Gift to Midwestern Seminary affirmed
CAPE GIRARDEAU – The Executive Board of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) affirmed, with opposition, its support for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) during the 172nd annual meeting of the MBC when messengers received a report from an ad hoc committee recommending that the MBC give the $200,000 amount to the seminary already voted on by board members for 2007.
The committee was appointed by MBC President Ralph Sawyer earlier in 2006 to study the history of MBC gifts to MBTS and address various concerns that have been raised regarding these gifts.
Cindy Province, chair of the committee, wrote in her report that giving by the MBC to MBTS commenced in earnest in 2002, in conjunction with the growth of the conservative resurgence and the pleasant shift in the academic climate at Midwestern from liberalism to conservatism. A gift of $25,000 was received out of reserves. After skipping a year, a gift of $204,223.54 out of allocations was given in 2004, followed by gifts of $100,000 and $200,000 the following two years, both out of reserves.
Messengers approved the spirit of what the ad hoc committee set out to accomplish while asserting that every Missouri Baptist ought to make it a priority to visit the seminary.
“We have intensely studied this issue,” Province said from the floor of the convention. “We affirm our existing colleges. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is not in competition with our colleges, but we do feel that there is a vital synergy and a vital need for this convention to show its support for a seminary that has gone from a liberal disgrace to a God-given, conservative miracle in the state of Missouri.”
Trustees from Hannibal-LaGrange College (HLG) in May questioned the MBC’s giving to MBTS, and Gary Barkley, chairman of the MBC Inter-agency Committee, said trustees from Southwest Baptist University (SBU) have since joined their colleagues in expressing their concerns. The response letter to these inquiries will be drafted in time for the Dec. 11-12 Executive Board meeting at the Baptist Building. If approved at that time by board members, it then will be mailed out to the schools, Barkley said.
HLG and SBU are currently funded at a 13 percent level out of the MBC’s budget. When Missouri Baptist College and William Jewell College were also being funded, in 2002, the percentage was 20.5. The level dropped to 19.5 percent in 2003 and the current 13 percent in 2004.
Funding for the two colleges currently in good standing with the MBC needs to be gradually built back up, according to Jeff Purvis, vice chairman of the Inter-agency Committee.
“Our goal is going to be hopefully by budget year 2013 to get it back up to that pre-lawsuit level of 20.5 percent,” he said. “We want to do it in increments of 1½ percent if we can. What we’ve done in the last several years is to take that money and put it into reserves.”
Board members and messengers failed to achieve that first step in the 2007 budget, Purvis said, but they did approve a recommendation to take 50 percent of any year-end net overages and distribute them to Christian Higher Education based on the full-time equivalent formula. Based on estimates from the past two years, this could amount to the two Missouri Baptist colleges splitting anywhere from $128,000 to $143,000, according to MBC Controller Jay Hughes. The other half of the overages would go into reserves.
Purvis said the goal for the 2008 budget would be to increase the percentage for Christian Higher Education from 13 to 14½. Missouri Baptist College, which is currently in litigation, theoretically could be back in the fold by then.
In the meantime, Midwestern Seminary continues to be a part of the solution when it comes to obtaining a Missouri Baptist education that runs contrary to theological liberalism.
“We are blessed to have a thoroughly conservative and academically first-rate seminary in our state,” Province wrote in her report.
Springfield was approved as the location of the 2010 annual meeting, with the Springfield Expo Center being scheduled for Oct. 25-27;
A process that may lead to the MBC president appointing a committee to study the theological soundness of all relationships the MBC has with non-political para-church organizations was initiated with the Executive Board;
A move to require any person nominated to serve on boards and commissions of the MBC be from a local church that is supportive of the Southern Baptist Convention, MBC, and local association on the level of at least 7 percent giving of their undesignated receipts to the above mentioned missions causes annually was rejected by an overwhelming majority of messengers.