An Interview with Roger Moran
Nominee for MBC 2nd Vice President
Roger is a layman who owns his own business and is a member of the FBC, Troy, MO
1. Please tell me about your conversion experience and a little about your spiritual journey.
At the age of 13, I made a profession of faith in Christ. But in my late teens and early twenties, I had wondered off to the far country of rebellion and bad behavior. However, on May 1st, 1982, at the age of 25, the Lord did an amazing thing in my life. Through a series of events and circumstances, He brought me to the point of repentance and changed my desires in a significant way so that for the first time in a long, long time, I wanted Christ and realized that I needed Him desperately. God changed me from one type of person to a completely different one. I still had lots of faulty thinking and bad behavior to deal with, but I was on a new path. I had never really read the Bible before, and was an extremely poor reader. But I remember well moving back in with my grandmother, and for the next three years was completely consumed with reading the Scriptures. I’d sit behind her old wood stove in the winter with the door of my bedroom cracked so the light would shine on the pages of the black Bible she gave me and there I would read late into the night, always amazed at what I was reading. There are no words that can express how grateful and thankful I am for what Christ did in my life. In those days, I literally drove a stake in the ground that I might remember that I had chosen to put my hands to the plow and that by the grace of God, I would never look back.
2. Please tell me a little about your family.
My wife, Ronna and I have nine children ranging from age two to 19. Our eldest, Kristina, attends Hannibal LaGrange College. Michelle, 16, is considering Pensacola Christian College. Yulia, 15, is our adopted daughter from Russia. Daniel, 14, has spent most of the last year recovering from a serious horse riding accident. Rachel is 11 and loves people. Rebekah and Elizabeth are nine year old identical twins. Jonathan is a handful at five. David is two and will be attending his first convention this year. We live on a 160 acre farm about 25 miles from Troy, MO, where we attend church. Ronna, is finishing her bachelor’s degree while home schooling our children.
3. What do you believe are the major issues confronting the local church?
At the 2006 SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, NC, I made a motion requesting that LifeWay Research investigate the growing body of research regarding two specific issues that should greatly concern every SBC/MBC church. First is the research showing that the vast majority of those who call themselves evangelical Christians (which includes Southern Baptists) do not hold to a clearly defined biblical worldview. Second is the growing body of research stating that 88 to to 92 percent of the children from evangelical homes are leaving the church as they are entering young adulthood. (The SBC Counsel on the Family cited the 88 percent figure) Thus, I have come to view the underlying causes of these issues as the major issues confronting the local church. If, as Southern Baptists, our quest for biblical truth fails to translate into a biblical worldview and if our passion for evangelism fails to reach and sustain our own children, then we are in grave danger of becoming a people committed to nothing more than religious rhetoric.
4. What do you believe are the major issues confronting the Missouri Baptist Convention?
The book of Amos asks the rhetorical question: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” As Missouri Baptists, we are increasingly finding ourselves in need of self-definition as a growing number of SBC/MBC voices are telling us that we should not be divided over “secondary issues.” But we were never told what those “secondary issues” were. Now we have discovered that the “secondary issues” include the use of alcohol in church ministries, cursing pastors, men’s poker night, men’s Bible and brew night, “film night” ministries where secular R-rated movies are shown, churches hosting secular rock concerts for underage kids, church services in breweries, and other such activities that characterize the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, which we are now being asked to embrace because they claim to be “theologically conservative.” However, issues and “ministries” such as these will indeed continue to divide Missouri Baptists because they do not represent the vast majority of Missouri Baptists. Ultimately, this is what this year’s MBC annual meeting will be about. Four years after Project 1000 and the battle for theological conservatism, Missouri Baptists will now decide if we will embrace the “cultural liberalism” of the emerging church movement.
One of my greatest current concerns has been the formation of the new political group called SOC (Save Our Convention), whose message has been that the convention needs to be “saved” from its current leadership, which they refer to as a group of “legalistic Pharisees” bent on destroying the MBC and its agencies. Yet, within the SOC group there is strong support for the Acts 29/emerging church movement. Even among SOC leaders that are clearly opposed to the use of alcohol, there are issues and inconsistencies that should cause serious concern among Missouri Baptists, especially in light of their stated desire to become the elected leaders of the MBC. Such concerns would include John Marshall’s support and involvement with the pro-alcohol/pro-emergent, Core Fellowship Church in Springfield, whose pastor has stated that he “wouldn’t be surprised one bit if Jesus chose never to show up in church on Sunday, or had a beer at a frat party, or frequented a gay bookstore” (read the full text of the statement I made before the SBC Executive Committee and my letter to the editor regarding this church plant); David McAlpin’s support and involvement with The Refuge Church in St. Charles, an Acts 29 church and mission of the Journey in St. Louis (also an Acts 29 church), which, like the Journey, has a bar-room ministry in a brewery; Jim Breeden, DOM of the St. Louis Metro Association, which strongly supports the Acts 29 group, and whose associate DOM, Darrin Casper is a member of the Journey.
At some point, Missouri Baptists need to ask some hard questions: Has McAlpin’s ongoing conflict with the Theological Study Committee been at least in part because that committee is exposing what McAlpin has been involved in (Acts 29)? Or, could it be that Gerald Davidson (SOC’s candidate for MBC president) launched his unprovoked public attacks against the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association at least in part because his son-in-law is an Acts 29 church planter?
The SOC attitude of “tolerance” and their broad tent of undefined “inclusiveness” will likely continue in a significant way if Missouri Baptists elect Davidson and other SOC leaders in Tan-Tar-A. An example might be one of our larger churches in the Southwest part of the state that recently participated in a “U2Charist,” where various faith groups partake of the Lord’s Supper to the music of the rock band U2. This event, which has swept the United States, is co-sponsored by the One Campaign, a liberal group whose sponsors include such far-left groups as Emergent Village (led by Brian McLaren); Sojourners (led by Jim Wallis, well known as a pro-Marxist, religious left leader whose board chair is Brian McLaren); the Unitarian Universalist Association (a predominately atheistic denomination); etc. The pastor of this large MBC church will nominate John Marshall for MBC Second Vice President. My concern is not a lack of commitment to “sound doctrine,” but the serious lack of discernment and judgment among the SOC leaders that will certainly influence the course of the MBC.
5. What is your vision for the future of the Missouri Baptist Convention?
Our vision for the future is often shaped by our understanding our past. The recent political battle we fought called Project 1000 recognized that Missouri Baptists were being led in the direction of theological liberalism with the clear objective of moving us away from the more conservative SBC and toward embracing the more liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The battle was clearly over biblical truth and sound doctrine. However, sound doctrine alone was never intended to be the final destination, but rather the starting point from which Missouri Baptists would recognize the absolute necessity of pursuing with passion the pathway of holiness, purity, obedience and faithfulness. Because the demons of hell believe and tremble, we understand that right believing is never a guarantee of right living or of godly character.
My vision for Missouri Baptists has never changed. The “main thing” for every born again believer is the passionate pursuit of holiness, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, at which time we, as Missouri Baptists, have every right to expect God’s divine intervention in the lives of our people and our churches. It is from this vantage point, I believe, that our commitment to missions, ministry and evangelism becomes increasingly significant because it is God who draws, God who convicts and God who regenerates, just as it is the Spirit of God who leads us into all truth and gives us a clear understanding of the seriousness of sin – the very thing for which Christ died. And it is only from this vantage point that we will ever see an authentic transformation of our people and our churches, which I believe is the highest honor we can pay to our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ. It is from a position of holiness, purity, obedience and faithfulness that Missouri Baptists will receive power from on high to carry out the great commission. But there are those who measure our success only by the number of people we draw with the latest religious fads and gimmicks; the number of baptisms, despite their absentee membership; and the number of dollars we give to the Cooperative Program. Such thinking has failed to measure the things that matter most. I believe it’s time to look once again at transformed lives, godly attitudes, character, integrity, honesty and biblical fidelity. These are also important evidences of where we are in Christ.
6. Save Our Convention (SOC) argues that a small cadre of Missouri Baptists are controlling the state convention from behind the scenes. How do you respond to that?
First, I would argue that the SOC group is made up predominately of pastors from some of our largest churches who are angry over the firing of David Clippard. I would further argue that the SOC group could be divided into two specific groups. The first group is angry because their close relationship with David Clippard gave them direct access to the “oval office” of the MBC as they influenced the course of the convention in a significant way. When Clippard was fired, the degree of access and influence they enjoyed ended immediately.
The second group is angry because Clippard was their primary advocate for the emerging church movement within the MBC -- specifically Acts 29. Clippard’s identification of the Journey as a church plant model and its pastor as a modern-day Caleb (2006 MBC annual meeting) came nearly a year after his push for a $200,000 loan to the Journey to “help facilitate a church planting center in St. Louis.” There was no question where our former Executive Director was leading the MBC in regard to this issue and certainly, the Journey’s bar-room ministry was no secret. Thus, SOC leader Kenny Qualls was absolutely wrong when he stated at the SOC meeting at Harvester that the formation of SOC was not about alcohol, the emerging church or the firing of David Clippard. The issue of alcohol cannot be divorced from Acts 29 and Acts 29 cannot be divorce from the former Clippard administration.
With all this being said, I would agree that there was a small cadre of Missouri Baptists influencing the course of the MBC from behind the scenes. But it wasn’t the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association, Project 1000, the nominating committee or a group within the MBC Executive Board, for Clippard had come to view these as his political enemies. Those who were attempting to control the convention from behind the scenes were the SOC leaders, who by using the powers of the Executive Director’s office in the day to day operations of the convention, were attempting to advance their own agenda. I would further argue that because their agenda was out of step with most Missouri Baptists, their efforts had to be from behind the scenes. This also explains, at least to some degree, the conflict between Clippard and numerous members of the Executive Board, who felt that Clippard was getting his “marching orders” from people other than his convention elected authority – the Executive Board.
Now that the predominantly large church pastors that make up the SOC group have made it clear that they will not rest until they seize control of the MBC, one important question needs to be asked: How far to the left is David Sheppard and his fellow SOC leaders willing to go to build a political coalition to “move the MBC back to the center?” Another important question that needs to be asked is this: When SOC leaders said that the current leadership of the MBC has moved the convention too far to the right, what exactly do they mean? I find this extremely deceitful, especially considering the number of SOC leaders and people from their churches that serve at both the MBC and SBC level.
Since January 2007 (this calendar year), members from the 11 SOC churches serving on MBC and SBC positions include: Five members on the MBC Executive Board; two members on the MBC Nominating Committee; Three members on HLG; three members on SBU; two members on MBU; one member on the Children’s Home; two members on the MBC Foundation; two members on the Baptist Home; one member on the Executive Director Search Committee; one member on the Theological Study Committee; one member on the Credentials Committee; and one member on the Local Arrangements Committee. At the SBC level: one member at Southeastern Seminary; one member at Southwestern Seminary; two members at IMB; two members on the Committee on Nominations; and two members on the Committee on Committees (which selects the committee on nominations). This gives a total of 32 positions held by people from the 11 SOC churches.
Equally deceitful is the SOC accusation that good Missouri Baptists are being excluded from service in the MBC. If this is true, it certainly isn’t the 11 SOC churches that are being excluded. It also needs to be noted that because there is a limited number of positions of service available each year, there will always be “good people” who are “excluded” from service. But it is also true that the people currently serving within the MBC are “good people,” and SOC’s reference to current MBC elected leadership as “legalistic Pharisees” was nothing more than divisive political rhetoric designed for their own political gain.
7. What is your opinion of Pathway?
It has been my observation that Missouri Baptists have one of the finest news journals in all of the SBC, as well as one of the finest editors. I have the utmost confidence in Don Hinkle and his staff. Don has performed his responsibilities remarkably well, especially in light of the political turmoil the convention has experienced the last couple years. I would contend that Hinkle is to be commended for his faithfulness to Missouri Baptists and to the cause that brought Bible-believing Missouri Baptists to the helm of leadership within our convention. I know of few men who could have endured what our state editor has had to endure in recent months. I believe we owe him our prayers and a debt of gratitude.
8. Why should local churches continue to support the Missouri Baptist Convention?
Like any other institution, the Missouri Baptist Convention must earn the support of every MBC church. Yet at the same time, the convention cannot be “all things to all people” for it is bound by the decisions and directives of the messengers meeting in annual session. I still believe Missouri Baptists are overwhelmingly conservative and have a passion for the things that matter most to God. Nevertheless, if we begin to elect MBC leaders that dilute or downplay our long standing opposition to the kind of bad behavior flowing from the emerging church movement, the same Bible-believing Missouri Baptists that rose up and took back the MBC will either rise up again, or wearied by fighting and foolishness, will gradually reconsider the legitimacy of such a religious institution.
Thus far, all we know about the SOC group and their political agenda is what they say they don’t like about the current leadership of the MBC (the vast majority of which is based on false and extremely misleading statements). But what they are not saying publicly is what they are for -- and what they want the MBC to look like when they’re done. I would submit that thus far, their actions are speaking louder than their words.
9. Is there anything else you would like to say to Missouri Baptists?
There are a number of things Missouri Baptists need to know about the current political environment within the MBC . Since the formation of the SOC group, I had opted to allow their rhetoric and accusations to largely go unchallenged, hoping that some degree of sanity would return to the convention. By early September, I thought that maybe that time had arrived. At the recommendation of MBC president Mike Green and interim Executive Director David Tolliver, I agreed to meet with SOC leader John Marshall the day after Labor Day in St. Peters. This private meeting was at his request to discuss convention issues. At the end of the meeting, Marshall stated that it was his intention to “shut down” the SOC group. Marshall called David Tolliver and announced to him the same thing. The next day, Marshall called again and asked if I would be willing to meet with Kenny Qualls and Tom Willoughby (both SOC leaders) as I had with Marshall. However, three weeks later (October 3rd) when the second meeting took place, it was clear that there was no intention of shutting down the SOC group, but rather, it became evident that the SOC group had planned their own meeting for that same day. The following day I was informed (not by Marshall or SOC leaders) that far from shutting down SOC, they had endorsed a full slate of SOC candidates for MBC officers.
Other concerns I have about the SOC group would include their first meeting at FBC Harvester in May, when David Sheppard went into great detail about how it “grated” on him that a front page story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch identified me as “the most powerful Baptist in Missouri,” an editorial comment based on a statement from a CBF pastor. However, Sheppard never quoted the full title of the article: “Missouri’s most powerful Baptist takes on the ‘emerging church,’” which was the focus of the article. Even more revealing is that Sheppard never mentioned another front page article in the Sunday edition of the Post Dispatch titled: “Beer and the Bible: It works for one growing church. But it’s got Missouri Baptists hopping mad.” This was in reference to the Journey in St. Louis which was the recipient of a $200,000 loan from Missouri Baptist. That apparently didn’t “grate” on Sheppard, even though the emerging church article was in response to the “Beer and the Bible” article.
I find it equally disturbing that SOC leaders accused MBLA at the Harvester meeting of being “powerbrokers” in part because Kerry Messer, MBLA president and Richard Stone, an MBLA board member served on the SBC Committee on Nominations in 1998 and 2000 respectively. But they failed to note that since 2004, numerous SOC leaders have served on both the SBC Committee on Nominations and the SBC Committee on Committee (which appoints the SBC Committee on Nominations): For current year 2007, SOC leader David Sheppard is serving on the SBC Committee on Committees and SOC leader Dewight Blankship will serve on the Committee on Nominations; In 2006, James Barnhart (associate pastor under SOC leader Mitch Jackson) served on the Committee on Committees and SOC leader Tom Willoughby served on the Committee on Nominations; In 2004, SOC leader Mitch Jackson served on the Committee on Committees and James Montgomery (from John Marshall’s church) served on the Committee on Nominations. (It should also be noted that in 1998, when Kerry Messer served on the SBC Committee on Nominations, Project 1000 had not yet won their first MBC presidential election.)
10. Do you believe the MBC should continue its legal case against the five former convention agencies whose trustee boards voted to go self-perpetuating?
Yes. There is no question that the trustees of these agencies wrongfully “stole” these entities from Missouri Baptists. The absolute wretched behavior of these former MBC leaders is most clearly seen in the fact that they have used every possible tactic to delay our “cause” from coming before a judge for a simple ruling as to whether or not the trustees had the right to do what they did. The only thing Missouri Baptists have ever asked for was a simple ruling on the merits of the case. And we still are waiting on that simple ruling while those who plundered the convention are attempting to spend us into submission. I would also argue that while we may certainly forgive a thief, especially if he repents, we also have a Biblical responsibility to hold a thief responsible for his wrongful behavior – especially if the thief professes the name of Christ.
11. Why do you feel led to allow your name to be placed in nomination for an MBC office?
I entered the political fray of MBC life in 1989 over the issue of pornography and the SBC endorsed boycott against Holiday Inn. It was at that time that I discovered that the MBC had been funding Americans United for Separation of Church and State for over 30 years. From that battle, we moved to the CBF and ultimately Project 1000. Today, Missouri Baptists are facing a significantly different kind of issue only in that we have theological conservatives opposed to theological conservatives. Nevertheless, the underlying issues we now face still have serious ramifications.
Men like Mike Green, Jay Scribner, Jerry Williams (and I need to include myself since I’m on the slate of officers I am recommending), have never stammered, stuttered or wavered in our commitment Biblical Truth or issues of holiness. Peace and unity are always one of our highest priorities, but not at any price.
I have chosen to add my name to a slate of men that I have the utmost respect for and who will continue to move Missouri Baptists in the same direction and on the same course that we (and several of the SOC leaders) charted way back in 1998. I think it is clear what we will stand for and what we will stand against. In the meantime, we will continue to pray that God will use what has happened in the MBC to move us on to a deeper level of maturity and a greater passion for the things that matter most to God.