Board elevates Tolliver to interim executive director
By Allen Palmeri
JEFFERSON CITY – David Tolliver, a fourth-generation Missouri Baptist pastor who has been serving the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) as an associate executive director, was elected interim executive director April 10 by the MBC Executive Board.
Tolliver, 56, comes to his new position after having served nearly two years as the MBC’s Cooperative Program leader. He began that duty in the Baptist Building in May of 2005. Before coming to Jefferson City, he served six years as pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, a total of 8½ years as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, St. Louis, and Oak Hill Baptist Church, St. Louis, after a merger, and five years as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, California.
Tolliver is known for wearing multiple hats as both a Southern Baptist and Missouri Baptist leader, serving on several national and state boards and committees. His work includes: Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee, 1992-2000; MBC president, 2004; MBC recording secretary, 2002; president of the MBC Pastors’ Conference, 2000; MBC Legal Task Force (since its inception in 2002); Southwest Baptist University trustee (current); and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustee (current).
He is also known as a leader in Project 1000, the conservative resurgence movement that turned the MBC center-right in the 1990s.
On April 10, his first public remarks to the staff as their interim executive director were off the cuff. Tolliver was part of a staff-only meeting which was called for the purpose of revealing that the previous executive director had just been terminated. During a question-and-answer time, Tolliver stood up and communicated that there were many people in the room who would be more qualified than he is for the position.
He added that his new ministry duty came to him after the Administrative Committee asked him to do it and he prayed about it. Administrative Committee Chairman Jay Scribner said the request was unanimous.
“I don’t look forward to it, but I’m going to do my best,” Tolliver said.
Scribner said the decision was made “because of his character, because of his background with Missouri Baptist, because of his service to the Missouri Baptist Convention over the last couple of years, and because of the fact that he is well-respected and well-accepted by many, many people throughout Missouri.”
Tolliver has been married to his wife, Myra, for 34 years. They have a daughter, Terra Jo, a son, Adam, and two grandchildren.
Missouri Baptist leaders view Tolliver as a man who may know the state better than any other pastor in the convention. His roots run deep, with his great-grandfather, R.L. Maness, having developed a strong ministry in Franklin County that is evidenced by him starting many of the churches there. His grandfather, Max Payne, served as pastor of Central Baptist Church, Eureka, for 32 years. And his father, Phillip Tolliver, ministered more than 45 years as a Southern Baptist in Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa and Missouri, serving faithfully as a pastor for many of those years in the Show Me State.
“My first goal is going to be to have unity in this staff, then in the board, then in the convention,” Tolliver said.
The interim period will be open-ended, not tied to a date, because “no one knows what that process is going to be, and how long that process will take,” Scribner said. “This is customary.”