It was 14 years ago this month that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) last came to St. Louis for its annual meeting and it marked the beginning of one of the greatest blessings God has ever bestowed on me and my wife, Bernadette. It also marked an important moment in Missouri Baptist history. The blessing and historical moment to which I refer is the creation of The Pathway.
When the SBC last came to St. Louis it was buoyed by the conservative vanquishing of moderates who attempted to move the convention in a theologically liberal direction. Southern Baptists’ view of Scripture, that it is infallible and inerrant, had prevailed. The struggle for control of state conventions was still raging. In Missouri it reached a fever pitch when moderate trustees – at Windermere Baptist Conference Center, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University and the convention’s newspaper, Word & Way – illegally voted to amend their charters, giving them control of the agencies. Attempts to settle the matter out of court by conservatives through Christian mediation was rejected by the breakaway trustees. That forced the MBC to take legal action.
Conservatives, coalescing around Project 1000 led by layman Roger Moran, began winning presidential elections in the late 1990s. By 2002 conservatives had gained control of the MBC’s Executive Board and its key committees. MBC Executive Board members expressed concern about the liberal, breakaway Word & Way misrepresenting the intentions and views of the state convention at the SBC’s annual meeting set for June in St. Louis. The SBC Constitution says that besides SBC Executive Committee material (the Daily Bulletin and SBC Life), no other publications can be distributed at an SBC annual meeting except for the newspaper of the hosting state convention. That prompted the MBC Executive Board to act – and act they did.
They voted to strip Word & Way of its status as the MBC’s official newspaper. (The MBC Executive Board voted to evict Word & Way from the Baptist Building a few months later.) That left the MBC without a state newspaper, something it needed to keep convention affiliates unified and informed. A newspaper would also help wage the forthcoming public opinion war in the legal battle with the five breakaways.
Jim Hill, a Missouri moderate, resigned a few months earlier and the MBC Executive Board executive director search committee was still in search mode. Meanwhile, I was doing research for my doctoral dissertation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., when the late Cindy Province called and asked if I could meet with the MBC Executive Board’s editor search committee. The board felt it was in the best interest of the convention not to delay hiring an editor that could launch a new, pro-SBC, conservative state newspaper.
I met with the search committee at Ballwin Baptist Church in St. Louis. I was hired June 8, 2002, the day The Pathway was launched as a Web-only publication. MBC President Jay Scribner, who was pastor of First Baptist Church, Branson, asked if I could hastily produce a newsletter for the upcoming SBC annual meeting in St. Louis. The first printed issue of The Pathway was distributed at that meeting.
God has been faithful. I know because of all the challenges that have beset The Pathway and me personally over the past 14 years. There have been people who did not want The Pathway to succeed, or wanted it to be something other than what it has become. There have been people who hated me and schemed to bring about The Pathway’s demise. I have had three bouts with cancer, experienced numerous personnel changes and adapted to ever-changing technology.
Through it all God has blessed. The Pathway is now the fifth largest circulated newspaper in Missouri. The Pathway now reaches more than 50,000 Missouri Baptists. I hope our subscribers are informed and encouraged by what they read and see.
I want to thank the courageous people of Project 1000, the MBC Executive Board and the churches for allowing me to serve as state newspaper editor. I also want to thank an outstanding staff: Associate Editor Ben Hawkins, Assistant Editor Brian Koonce, ministry assistant Beth Peeper, webmaster Kenny McCune, a cast of terrific freelance writers/columnists and MBC Executive Director John Yeats and wife, Sharon, who are among Pathway’s biggest supporters. Finally, a big thanks to my sweet wife for enduring some lonely nights and weekends so I could joyously do what God has called me to do.