy’s budget. As one bulletin insert is distributed every month through the church bulletins of 2,000 Missouri Baptist congregations, Missouri Baptist leaders are in agreement that the disinformation of the pro-cloning crowd will be exposed and refuted. One side of the insert would be devoted to the CP, with the other side going to the CLC and the cloning issue.
“My only suggestion would be, ‘Make it simple,’” Tolliver said.
Clippard said the MBC has about 8,000 email addresses as a result of last year’s ballot campaigns that could be utilized in 2006. Pastors are encouraged to get their church members to sign up for cloning initiative updates through this electronic method, which was proven last year to be a strong means of message multiplication through the repeated use of the “forward” button.
Albert is in charge of releasing a DVD by Feb. 15 that would include pieces of information that would help equip Missouri Baptist leaders for the battle. Estimated cost for producing and distributing this resource is $5,000.
The new MBC radio/video studio will be used to record five 28-second radio spots at a cost of about $10,000.
Clippard said he would like to see anti-cloning champions identified and encouraged within Missouri Baptist churches so the pastor has a point person he can rely on as the vote draws near. Plans were made for a resource packet on the champion concept to be passed out to pastors as early as the State Evangelism Conference Jan. 23-24 at Ridgecrest Baptist Church, Springfield.
Other MBC leaders like Monte Shinkle, pastor, Concord Baptist Church, Jefferson City, and 2003 president of the MBC, and Don Hinkle, editor, The Pathway, expressed total support for the effort during the “summit meeting.”
“Some efforts have been geared toward trying to prevent the clone-and-kill lobby in Missouri from getting the necessary signatures on the petition,” Hinkle said. “We’ve chosen to look further down the road and develop a comprehensive strategy that will relentlessly unfold over the next 10 months with one goal in mind – the defeat of this evil idea.”
All agreed that Missouri will likely become a national battleground over cloning and the state should draw significant support from national pro-life organizations willing to pour resources into the state.
“Help us, Lord Jesus, to win the hearts of our people to stand against this,” said Clippard in the closing prayer.