by David Krueger
It was my hope and prayer that after the termination of David Clippard as the Executive Director of the Missouri Baptist convention things would begin to settle down. The Executive Board’s vote of 44-7 for termination revealed a strong consensus among board members that Dr. Clippard’s leadership had become disquieting and troubling. I assumed that most Missouri Baptists would look at that consensus vote and conclude that – as painful as it was for the convention, and for many board members personally – that the Executive Board made the correct decision. I assumed that with the closing of this painful chapter in our convention’s history, Missouri Baptists would take a deep breath, and rally behind David Tolliver as he sought to bring some healing and some unity to the Executive Board staff and the convention. Alas, I assumed incorrectly.
The latest saga in Missouri Baptist life has been the formation of “Save Our Convention” -- a group led by mostly large church pastors who believe: 1) That the conservative resurgence in the Missouri Baptist convention has gone too far to the right, and 2) That convention life is being manipulated by a “political power broker machine” that will eventually “lead to the destruction of the Missouri Baptist Convention.”
Just what we need, right?
The leaders of “Save Our Convention” (SOC) include:
- John Marshall, 2nd BC, Springfield
- Mitch Jackson, Miner BC
- Jim Breeden, DOM, St. Louis Metro
- Dwight Blandenship, Parkway BC, St. Louis
- Kenny Qualls, FBC Arnold
- Wes Hammond, FBC Paris
- Tom Willoughby, FBC Eldorado Springs
- David McAlpin, FBC Harvester
- David Sheppard, FBC St. Charles
- Wayne Isgriggs, FBC Lincoln
- Lee Sanders, FBC O'Fallon
They believe that a small cabal of influential Missouri Baptist Layman – headed by Roger Moran -- are pulling the strings behind the scenes in an attempt to control the agenda of the state convention. This cabal is specifically accused of “micro-managing” the executive board staff. SOC leaders clearly believe that this cabal is directly responsible for most of the recent turmoil in Missouri Baptist life, and the forced termination of David Clippard.
The express purpose of SOC, as stated at their May 15 meeting at FBC, Harvester is to:
- To break the power-hold that a small group has on the Missouri Baptist Convention.
- To halt the spread of a legalistic spirit and allow for diversity of opinion on non-essentials.
- To include all those who want to work together with the Baptist, Faith and Message as our guide.
(See Save Our Convention addendum at the end of this article)
How do the plan on accomplishing this?
- Elect a new slate of MBC Convention officers including President 1st and 2nd Vice President Recording Secretary
- Reject the MBC Nominating Committee Report if it is not reflective of people who represent the MBC as a whole and adopt a substitute minority report.
- Reject the MBC President’s nominations to the Nominating Committee if those nominations are power brokers and do not reflect the MBC as a whole.
(See Save Our Convention addendum at the end of this article)
As a long-time Missouri Baptist, let me share some personal observations and perceptions that I’ve gleaned from watching convention life over the last several years. Granted, these are my observations and perceptions, and I’m sure others will radically disagree with them. However, the rhetoric I heard at the “Save Our Convention” rally deserves a response.
Observation #1: The turmoil that has become part-‘n-parcel of Missouri Baptist life can be directly traced to the failed leadership of the past two Executive Directors – Dr. Jim Hill and Dr. David Clippard – not a cabal of power-hungry lay-leaders seeking to impose their agenda upon the convention.
Dr. Hill failed utterly in his responsibility to protect the interests of Missouri Baptists when he refused to inform the convention of pending decisions by various trustee boards whom he knew to be contemplating votes to become self-perpetuating. His actions revealed that if the theological-moderates could not control the convention, they would simply take as much of it as they could with them when they left. The result of his negligence has been a seven-year legal quagmire in the MBC’s attempt to re-assert control over the five boards in question. The length of the lawsuit and the differences of biblical opinion even among conservatives over “taking a brother to court” has been like an un-healing sore in Missouri Baptist life.
Dr. Clippard’s failure is addressed in the Ad Hoc Investigating Committee’s report. His failure essentially revolves around unwise, ill-advised and unethical decisions as well as an autocratic, overbearing leadership style. The IC’s report clearly stated that employee morale at the Baptist Building was low because of David Clippard. This seems to be a nice way of saying that Dr. Clippard had poor people skills when it came to relating to and managing those who worked under him. The IC report also found that Dr. Clippard has not always been sufficiently forthright when confronted on various issues. Again, this seem to be a nice way of saying that Dr. Clippard regularly lied to Executive Board members on any number of occasions concerning any number of issues. Dr. Clippard also acted improperly when he settled the 2004 lawsuit brought by Carol Kaylor and then purposely misled Executive Board leaders about the details of the case. These reasons, and -- due to legal restraints -- other non-reportable incidents, all add up to a failure of leadership that can only be attributed to one person -- David Clippard. No one ended David Clippard’s career as MBC Executive Director but David Clippard.
Observation #2: The MBC Executive Board is not a group of mind-numbed robots blindly following the leadership of Roger Moran. If I were a member of the MBC Executive Board, I think I would be offended at the assumption of SOC leaders – three of whom are MBC Executive Board members. That assumption is that the fifty-plus members of the Executive Board, as well as David Tolliver – MBC Interim Executive Director -- are unwitting pawns in the hands of Roger Moran and his cabal of lieutenants and that Executive Board members, as well as David Tolliver, are just too stupid to realize it.
The men and women, laymen and ministers who serve on the MBC Executive Board are Missouri Baptists attempting to do what – in recent years – has become a thankless job. They are devoted to the Lord, and His Kingdom work, to their local church and to the work of the convention. To imply that they are merely puppets in the hands of a master-manipulator is to dishonor their service and impugn their integrity.
Observation #3: SOC leaders are obsessed with Roger Moran and the MBLA. According to them, they’re the Boogiemen in our midst and the sooner stakes are driven through their hearts the better.
SOC leaders told the Harvester crowd that their concerns are “… not even about the recent firing of Dr. Clippard, though we each have our own opinions of those events. However, that is over and done. It is the past.” This is analogous to the person who demurs “It’s not about the money.” When we hear someone say that, you can be sure that it’s really all about the money. It’s no secret that most of these men personally blame Roger Moran for David Clippard’s downfall and eventual termination. This was made clear by Gerald Davidson’s accusation at the 2006 annual meeting of the MBC. Gerald told the messengers during the annual sermon: “My dear friends I want to say to you this morning Missouri Baptists do not need a political organization to dictate and to build kings and tear down leadership." This was a clear reference to Roger Moran and the MBLA.
To be sure, Roger is a passionate Missouri Baptist, and one of the things he is passionate about is the MBC. But to consider him “the most powerful Baptist in Missouri” just because the St. Louis Post Dispatch says so, is to give the devil more due than he deserves. Is Roger an influential Missouri Baptist? Yes. Should we lay the blame for David Clippard’s failures as a leader at Roger’s feet? No.
Observation #4: SOC leaders have elected themselves the ethical watchdogs of the MBC. There central message? “Die, MBLA, Die!
In their effort to break the “power-hold that a small group has on the Missouri Baptist Convention” (aka – the MBLA) they have adopted a three-pronged plan: 1) Elect a new slate of MBC officers – President, 1st and 2nd Vice President, and Recording Secretary. In their opinion, the MBLA shouldn’t be in the business of “approving” a slate of convention officers. This is, after all, “king-making.” Instead, Missouri Baptists need to support SOC’s approved slate of officers – whoever they may wind up being (see the list of eleven). Isn’t this an illustration of the pot calling the kettle ‘black’? 2) They plan to reject the Nominating Committee Report if it is not reflective of people who represent the MBC as a whole. If it is not, they plan to move the adoption of a substitute minority report. Who is to say whether-or-not the Nominating Committee’s Report is or is not reflective of people who represent the MBC as a whole? (see the list of eleven). 3) They plan to reject the President’s nominations to the Nominating Committee if those nominations are “power brokers and do not reflect the MBC as a whole.” Again, who is to say whether-or-not Mike Green’s nominations to next year’s nominating committee are “power brokers” and do not reflect the MBC as a whole? (see the list of eleven).
Observation #5: SOC leaders are unwilling to allow the various committees of the convention to work the process of convention life. Admittedly that process can sometimes be slow and ponderous. We’re Baptists and we believe in congregational polity. That means involving a lot of people in the decision-making process. It means committee meetings, deliberation and a business meeting or two. It can drive people with A-type personalities nuts, but it’s the Baptist way, and I’m glad for it. The Ad Hoc Investigating Committee made several recommendations concerning the Nominating Committee that would effectively address most of the concerns SOC leaders have. Those recommendations have been turned over to the MBC Committee on Continuing Review which will soon be meeting to discuss them, and then give a report to the messengers of the 2007 annual meeting at Tan-tar-a. Instead of waiting for the CCR report, SOC leaders are politicalizing the convention even further, which will only continue to further divide the convention.
Concern #1: Is this an attempt by large-church pastors to exert dominance over the life of the MBC? The foundation of Missouri Baptist life is the small church. Not one of the SOC leaders reflect the typical Missouri Baptist congregation. I.e. very small and very rural. Consider:
- John Marshall, 2nd BC, Springfield – 5,517 members
- Mitch Jackson, Miner BC – 1,431 members
- Jim Breeden, DOM, St. Louis Metro – 52,124 (total church membership)
- Dwight Blandenship, Parkway BC, St. Louis – 1,050 members
- Kenny Qualls, FBC Arnold – 5,061 members
- Wes Hammond, FBC Paris – 531 members
- Tom Willoughby, FBC Eldorado Springs – 845 members
- David McAlpin, FBC Harvester – 3,839 members
- David Sheppard, FBC St. Charles – 2,689 members
- Wayne Isgriggs, FBC Lincoln – 553 members
- Lee Sanders, FBC O'Fallon – 3,728 members
(these statistics are taken from the 2005 Book of Reports)
Will their nominations for MBC officers at the 2007 annual meeting reflect Missouri Baptists as a whole? I do not wish to see a return to the day when a few large church pastors and their congregations dominated MBC life as when the moderates were firmly in control.
Concern #2: The character assignation of fellow Missouri Baptists. Named in their indictment of Missouri Baptists who they consider “political power brokers” are Roger Moran, Kerry Messer, Cindy Province, Richard Stone and Ron Turnbull. Considerable time was spent during the Harvester meeting maligning these individuals as co-conspirators who are bent on a coup d’etat of the convention. They were accused of being malicious gossipers, power mongers, and legalists. They were blamed for the lose of quality MBC staff members. They were blamed for a loss of confidence in the MBC Executive Board and current leadership. The potential loss of churches who might abandon the MBC was blamed on them. Finally, the potential destruction of our remaining MBC institution – even the convention itself – was blamed on them. That’s a lot of blame to heap upon five people.
Concern #3: The potential affect on the convention’s legal suit against the five institutions who’s trustee boards voted to become self-perpetuating. One of the arguments advanced by the five renegade trustee boards is that they made their decision to help insulate their respective institution from the politics of convention life. Save Our Convention plays right into the hands of defense lawyers who are looking for every opportunity to take advantage of internal conflicts within the MBC in an attempt to pit potential witnesses against each other. Save Our Convention is asserting that recent MBC woes are not a result of standing on principles of right and wrong, but that our woes are merely a result of convention politics. I can’t help but believe that, while their efforts will not ultimately lose the legal case for the MBC, neither are their efforts helpful.
Concern #5: The ever-increasing polarization of Missouri Baptists.
I have no doubt that each of these eleven men love the Lord. I have no doubt that each has the best interests of the MBC in mind. I’m terribly concerned, however, that their efforts will increasingly polarize and factionalize our convention. Their efforts will not save the MBC, but more-than-likely, hasten its demise.
I'm not so naive as to believe that we do not have real problems in the MBC. Some of those problems will go away when the legal suit against the five agencies is over and done with. As for the spirit of devisiveness that has taken hold of Missouri Baptists, I'm not sure I have any real answers (other than a firm belief in prayer and the providence of God). I don't believe, however, that "Save Our Convention" is the right way to address those problems. Their agenda is reactionary: They blame Roger Moran and the MBLA for David Clippard's forced termination and now somebody has got to pay.
Essentially, I trust Baptist polity. Missouri Baptists are not stupid. They know when a course correction is needed in Baptist life. They know when things have gone "too far" in one direction or another and they will correct it in due course.
I am comforted by one thought: The Missouri Baptist Convention is bigger than five individual Baptists. It’s bigger than the Executive Board. The Missouri Baptist Convention is not about what takes place at 400 E. High Street in Jefferson City. The Missouri Baptist Convention is about 1,900 autonomous Baptist congregations, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, scattered in cities, towns, villages and open country across the state of Missouri. The heart of Kingdom work is the local church. If we remember that, we remember the most important thing about the Missouri Baptist Convention.
SAVE OUR CONVENTION
I. Who We Are?
John Marshall, 2nd BC, Springfield – 5,517
Mitch Jackson, Miner BC – 1,431
Jim Breeden, DOM, St. Louis Metro – 52,124
Dwight Blandenship, Parkway BC, St. Louis – 1,050
Kenny Qualls, FBC Arnold – 5,061
Wes Hammond, FBC Paris -- 531
Tom Willoughby, FBC Eldorado Springs -- 845
David McAlpin, FBC Harvester – 3,839
David Sheppard, FBC St. Charles – 2,689
Wayne Isgriggs, FBC Lincoln -- 553
Lee Sanders, FBC O'Fallon – 3,728
We are all Biblical conservatives and endorsed the initial objective of Project 1,000
II. Why We Are Here?
1. We initially met on Wednesday, April 25 to share mutual concerns about the recent events and the future direction of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Several expressed that they and others they knew were considering walking away from the Missouri Baptist Convention. After lengthy discussions and mutual encouragement it was determined that this was not the right course of action.
2. A course of action was determined and a second meeting was set for late May. Because of a schedule conflict this meeting was moved forward to Tuesday, May 16. Each person present was encouraged to enlist 10 others to attend that meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to share our concerns for the Missouri Baptist Convention and to chart a course of action to address those concerns.
3. There have been no secret meetings and we are committed to openness and honesty. The president of the convention was informed of this meeting on Tuesday, May 1 and was invited to attend. We are sharing our concerns and course of action publicly so there can be open discussion and clarity.
III. What Are Our Concerns?
1. This is not about
• Emerging Church
2. It is not even about the recent firing of Dr. Clippard, though we each have our own opinions of those events. However, that is over and done. It is the past. We are concerned about the future.
3. Our concerns are two-fold
• The continued power control of certain project 1,000 leaders and the Missouri Baptist Laymen's Association that has led to micro management of the Missouri Baptist Convention staff and the exclusion of many fine Missouri Baptists.
• We are concerned about the spirit of legalism that refuses to cooperate with those who are not in total agreement and sets parameters that exceed the Baptist Faith and Message.
We are concerned that these two forces - A political power broker machine and a spirit of legalism - will lead to the destruction of the Missouri Baptist Convention and more specifically Southwest Baptist University and Hannibal LaGrange College.
IV. What is Our Purpose?
1. To break the power-hold that a small group has on the Missouri Baptist Convention.
2. To halt the spread of a legalistic spirit and allow for diversity of opinion on non-essentials.
3. To include all those who want to work together with the Baptist, Faith and Message as our guide.
Gerald Davidson - Annual Sermon 2006 Convention
"Project 1,000 has done its job and we say thank you and praise God for it. But hear me. It's time that Project 1,000 retired. Now I've been told that Project 1,000 ceased to exist after the year 2003. But now, the parent organization called The Missouri Baptist Layman's Association has risen up to take its place. My dear friends I want to say to you this morning Missouri Baptists do not need a political organization to dictate and to build kings and tear down leadership. "
V. What is the Evidence for These Concerns?
1. St. Louis Post Dispatch - April 2,2007
"For Roger Moran, the most powerful Baptist in Missouri, the past represents victory and personal grace."
St. Louis Post Dispatch - April 15,2007
"WANTED: Experienced Baptist to lead the Missouri arm of the nation's largest Protestant denomination. Position open due to firing of previous director last week. Looking for a fast learner who will recognize immediately that he must conform to the ideology of power broker who brought Missouri Baptists in line with conservative National Southern Baptist Convention."
2. Influence of Missouri Baptist Layman's Association - MBLA
• Roger Moran
• Kerry Messer
• Cindy Province
• Richard Stone - Roger Moran's foreman
• Ron Turnbull - Roger Moran's first cousin Positions Held
• Roger Moran
SBC Executive Committee - term expires 2007
MBC Nominating Committee - Served as chairman in 2006 - term expires 2007
Missouri Baptist University Trustee Board
• Kerry Messer
SBC Committee on Nominations 1998 - that committee's report included Roger Moran's nomination to the SBC Executive Committee Recording Secretary of MBC, 1998
MBC Nominating Committee
MBC Executive Board
MBC Christian Life Commission 1996-2002
• Cindy Province
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Board
MBC Executive Board - term to expire 2007 but resigned from the board in
MBC Christian Life Commission.
• Richard Stone SBC Foundation
SBC Committee on Nominations 2000-2001 MBC Recording Secretary -1999 Christian Life Commission - 2000-2006
• Ron Turnbull
MBC Nominating Committee - 2000-2003
MBC Executive Board - Nominated by the Nominating Committee chaired by
Roger Moran and included member Kerry Messer
• Jason Rogers is not listed as a member of the MBLA but is a 6th person in this power group.
Roger Moran's brother-in-law
Elected as Recording Secretary for the MBC in 2005
MBC Executive Board - also nominated by the committee chaired by Roger
Moran and including Kerry Messer.
Note - Four members of this group have served together on the MBC Executive Board this past year - Kerry Messer, Cindy Province, Ron Turnbull, Jason Rogers.
• David McAlpin - Ad Hoc Theological Investigation Committee (see 4-page report, plus Addendum)
• Wes Hammond - Executive Board
• Tom Willoughby - Nominating Committee
• Bruce McCoy - Investigative Committee
• Jim Breeden - Associational Concerns
VI. Why Must This Power / Control Stranglehold Be Broken?
1. Not Biblical for such power / control to exist.
Matt 20:25, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so -with you. Instead whosoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. "
3 John 9-10, "I wrote to the church, but Diotrophes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he's doing, gossiping maliciously about us."
2. Pendulum has swung too far - From liberalism to legalism
3. Narrowness - Now excluding those who have always been conservative
4. Losing quality key staff
5. Churches considering abandoning the Convention
6. Institutions could be devastated and destroyed by legalistic boards.
7. Loss of confidence in Executive Board and current leadership
VII. What to Do?
1. Give Nominations to Nominating Committee (Bruce McCoy)
• Strong CP giving
• Conservative but not legalistic
2. Goals for Missouri Baptist Convention
• Elect new slate of officers President 1st and 2nd Vice President Recording Secretary
• Reject Nominating Committee Report if it is not reflective of people who represent the MBC as a whole and adopt a substitute minority report.
• Reject Presidents Nominations for the Nominating Committee if those nominations are power brokers and do not reflect the MBC as a whole.
"The Nominating Committee shall consist of twenty-four members, serving terms of three year's each, eight of'whom shall be nominated by the president in consultation with other convention officers and elected by the Convention at each annual meeting. " (Article X-Committees Section 2, MBC Constitution)
1. 11x10x10 = 1100 Attending the Convention
2. Work with the Missouri DOM Fellowship
3. Enlist churches to send a maximum number of messengers 20 churches x 15 = 300
20 churches x 10 = 200 20 churches x 5 = 100 150 churches x 2 = 300 200 churches x 1 = 200 1100
"Any Southern Baptist Church singly aligned with the Convention and desiring to cooperate with the Convention in her program of single alignment with the Southern Baptist Convention and any Baptist church meeting the qualifications sated in Section 2 shall be entitled to one messenger for every one hundred members or fraction thereof, provided no church shall be entitled to have more than fifteen messengers." (Article IV - Membership, Section 1. Constitution of the MBC.)