Resolution on alcohol meets some resistance before messengers pass it
OSAGE BEACH—Alcohol consumption was one of the larger issues discussed in various sermons, committee meetings and hallway encounters Oct. 29-31 during the 173rd annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) at Tan-Tar-A.
Interim Executive Director David Tolliver minced no words about the topic in his Oct. 29 sermon, flatly calling it a violation of Romans 14, which urges Christians not to cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble. Missouri Southern Baptists, Tolliver preached, ought to abstain from the imbibing of alcoholic beverages.
“I understand that the Bible does not say, ‘Thou shalt not drink,’” Tolliver said. “The Bible doesn’t say that. I get that. The Bible doesn’t say ‘Thou shalt not drink’ anytime, anywhere, for any reason. It’s not that explicit. I’m a little slow at it, but I can read, and I understand that the Bible does not say that. The Bible does not specifically call the drinking of alcohol a sin—not in so many words.
“But I want you to hear me very carefully this evening, and I will be clear to say that I believe the only biblical position for Christians in this 21st century Show Me State environment that we live in is total abstinence.”
Tolliver said Christians do run into difficulty when they see another Christian consuming an alcoholic beverage.
“It causes brothers and sisters to stumble, and therefore it is wrong,” he said.
There are more Scriptures that teach this position, Tolliver said, “but if Romans 14 were all we had, that’d be enough. It just takes one verse.”
On Oct. 31, Roger Moran, messenger, First Baptist Church, Troy, went to a microphone to object to the fact that the Resolutions Committee did not report out his resolution against alcohol consumption. That touched off a spirited debate in the annual meeting that led to messengers passing Moran’s resolution, 503-360. It marked the first resolution passed on alcohol by the MBC since 1987.
Moran argued that it was wrong to not report out his resolution because it contained precisely the same language as the one passed by Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) messengers in 2006 in Greensboro, N.C. After Moran’s speech and subsequent motion, which resulted in several very vocal seconds, Doug Richey, chairman of the Resolutions Committee and pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, read the resolution, which, while non-binding, encourages the following:
Total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing and consuming of alcoholic beverages;
No one being elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the MBC who is a user of alcoholic beverages;
That Missouri Baptists would take an active role in supporting legislation that is intended to curb alcohol use in our communities and nation;
That Missouri Baptists would be actively involved in educating students and adults concerning the destructive nature of alcoholic beverages;
Commendation for organizations and ministries that treat alcohol-related problems from a biblical perspective and promote abstinence and encourage local churches to begin and/or support such biblically-based ministries.
Richey said that because of the controversy swirling around the Ad Hoc Theological Study Committee unofficial report that has yet to be accepted by the MBC Executive Board, it would be improper to pass any resolutions that include content related to the unofficial report, which touches on alcohol consumption in the context of the Emerging/Emergent Church. He called this “a guiding principle” imposed internally by the five-member committee. Richey also noted that there have been 11 previous resolutions on alcohol consumption in MBC history, and “this resolution did not contribute anything new to the discussion, other than the trustee/member clause.” Messengers ultimately disagreed.
An example of the type of ministry included in the resolution is Celebrate Recovery, the 12-step method of transformation that originates from Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Calif.
“I am a former drug user, and I celebrate Celebrate Recovery,” said Chris Brandt, messenger, Solid Rock Baptist Church, Boonville. “I also have a former husband who died in 2004 after four years of sobriety from a three-day drinking binge. He died at 41 years old. I have two sons who feel called to ministry, but unfortunately they were exposed to a Missouri Baptist church planter who encouraged alcohol. We need Celebrate Recovery. We need to take a stand against alcohol.”
Micah Fries, messenger, Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church, St. Joseph, spoke against the resolution.
“Though I absolutely detest alcohol use, and I personally abstain—come from a family full of alcoholics—and yet the wording of the resolution specifically encourages that we move beyond the words of Scripture in our expectations of our leadership,” Fries said.
In the end, Moran’s position prevailed.
“I believe that we should take every opportunity that we can to condemn the use of alcohol in any way,” said Louie Moyers, messenger, Jamestown Baptist Church.