Single alignment proceeding toward ’07
JEFFERSON CITY – Overland Baptist Church, St. Louis, has become the latest Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) congregation to take responsibility for its denominational affections by notifying the MBC that it has voted to withdraw fellowship from both the MBC and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
David W. Johnson, senior minister of Overland Baptist, wrote in a Nov. 9 letter to inform “the appropriate individuals on the Credentials Committee” and request that the church be removed from all convention databases. What this means, according to Credentials Committee Chairman Wesley Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church, Paris, and a member of the MBC Executive Board, is that messengers to the 2007 annual meeting of the MBC have no need to disqualify Overland Baptist’s messengers. No action is required when it comes to the status of Overland Baptist, which in accordance with its own letter is no longer an MBC/SBC church.
“The only thing that the Credentials Committee deals with is whether or not individual messengers meet the requirements to be seated at the convention,” Hammond said.
A total of 19 churches were disqualified in Cape Girardeau at this year’s annual meeting. Messengers voted overwhelmingly to take that action, which is historically consistent with a policy that originated in the 1919 convention.
Three times in nearly 90 years, messengers to the convention have addressed and affirmed the principle of single alignment. The most recent revision was made by messengers to the 171st annual meeting in Springfield in 2005, when messengers voted to approve the series of interdependent changes to the MBC Constitution in two separate votes. One passed with little opposition; the second passed with an 82 percent majority.
Single alignment is designed to promote an orderly, prayerful process that will successfully tell whether a church is theologically in step with the SBC and the MBC, as opposed to other more theologically liberal denominations / fellowships.
Churches like Overland Baptist are examining themselves and concluding that they are more properly aligned with either the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) or the Baptist General Convention of Missouri (BGCM). In some cases, the church feels comfortable aligning itself with both—or perhaps neither.
The Credentials Committee is a standing committee. It has no power or authority on its own to disqualify churches, but it does meet year-round to determine which churches, like Overland Baptist, might be encouraged to be true to their denominational / fellowship heartbeats when it comes to their associations with particular entities. This is a process of prayer and deliberation for Hammond and the five other committee members who are currently serving. The outcome of their prayer and deliberation, which goes on for months at a time, may be that a recommended list of churches for disqualification go before the messengers of the 2007 annual meeting at Tan-Tar-A, Osage Beach, Oct. 29-31. If all churches in the MBC are determined to be singly aligned/theologically faithful/theologically whole with the MBC/SBC, no action is required.
Rick Seaton, pastor, First Baptist Church, Kahoka, is the immediate past chairman of the Credentials Committee. He remains on as a member. Other members are: Eleanore Warner, laity, Eolia Baptist Church (member of the MBC Executive Board); Wilson Winch, laity, Plaza Heights Baptist Church, Blue Springs; Larry Heenan, pastor, Spring Valley Baptist Church, Raytown; and Danny O’Guin, pastor, Parker Road Baptist Church, Florissant.
Missouri is unique in its approach to single alignment in that no other state convention in the SBC has passed such a definite statement articulating the ever-strengthening ties between the MBC and SBC.
“We do not interpret the policy,” Hammond said. “The policy pretty much interprets itself. Our constitution and bylaws are very clear, and we try to do everything with a spirit of love and cooperation as members of the Credentials Committee.”