Can anyone help me here? I’m struggling to understand the latest action taken by the Missouri Baptist Convention regarding the issue of single alignment. A year ago, the MBC ousted 19 churches because they were “guilty” of supporting a rival state convention in Missouri, either by including them in the church’s budget or by sending messengers to the annual meeting of that convention. Mechanisms were put in place whereby the Credentials Committee (which assumed new powers as a standing committee to meet throughout the year as necessary) could receive reports from concerned Baptists about the dually aligned status of other Missouri Baptist churches and conduct the necessary investigation to ascertain the truth of those charges. It seemed that the state was in for a witch-hunt of sorts as Baptists could denounce another church as failing to comply with the requirements of being singly aligned with the MBC.
I didn’t attend this year’s annual meeting of the MBC as our church was one of the 19 that were ousted last year, but I have read some reports by bloggers on the proceedings as well as reading the PDFs of the daily business reports posted on the MBC’s website. I was fascinated by the report of the Credentials Committee included in the Tuesday morning business report. Not only were there no new churches targeted for dismissal, but it seems that the committee has had a change of heart regarding their policy (if I’m reading this correctly). The first point of their report recommended offering grace to those affiliated churches who had made no contributions to the MBC in the previous year, allowing their messengers to be seated. The second point was that one that left me perplexed. The recommendation reads, That the messengers of the 2007 Annual Meeting of the MBC authorize amending the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Credentials Committee Rules and Procedures to state, “any church which contributes to the work of the Missouri Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program on at least an annual basis shall be ‘singly aligned’ with the Missouri Baptist Convention.”
My question is whether or not this effectively reverses the earlier position taken by the MBC on single alignment, or if this is simply a wording change to clarify what types of contributions count in terms of financial support, i.e., those given through the Cooperative Program. The wording itself, taken as a stand-alone statement, would indicate that any church (including those supporting another state convention in Missouri) could be considered singly aligned as long as they make a financial contribution at least annually to the MBC through the Cooperative Program. I find it very hard to believe that this is what the Credentials Committee meant to communicate, because it directly contradicts the earlier language that insisted that single alignment prohibited contributions or sending messengers to a rival state convention in Missouri.
Can anyone who attended the annual meeting give some clarification on this? I doubt that the churches that were ousted last year are chomping at the bit to jump back into the fold. The ongoing lawsuits against 5 Missouri Baptist institutions continues to channel millions of Cooperative Program dollars into the hands of lawyers, despite the MBC’s initial claim that no CP funds would be used to finance the lawsuits. There is also the issue of encroaching legalism and the ever-tightening definitions of what it means to be an acceptable Baptist in Missouri. Perhaps the recent elections indicate a positive trend away from that mindset, but the jury is still out on that in my mind.