JEFFERSON CITY—The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board on Dec. 14 affirmed an eight-man task to explore possible closer ties and a potential merger with the Baptist Convention of Iowa (BCI).
The Missouri-Iowa Relationship Task Force is now charged with taking 3-5 years “or less” to examine the pros and cons of a multi-layered partnership that could fold over into a full merge of the two conventions, according to MBC Executive Director David Tolliver and BCI Executive Director Jimmy Barrentine. Tolliver emphasized that it will take both time and prayer to know what to do.
“I do not presume to perfectly know the perfect will of God in this matter or any other for that matter, but I’m looking for it, and I hope that you will look with me,” he said.
The task force consists of: Tolliver; MBC Associate Executive Directors Jerry Field and Jay Hughes; MBC Director of Communication/Development Vince Blubaugh; MBC Missions/Evangelism
Team Leader Rick Hedger; MBC President John Marshall, pastor, Second Baptist Church, Springfield; Executive Board Member Larry Thomas, associate pastor, First Baptist Church, Raytown; and Executive Board Member Monty Dunn, pastor, Pleasant View Baptist Church, Highlandville.
Tolliver emphasized that the work of the Organizational Study Group (OSG) will not stop. The BCI will either fit into a new MBC structure or go a separate way, he said. If “fitting in” is God’s will, it will manifest itself in various partnerships—church to church, staff to staff, association to association, and ministry to ministry. Barrentine will be able to share his heart on these matters with the OSG at its Jan. 26-27 meeting in the Baptist Building, Tolliver said.
There was a time in the 1960s when all of the BCI churches were missions of Missouri Baptist churches. Now there are 111 Iowa Baptist congregations, and the feeling still exists north of the border that the best days for Iowa were when she was partnered with Missouri, Barrentine said.
A couple of anticipated connections between Iowa Baptists and Missouri Baptists in the early months of this new relationship are the five Iowa directors of missions coming to the Missouri DOM Retreat in February and Barrentine coming to the Executive Board meeting in April.
National reforms being driven by the June passage of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) may severely impact Iowa, where 89 percent of the budget comes from the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Tolliver said. He told MBC Administrative Committee members that Iowa’s staff of 13 may virtually disappear. Even so, he said any possible merger—and he does mean possible—would occur between equal parties, not as a takeover.
Tolliver and Marshall announced various 2011 dates and scheduling adjustments concerning the OSG.
The DOM Retreat will be Feb. 15-17 in Jefferson City. DOMs will be able to offer consultation on the emerging MBC structure as it is fashioned into a final report which will go to the Executive Board for its April 11-12 meeting.
“When you hear the report, the report then becomes yours,” Tolliver said to board members.
There will be a special time April 11 set aside for that purpose. After dinner at 5 p.m., the meeting will start at 6 p.m. and go as long as it takes, maybe even until 9 p.m., Marshall said.
On June 7 there will be a special called board meeting from 10 a.m. until possibly 4 p.m., Marshall said. The report will be discussed at that time but there will be no voting. The approval vote will take place during the July 11-12 board meeting, with convention action required Oct. 31-Nov. 3 as a final step.
It was noted that the OSG, which is one year old, predates the GCR and as such is not being driven by it.
“We’re not reorganizing to comply with GCR,” Tolliver said. “We’re reorganizing so that we can be more effective and more efficient in the way that we do business. That’s important for you to share.”
Another year has passed with the MBC experiencing good cash flow. The pattern is similar with lower Cooperative Program giving, lower spending due in part to unfilled staff positions, and a surplus that should come in around $200,000, which will be directed into the New Building Fund (75 percent) and the Organizational Development Fund (25 percent).
Giving is on pace to be 3-5 percent behind budget, meaning the annual total should be around $14.7 million of the projected $15.15 million, Hughes said. Other state conventions are running anywhere from 9-12 percent behind budget.
“While we’re down, we’re not as bad as we could be,” Hughes said.
Reserves are holding steady at $2.9 million, and the Plan A/Plan B structure for giving that is designed to cover legal fees continues to come in around 50-50, Hughes said. The same setup will be in place for 2011.
The “Mi Casa Es Su Casa” home rebuilding effort in El Salvador is complete, with 10 houses having been rebuilt. An optional second phase is now underway with homes for police officers being rebuilt.
The partnership between Missouri Baptists and El Salvadoran Baptists will end Dec. 31, 2011. Right now there are 69 churches started and 100 new mission points, with a total goal of 200 to be achieved.
In other business, board members voted to:
• Approve a contribution of $38,620.61 for the Mission Dignity program in 2010, to be used for people living in Missouri;
• Place $102,160 in proceeds from the sale of the Missionary in Residence house at 1507 Vieth Dr. in Jefferson City into the Vivian McCaughan Missional Living Endowment Fund, which has grown to be around $900,000; and
• Pass a resolution commending Hannibal-LaGrange University for its loyalty to the MBC and the cooperative spirit that school officials displayed during the recent name change process. n
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor