Credentials Committee begins work
Details developed on how to handle challenges
By Allen Palmeri
March 7, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Credentials Committee has released a form that will enable Missouri Baptists to properly participate in a process that was formalized at the 2005 annual meeting when messengers approved the single alignment proposal.
Credentials Committee members meeting Feb. 28 at the Baptist Building approved for publication a request form that is printed on page 2 of The Pathway . The committee is charged with determining whether churches sending messengers to future state conventions are in compliance with the MBC’s stated affinity for the theologically conservative Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The process is being presented in this format to enable Missouri Baptists to review any and all questions pertaining to the cooperation of churches, according to Credentials Committee Chairman Rick Seaton, pastor of First Baptist Church,, Kahoka.
“We assume that there are some who are expecting to make challenges,” Seaton said. “This will be the process to do that.
“We’re not adding policy. We’re following policy that has already been understood and accepted.”
Committee members agreed that the language in the printed form is straightforward and essentially explains itself. A Missouri Baptist reader of the information is clearly instructed that he or she is making a request that could lead to a congregation being removed from fellowship with the MBC. Personal information is required from the person making the request. Committee members emphasized that their role is to simply respond to challenges, not to seek them out.
“Our spirit is to bring unity,” Seaton said. “We’re not on a witch hunt. We’re simply wanting to serve Missouri Baptists. We will uphold what is required of us, and be conscientious in that, but our spirit is to serve the churches. We want them to have the same spirit—to desire a unified convention, but one that supports SBC and MBC.”
MBC Associate Executive Director David Tolliver, who as MBC president in 2004 helped lay the groundwork for passage of the single alignment proposal last year, explained that many churches impacted by the grandfather clause in the constitution’s membership article for churches dually aligned in 1961 and earlier will not be affected by the current process. Certain affiliations because of race, ethnic or cultural relations are protected, he said. This includes National Baptists as well as Native American, Korean, Hispanic or other “specialized” churches where the family/culture is intimately intertwined with long existing affiliations. This may include hundreds of Missouri churches.
Credentials Committee members emphasized Feb. 28 that they were shepherding a process that as of that date had yet to produce any formal contact with any church whose compliance with single alignment had come into question.
The process will be simple. Rather than looking at financial records and/or church minutes, the Credentials Committee will trust the integrity of responses given by church spokespersons.
“We would welcome an opportunity to visit with any church that’s in question,” said Committee Member Bruce McCoy, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church, St. Louis. “I think we’re all hoping that these areas can be bridged.”
“Our ultimate goal would be to be able to restore fellowship,” said Committee Member Wesley Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church, Paris.
The form printed in The Pathway is also available on the MBC Web site at w ww.mobaptist.org. Click on “ministries” to get to the executive office area in the top left corner. Then click on “executive office” to get to the Credentials Committee Request Form in the lower right-hand corner.