Resolutions show support for state exec; some leaders say action inappropriate
By Don Hinkle
JEFFERSON CITY – Two resolutions expressing appreciation for Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director David Clippard and convention staff may be attempts to undermine the work of an Executive Board-approved committee tasked, in part, with reviewing Clippard’s leadership, some MBC leaders say.
The resolutions passed Feb. 12 by a portion of the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association’s Executive Board and on Feb. 15 by some members of the Fellowship of Directors of Missions came just as the review committee entered its third month of inquiry into Clippard’s performance and that of the convention staff and Executive Board members. The review board, approved by the Executive Board by a vote of 29-19 on Dec. 12, is charged with investigating rumors related to the character of the executive director, Executive Board, staff, board and committee members.
The resolution, written by David Sheppard, pastor, First Baptist Church, St. Charles, unanimously passed by about 30 Executive Board members of the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association – representing about 20 percent of the association’s approximately 135 churches and missions – stated the following:
“Whereas, Dr. David Clippard has given innovative leadership to Missouri Baptists and has sought to refocus the attention and resources of our convention on evangelism and missions; and
“Whereas, Dr. Clippard has by this leadership brought financial stability to the Missouri Baptist Convention; and “Whereas, Dr. Clippard has assembled an outstanding staff to lead Missouri Baptists; and
“Whereas, Dr. Clippard and the Missouri Baptist Convention staff have been supportive partners with the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association staff; now therefore, be it
“Resolved that we express our appreciation, encouragement, and support for Dr. Clippard and the Missouri Baptist Convention staff; and be it further
“Resolved that we encourage all Missouri Baptists to support the leadership of Dr. Clippard and the Missouri Baptist Convention staff.”
The St. Louis association resolution was accompanied by an email to Clippard from Dennis Cagle, association moderator and pastor, Rockwood Baptist Church, Wildwood.
“I am strongly encouraging our pastors to attend the next MBC Executive Board meeting on April 10, as a show of our personal support and affirmation, and to hear the report that will be given by the investigative committee,” Cagle wrote.
Not all MBC leaders agreed with the actions taken by the St. Louis association or the directors of missions (DOMs).
“It seems quite apparent to me that these are blatant attempts at politicizing and undermining the work of our review committee,” said Jay Scribner, chairman of the Executive Board‘s administrative committee.
“We need to trust the Executive Board and its process of fulfilling the assignment that has been commissioned for this committee. No amount of politicizing will alter the outcome of truth. It would appear that these are attempts to divert our attention from the work and assignment of this committee. There would be absolutely no reason to do this unless someone has something to hide. I will be anxious and interested to hear the findings of this committee and I believe the Executive Board will have the integrity – based upon the facts – to make decisions that are right,” Scribner said.
MBC President Mike Green characterized the resolutions as “unfortunate” and praised the committee members who he said are “respected, godly leaders.”
“We have a committee that was recommended by Executive Board Member Wesley Hammond and was overwhelmingly approved by the full board,” he said. “I feel that there are those who wish to make these statements before the committee can even finish its work. The committee has the best interests of Missouri Baptists, David Clippard and the Executive Board in mind.”
The resolution unanimously passed by about 30 directors of missions (DOM) – representing less than half of the DOM positions in the convention – is almost identical to the one passed by the St. Louis group. A few sentences differed. One noted how “Dr. Clippard and the Missouri Baptist Convention staff have been supportive partners with the directors of missions from all across Missouri.“ It went on to note that “effective joint mission endeavors require a healthy atmosphere of trust and cooperation, now therefore, be it … resolved that we encourage the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board and all Missouri Baptists to join together in prayer for and full support of the leadership of Dr. Clippard and the Missouri Baptist Convention staff.”
Jerry Williams, director of missions, Barry County Baptist Association, left the meeting before the DOMs voted, but said an MBC staffer earlier offered a passionate appeal for DOMs to attend the April 10 meeting to show their support for Clippard.
“They ought to have waited and let the review committee do its work and present their findings,” Williams said about the DOM resolution. “To me the DOM conference should have stayed on business.
“I am appalled that this is going on,” Williams said. “They tried to make it look unanimous, but a lot of DOMs were not there. It’s not as if David Clippard needs anybody to defend him. What do they need to be at the April 10 meeting to defend him about?”
Larry Greenfield, director of missions, Mineral Area Baptist Association, also disagreed with the DOMs’ action and said several DOMs who left the meeting early were unaware that any resolution or vote was to be taken.
“I think the MBC Executive Board is trying to get to the bottom of this controversy,” Greenfield said. “Give them an opportunity to do their job without undue pressure from any group.”
Greenfield, who attended most of the DOM meeting but left before the vote, said “the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.”
“The atmosphere was heavy, almost like, the way I perceived it, was if you asked a question about (Clippard’s) leadership, you are disloyal. Accountability issues are something we ought to think about.”
Greenfield said the meeting seemed to turn into a “pep rally” for Clippard.
“If you allow the system to work, it will work without outside pressure.” he added.
Two of the DOMs who supported the resolution, Bill Curp, Jefferson Baptist Association and Bill Smathers, Macon Baptist Association, were members of the search committee that recommended Clippard for hiring. Smathers, along with another Clippard supporter, Jim Plymale, director of missions, Franklin County Baptist Association, both circulated emails statewide several months ago urging support for Clippard and offering veiled criticism for conservative resurgence leader Roger Moran, research director for the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association (MBLA). Moran has been increasingly critical of Clippard, but only after first offering to help him in May of 2005. Much of what was contained in the emails by Smathers and Plymale were later proven to be untrue.
Bruce McCoy, review committee chairman and pastor, Canaan Baptist Church, St. Louis, issued the following statement Feb. 23: “Our committee will speak to the appropriate issues at the appropriate time in the appropriate forum on April 10 as mandated to us by the Executive Board of the Missouri Baptist Convention.”