I have already blogged about the Save Our Convention meeting that took place at the Harvester, 1st Baptist Church on May 15. In this sequel blog, I'd like to comment on what I thought was the most outrageous comment of that day’s meeting. It was made by Jim Breeden, Assoc. Director of Missions for the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association and one of the conveners of Save Our Convention. His statement concerned The Pathway, the official Newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Here is what he said:
"There is a loss of trust in The Pathway newspaper. A large number of Missouri Baptists believe The Pathway has fueled the current conflict by focusing on controversy, reporting events in a very biased manner and writing with inflammatory tone. The vast majority across the state believe The Pathway should work with, and not against, MBC staff. It is a sad day when Missouri Baptists trust secular papers and the Word & Way more than the official state paper."
Breeden’s accusation is as subjective as is Save Our Convention’s accusations that Roger Moran and the MBLA are "running" the Missouri Baptist Convention. Their "facts" have been interpreted to substantiate their personal bias. Breeden accuses, but he offers no substantial facts to prove his case. Talk about an inflammatory!
Perspective invariably colors opinion. I readily admit that I have a vested interest in and a biased opinion about The Pathway and its editor. Don Hinkle is a personal friend. I was the original Webmaster when the Newsjournal began, and cannot help but feel a sense of pride in my small part in The Pathway’s humble beginnings. Even so, I hope to provide my readers with substantial "proof" for my defense of Hinkle and The Pathway in a moment. What Save Our Convention organizers have not admitted to is their biased opinion against Don Hinkle and The Pathway. In their view, Don Hinkle is a co-conspirator with Roger Moran and the MBLA. In their opinion, he is as equally to blame for David Clippard’s termination as is Moran and the MBLA. Knowing that doesn’t make Breeden’s comments about The Pathway any more true, but it does put his comments in perspective.
So then, lets consider some of the accusations:
First, is The Pathway biased – yea, even very biased – in its reporting? You bet it is. Don, and his staff writers (Allen Palmeri and Brian Koonce) are all solidly Pro-Life, Pro-Family, Pro-SBC, Pro-MBC, Anti-Homosexual Agenda, Anit-Gambling Agenda. If the editor and staff of a state Baptist newspaper are going to be biased, this is the kind of bias I want. What Save Our Convention refers to as "bias" I see as a "Biblical World View." These ‘biases’ repeatedly come across in Hinkle’s opinion pieces and staff-writer stories. And I am glad for it.
Second, is The Pathway too political? Though not mentioned in Breeden’s statement, it is an accusation I’ve repeatedly heard from Pathway detractors. The Pathway does indeed regularly report on events taking place in the Missouri legislator. But their coverage has always been on issues of moral concern to Missouri Baptists. The Pathway has never spoken on issues that have not already been spoken to by Southern Baptists through resolution or motion. This is easily verified by logging onto The Pathway’s website and perusing the archives. Indeed, Don Hinkle has helped Missouri Baptists be Salt and Light in the rarefied atmosphere of the Missouri Capitol building.
Third, has The Pathway "fueled the conflict" in Missouri Baptist life by focusing on controversy? Again, such statements are subjective. What one reader perceives as "inflammatory," another reader will perceive as "factual reporting." Consider the accusation that The Pathway has fueled conflict in the MBC. Sometimes it takes just one word to bias a question or a statement. Inflammatory words include words in the following list. They are words that management analysis and development consultants encourage companies to avoid. Here is the list:
So how many times are any of these words found in Pathway articles? In the hundreds of articles that have appeared in The Pathway since its inception there are exactly 26 uses of words from the aforementioned vocabulary. The word that yielded the highest number of "hits" on The Pathway website was the word "must." In virtually every circumstance the word occurred in a title. Examples included: Draper: young leaders must preach the word, State Evangelism Conference must be covered in prayer, MBC leadership: We must defend the human embryo, etc., etc., etc. I found exactly two examples where any of the above words might be construed in an inflammatory way.
Let’s also consider the second statement that The Pathway has focused on controversy. Consider the following review of articles that appeared in The Pathway between January and April of this year ... the height of the "Clippard controversey."
- Legislative prayer service settles in as January tradition
- El Salvador trip kicks off partnership
- MBC seeks injunction against Jester, others
- Court-ordered mediation completed; no agreement
- McCoy helps lead staff toward tranquility
- Scroll scholar to speak at Midwestern Seminary – Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls Workshop
- SBC prez brings evangelist’s heart to confab
- Blunt pushing for education reforms
- Gott enjoys serving Lord as a businessman
- Missionaries to Philippines keep sharing
- IMB missionary urges MBC to think missiologically
- Blackaby, Lowry headline bi-vo ministry conference
- Governor’s Prayer Breakfast puts spotlight on absolute truth
- HLG holds first December graduation
- Olford Center preaching classes big on-line hit with Missourians
- MBC worship staff produces new podcasts
TOTAL - 12 ministry and CP related stories ... 5 convention issue or government issue stories.
- An ice-cold catastrophe
- Showdown coming with Planned Parenthood
- MBC annual baptism number dips below 13,000
- MBC case assigned to Callahan
- State Evangelism Conference offers mosaic of motivation
- McCune prepares to leave MBC staff position
- First Baptist makes donations to Braggadocio Baptist
- Bogey Hills enjoys Romanian partnership
- Soccer ball kicks up evangelism stir
- Memorial children’s ministry bridges gap
- Baptist workers come to aid of people in crisis
- Disaster relief help arrives through Bobcat of St. Louis
- Page gets conference rolling by lifting up name of Jesus
- Sergeant presents church with gift
- Former minister gets 20 years for sex crimes
- MBTS to host Scrolls scholar for workshop
- Hannibal-LaGrange College springs into new year
TOTAL 16 news and CP stories - even the bad news is valid ... Only 1 story about the lawsuit.
- El Salvador partnership accelerates
- HLG embarks on ambitious $30 million capital campaign
- Memory of Disaster Relief worker honored
- MBC theological panel begins work
- BGCM, Missouri CBF join in liberal event
- Political intrigue surrounds MOHELA bill; MBC concerned about trusting the courts
- MBC staffer McMillan honored to receive Casebolt music award
- Clippard names Taylor state evangelism director
- SBU may soon work with Russian university
- Willis challenges MBC staff to bear much fruit
- Southridge reaches out to poor in El Salvador
- MAHC lobbying day set for March 7 at Capitol
TOTAL 10 CP and Ministry related stories ... 2 related to MBC controversy.
- Resolutions show support for state exec; some leaders say action inappropriate
- Debate intensifies concerning Emerging Church in SBC
- MBC seeks to achieve $2 million goal in giving
- Church plant grows out of disaster relief
- Missouri women touch Puerto Rico
- WMU training set for March 24
- Dead Sea Scrolls create buzz
- Gambling loss limit targeted
- Lawmakers keep trying to clean up billboards
- Threat to church daycare autonomy may materialize
- Pro-life bills poised to advance in Senate
- Southwest Baptist plans first Christian Summer Music Camp
- HLG moves to add two new sports
- Norman brings passion for theology to SBU
- VBS theme creates opening for Sports Crusaders’ ministry
- Springfield remains in need of Disaster Relief volunteers
- Education Expo offers options in learning
TOTAL 15 CP or ministry stories ... 1 controversy related.
- Pro-life rally at Capitol generates hope
- Mark Dever to headline Pastors’ Confab
- MBC churches catch vision for ministry to El Salvador
- McCoy actively pursues qualified nominees
- MBC theological committee work proceeds
- Theological meeting turns political, personal
- Disaster Relief boss offers thanks
- Virginia volunteers help after Mo. ice storm
- Christian at Missouri State stands her ground
- A farmer who is salt and light
- SBU earns award for student missions work
- Missouri Baptist Youth Choir plans summer tour
- SEMO Baptists reach out to international students
- McKenzies reaching deaf for Christ
- Feeding sheep is Founders’ focus
- Ascol to encourage more church planting
- Union Hill growing, meeting needs
- MBTS to host evangelism workshop on Mormons
- Colorado draws Missouri missions effort
- Romanian Baptists cherish freedom of worship
- Soccer ball helps reach Ghana for Jesus Christ
- Buckhorn Baptist watches Lord grow Filipino church
- Hall concert blesses Jefferson City
- Sheriff White keeps walking by faith - What a great testimony...
TOTAL 22 stories about CP and ministry ... 3 about the controversy.
- Investigation committee to report April 10
- God spares family in crash
- Jim Austin the choice for exec dir. in S. Carolina
- Theological review committee begins policy phase
- The CEF challenge: Evangelizing in schools
- House eyes vaccines for sexually-transmitted virus
- Conference aims to shake Missouri for Jesus
- Bearden seeks to clarify religious freedoms
- Old Bethel rebuilding project nears completion
- Discipleship confab blesses hearts in Slater
- Providence enjoys rich history
- Pilate between a rock, a hard place
TOTAL 12 stories on CP and ministry ... 2 on the controversy.
- Questions and Answers about the Executive Board meeting, April 10, 2007
- Report of the MBC Investigative Committee
- Missouri board dismisses Clippard as exec
- MBC Executive Board issues official statement
- Board elevates Tolliver to interim executive director
- Board passes alcohol policy tied to funding
- MBC Executive Board issues official statement
- Continuing Review affirms one item, rejects four
- MBC asks court for expedited trial setting
- Springfield BSC turns 50 with great energy
- Cloning ban pops out of committee
- Senate considers rare move to aid pro-life bill
- Ozark church plant rejoices in rapid growth CP giving at work
- Florissant church intentionally seeks diversity
- Dakdok exposes error of Islam at Baptist Building event
- Making Bibles delights Missouri Baptists
- Discipleship trainer creates awareness
- Young Christians Weekend touches many Baptists
- She’s more than a mom
TOTAL 13 stories on CP and ministry ... 7 on the controversy (due to coverage of the April 12 Executive Board meeting where Dr. Clippard was terminated as Executive Director)
(My appreciation to Brian Baker who initially pulled most of this information together)
Can anyone, with an ounce of objectivity, look at the above list of stories and not conclude that The Pathway prints far-and-away more stories about missions and ministry and the local church than the controversial issues facing the MBC? Are the controversial issues article stories that Missouri Baptists need to be kept abreast of? Of course. The Pathway, after all, is a Newsjournal. As a Missouri Baptist, I want to know the good, the bad and yes, even the ugly, that transpires in convention life.
Forth, does The Pathway work against the MBC staff? This begs the question: "What does Jim Breeden mean when he asserts that The Pathway works against the MBC staff?" Has The Pathway been critical of Program leadership? Has The Pathway been critical of ministries, or programs initiated by various program leaders? Has The Pathway been unsupportive of missions offerings and the Cooperative Program? In an unflattering email that appeared on the MoBaptistList (an online discussion forum for Missouri Baptists) Norm Howell openly criticized Don Hinkle for a number of things. He does, however, grudgingly compliment Don for being supportive of partnership missions. Howell writes: "Has Pathway neglected "Partnership Missions?" NO!"
Lastly, are secular newspapers like the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Word&Way more trustworthy sources of information for Missouri Baptists than The Pathway? I suppose Save Our Convention leaders are entitled to their opinion, but I find the notion so laughable that it’s simply not worth responding to.
For Save Our Convention leaders to make such broad accusations against The Pathway – and essentially against Don Hinkle – on only anecdotal evidence, hearsay, and personal bias, is at the least irresponsible, and at the worst, slanderous. To coin an old TV commercial: "Mr. Breeden: Where’s the beef?" Where is your evidence that backs up your outlandish claims? Inquiring minds would like to know.