MBC readies for pro-life petition drive
Southern Baptists to play critical role
in 2008 election
JEFFERSON CITY—Petition gatherers in a broad coalition effort throughout Missouri are counting on an army of Missouri Southern Baptists to muster alongside them for the Cures Without Cloning (CWC) initiative campaign.
The army will be there, according to Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Interim Executive Director David Tolliver. The constitutional amendment in support of proven research and treatments for lifesaving cures, which would also prohibit human cloning, would need approved ballot language and about 200,000 petition signatures (turned in by early next year) to place it on either the August 2008 or November 2008 ballot.
“I encourage all Missouri Baptist pastors, churches, and laymen to be involved on whatever level they can,” Tolliver said. “This grassroots effort is the best thing right now that will save lives in Missouri.”
Rodney Albert, chairman of the Christian Life Commission and pastor of Hallsville Baptist Church, said there is no time to waste.
“We can contribute at all levels,” Albert said. “We need church coordinators to partner with county coordinators, most of whom are already in place. These are people who are going to give some of their time to becoming trained in the petition-gathering process.”
Nine key volunteers have been assigned as district coordinators. Among them is Abram Messer, a 25-year-old layman from First Baptist Church, Festus-Crystal City. The nine district coordinators are searching for volunteers to collect the number of signatures needed for a successful campaign. The goal for each district ranges from 21,563 to 28,787. Messer’s personal goal for District 3 is 30,000.
“We are contacting every Southern Baptist church in District 3, and then we’re stepping outside of those bounds to other denominations,” he said. “As a district coordinator, my job is basically not only to train people but to find people. This is about being salt and light. The people of God have got to be willing to step outside of our comfort zone.”
County coordinators like Gloria Hodges are gearing up to assert control over rural Missouri territory. Clark County, which makes up the northeast corner of the state, is her domain. Hodges, a member of First Baptist Church, Kahoka, has a modest target of 665 signatures.
Another church coordinator, Diana Kaufman of First Baptist Church, Harvester, in St. Charles, said, “I would just like to get as many people to sign the petition as we can.”
Kaufman said she is equipped to try for signatures outside of the local post office and the neighborhood grocery store.
“Every signature counts,” she said. “It does. It really does.”
“I’m very proud of the Baptist involvement in the Cures Without Cloning coalition,” he said. “It’s simply an extension of that strong Baptist ethic—life is sacred. These folks are showing that. What we need now are churches, pastors and lay leaders to get on board with them, then to encourage others in their church to sign that petition so that we can get this before the voters in Missouri.”
The coordinators are being provided support by Missouri Southern Baptists like Rob Hanson. He is one of a select group of Missouri Baptist doctors who are joining their colleagues from various denominations to lead citizen-driven CWC against the well-oiled machine of Big Biotech in the battle of words. Hansen is a member of Parkway Baptist Church in Creve Coeur and a St. Louis physician specializing in pediatric cancer treatment, hematology and oncology.
“I think it sends a very strong message about what the people of Missouri really want,” Hanson said. “It stands in such sharp contrast to the very well-funded opposition. When embryonic stem cell research was on the table last year with Amendment 2, and the grassroots effort there very nearly defeated the most expensive campaign ever mounted in this state, it really speaks to the heart that people in every part of Missouri have for this issue. There really is very little that has created this kind of a groundswell that I can think of in the past. So I’m very confident that, based on what we’ve seen with the coalition of individual groups that were brought together previously, it’s going to be a very successful petition drive.”
Albert said gains in the months to come must be consolidated.
“We believe there are a lot of Missourians—certainly Baptists but also friends of Baptists and fellow community members of our Baptists—who are equally outraged that cloning is legal in Missouri,” he said. “We’re going to need those people to sign the petition as well.”
The need of the moment is for Missouri Southern Baptists to volunteer (see related box). Booths will be staffed during the 173rd annual meeting of the MBC Oct. 29-31 at Tan-Tar-A in Osage Beach so that men and women can get involved. Training will be provided at some point.
“Human life is sacred,” Albert said. “How dare Missouri flaunt that great doctrine in the face of the Creator. We do not have the right to clone humans, to research upon humans. And Missouri Baptists have an opportunity to step forward and say to our state, ‘It will not be done.’”