BGCM, Missouri CBF join in liberal event
JEFFERSON CITY – The Baptist General Convention of Missouri (BGCM) and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) of Missouri joined ultra liberal organizations like the Anti-Defamation League Missouri & Southern Illinois, the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis and Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice Jan. 30 for a political event dubbed “The First Freedom Dinner” held at First Baptist Church here.
Many conservative lawmakers attended the event thinking that they would be mingling with officials from the conservative Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), according to Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission (CLC) of the MBC. Instead, they were shocked and angered to learn that the ultra liberal St. Louis Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church & State was orchestrating the legislative dinner.
“I had legislators coming up to me assuming that Missouri Baptists were sponsoring this,” Messer said. “Of course those who attended under that perception understood real quickly that something was amiss. I had a legislator who looked me up and expressly told me he was very confused and wanted to understand why this contradiction was there. I had to explain to him that that was not the Missouri Baptist Convention. He just simply had not paid attention to the invite list and to the sponsors on the program.”
CLC Chairman Rodney Albert regretted that some lawmakers were misled into thinking that Missouri Baptists had somehow turned to the “dark” side. It bears repeating that a liberal Baptist is not a Missouri Baptist.
“Missouri Baptists many years ago dumped Americans United from our funding because they did not represent the Missouri Baptist philosophy,” he explained. “We are free creatures, under God, to express our faith in the public sphere. Americans United does a lot of stuff that is about keeping Christians from expressing their religious freedoms in the marketplace, and we are opposed to that.”
Messer said he heard that the event produced an outrageous demonstration of liberal behavior that was offensive to conservative minds.
“I understand that it was pretty much over the top on some issues,” Messer said. “I heard some very interesting comments from folks who attended and felt, as one legislator said, duped into attending.”
Albert emphasized that there is no way, after this Jan. 30 linking of arms with a veritable Who’s Who of liberal activist groups, that the BGCM and the CBF of Missouri can claim to be in step with the typical Missouri Southern Baptist who is unmistakably and unashamedly conservative.
“It’s the old conservative-liberal clash,” he said. “They have a radically different view of this world and this culture than we do. We are not about stopping the expression of religious liberties in the culture, and their sponsorship and partnership with Americans United say that they are.
“There can be confusion with a lot of our legislators as to what it is to be a Baptist. I’m not sure that they make a distinction between the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. The average legislator in Jefferson City doesn’t know the difference between the two. This creates a certain degree of confusion.”
A complete list of the sponsoring organizations for the First Freedom Dinner is as follows: Americans United for Separation of Church & State; Missouri National Education Association; BGCM; Jewish Community Relations Council, St. Louis; Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice; Seventh Day Adventist Iowa-Missouri Conference; Christian Science Committee on Publications for Missouri; CBF of Missouri; Anti-Defamation League Missouri & Southern Illinois; The Ethical Society of St. Louis; and the Jewish Community Relations Bureau / American Jewish Committee-Kansas City.