ST. LOUIS (ABP) — Messengers to the Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting Oct. 27-29 once again elected officers sympathetic to a reform movement within the state convention, while hearing a report about the difficult work of an ad hoc “peace committee” formed to broker a truce between warring conservative factions.
In addition, messengers rejected a bid to end a six-year-old lawsuit against five breakaway Missouri Baptist agencies.
For the second year in a row, MBC supporters elected officers identified with the Save Our Convention (SOC) movement that a year ago pitted itself against another conservative group and won.
A motion from the convention floor sought unsuccessfully to bar first vice president Bruce McCoy and second vice president John Marshall — both elected on the SOC-endorsed ticket a year ago — from being nominated for higher office.
It was their membership on the peace committee that threatened the nominations of McCoy, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church, St. Louis, and Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Springfield.
In April, the MBC Executive Board formed the committee. In the last two years, SOC supporters and the Missouri Baptist Laymen's Association (MBLA) have been at odds over several issues, including the influence of the MBLA and its leader, layman Roger Moran, over the convention's work. Between 1997 and 2001 the MBLA, under Moran's leadership, effectively forced moderates out of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
Peace committee chair Jeff Purvis, pastor of First Baptist Church of Herculaneum-Peveley, told messengers that nominating committee members to convention office could undermine the peace process.
McCoy, Marshall and Wesley Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church of Paris, represent SOC on the committee. The Laymen's Association is represented by Purvis, Moran and retired pastor Jay Scribner.
Purvis' remarks set the stage for a motion by messenger Jim Wilson of First Baptist Church of Seneca that “the MBC instruct all members of the peace committee to not allow their names to be put in nomination for the officers of our convention.”
An amendment that would have enabled the matter to be considered prior to the convention's presidential election received a simple majority, 494 to 463, but failed to gain the two-thirds vote necessary for passage.
McCoy was elected president 404-387 over Danny Decker, pastor at First Baptist Church of Warsaw, in a runoff. Marshall was elected first vice president 426-219 over Ron Crow of First Baptist Church, Diamond.
Former MBC president Mitch Jackson, also sympathetic with SOC, was elected second vice president 275-239 in a runoff with Jody Shelenhamer of First Baptist Church, Bolivar.
The peace committee's official report to the convention suggested progress, but acknowledged that the committee had reached an impasse. Committee members said they would invite a Christian arbitration group to mediate their discussions — even though the committee, when beginning its work, had initially decided against such mediation.
In other action, messengers rejected a motion to drop the lawsuit. Motions calling for dismissal of lawsuits against the Baptist Home retirement-home system, Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University, Windermere Baptist Conference Center and Word & Way failed overwhelmingly. The Baptist Home changed its articles of incorporation in 2000 to elect its own trustees. The other four agencies followed suit in 2001.
Purvis responded that the convention had tried to resolve the issue short of litigation but the entities refused. Citing guidelines in Matthew 18 to take a grievance directly to a fellow believer, Purvis said, “The Bible also says, when that does not take place, treat them as unbelievers.”