Mo. Baptist board forms investigating committee

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)--The executive board of the Missouri Baptist Convention passed a motion Dec. 12 forming a committee to investigate the sources and veracity of allegations regarding leaders within the convention and also discussed alcohol-related issues regarding The Journey, an MBC church located in St. Louis.

When MBC President Mike Green, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Republic, concluded introductory remarks just prior to the board’s devotional time, Wesley Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church in Paris, Mo., immediately stood and moved that the board enter executive session, but was ruled out of order by attorney Michael Whitehead, who was serving as parliamentarian. At Green’s request, Whitehead explained that motions arising prior to the board’s business session would be out of order.

Hammond asked if he could be recognized first when the appropriate time came for motions, and Green, after asking if there was any opposition, agreed.

At the appropriate time, Hammond made his motion for executive session again, explaining that Robert’s Rules of Order required that only members of the board be present when disciplinary actions were to be under consideration, and that he intended to move that an investigative committee be appointed.

MBC 2nd Vice President Jim Cogdill, director of missions for the Cape Girardeau association, objected to the motion, saying, “As much as possible … we need to be in the open for the sake of our convention, our constituents.”

After a variety of comments and apparent confusion in the room, and also after parliamentary advice, Hammond withdrew his original motion, and made a different one, stating:

“I’m making a motion that a committee of five members, to be chaired by our 1st vice president, including our 2nd vice president, our recording secretary, and two past presidents, [form] an investigating committee to investigate rumors affecting the character of some of our members which, if true, would render them unworthy of leadership, and cast doubt on our credibility and our integrity as an executive board. And this committee will be instructed to follow the proper procedures of both biblical discipline and Robert’s Rules of Order, and bring back any recommendations regarding their investigation.”

Continuing his motion, Hammond’s said the committee “would not only investigate allegations against Dr. Clippard” but also the entire executive board and anyone over whom the executive board might have responsibility. David Clippard is the state convention's executive director.

Hammond was again ruled out of order since his new motion ran contrary to the set agenda of the meeting. When instructed such a motion should come during the miscellaneous business portion of the meeting, Hammond again requested to be recognized first at that time.

When time for miscellaneous business arrived, Green called on Hammond for his motion which restated his desire for the 5-member investigative committee. After several minutes of discussion, a roll call vote was taken as a show-of-hands vote was too close to call. Hammond’s motion passed 29-19, with three abstentions.

Near the end of the miscellaneous business session, Green presented a motion for a competing investigative committee that he subsequently withdrew after winning the vote.

“We are divided,” Green said in presenting the motion, adding, “My real goal: I want to see us united. This is what I am trying to do with this ad hoc committee.”

Green said that as he read the motion he did not want anyone to get the impression “Dr. Clippard is all the problem. I do not mean that.” He said his reason for such a committee was “because of the ongoing unrest, dissension, distrust, disunity, questions, and contentions existing within the Missouri Baptist Convention.”

Before reading his recommendation, Green said he had cleared it with each of the elected officers and also with members of the board’s administrative committee except one, who was traveling overseas. Green later told Baptist Press that he told Clippard of the pending recommendation on Monday morning, Dec. 11.

Green’s recommendation stated that the committee would investigate five specific areas:

-- the continual allegations of micro-management of the executive board staff or executive director by the executive board or any member(s) of the executive board;

-- accusations of questioned integrity and character regarding the executive director;

-- various concerns associated with the office of the executive director regarding personnel matters;

-- the overall scope and direction of MBC’s church planting ministry, especially as it relates to “the emergent church” concept; and,

-- the overall effectiveness of the executive director in light of his most recent evaluation conducted in 2006 as per MBC bylaws.

Green’s motion outlined parameters the committee would follow, to include that the committee would be thorough, objective and fair in its findings; would have access to information, material, data, and research pertaining to all issues which have been previously researched and presently exists in various forms; would, if the need arose, communicate with current and past board members, work groups, ad hoc committees, individuals, and executive board staff; would not be vindictive or accusatory; and, would have the best interests of the MBC at heart.

Green also said that the committee would bring a thorough, well-documented report to the executive board at its April 2007 meeting, and would mail the report to the executive board at least one week prior to the April meeting.

Green added that the report should make specific recommendations as the report pertains to the MBC and its executive director, and that the committee would function with confidentiality.

“If there are no documented issues of misconduct, I will be the first to apologize to our executive director,” Green told Baptist Press. He made a similar comment to board members.

After the motion and a second, and also several minutes of intense discussion, another roll call vote was taken. By a vote of 26-22 and three abstentions, the motion to establish a second investigative committee passed.

Because the vote was so close, Green told the board that he would withdraw his motion.

“I have no desire,” said Green, choking back tears, “to split anything.”

Amens could be heard around the room as applause from some boards members arose.

Green later told Baptist Press that he was “flabbergasted and surprised” at the similar motion to his that came earlier from Hammond, reiterating that he’d spoken only to the elected officers and administrative committee members.

“All I wanted to do was hopefully to bring resolution to a problem that has continued to dog every executive board meeting,” Green said.

“Though I withdrew the motion forming a committee of my choice, I have the utmost confidence in the committee we now have,” Green added. “I trust these matters will be settled once and for all, and Missouri Baptists can get back to Acts 1.8, and our command to fulfill the Great Commission.”

During the board’s committee reports, Bill Edwards, chairman of the board’s church planting sub-committee and also pastor of Path of Life Community Church in Wright City, reported to the full board several encouraging statistics, but also noted the sub-committee discussed issues regarding churches and pastors who “personally used or promoted drinking as a part of their outreach.”

Specifically at issue was The Journey, a four-year old MBC church that had received a $200,000 loan, and whose staff regularly sponsor and lead a discussion group in the bar portion of a St. Louis micro-brewery. The meeting is called “Theology at the Bottleworks.” According to The Journey Pastor Darrin Patrick, who spoke with Baptist Press in an interview following the MBC board meeting, the discussion group is an effort to engage the local culture of young people and others.

Edwards, however, expressed concerns to all MBC board members, many of whom take issue with information appearing on The Journey’s website, where verbiage describing the “Bottleworks” meeting invites people to “Grab a brew, give your view…”

Other concerns include a website statement on the bio of Journey’s Mission Pastor Jonathan MacIntosh who writes that he enjoys drinks with his wife “at the almost secret bar beneath Brennan's in the Central West End,” and a picture associated with an essay by Patrick that shows a small group of people raising glasses of beer in an apparent toast.

“I did not know that was there, and it all will be removed immediately,” Patrick told Baptist Press, saying, “I’m embarrassed that this is still on the website.”

Patrick explained that The Journey contracts with a secular web design company to which he attributed the “grab a brew” verbiage.

“Any issues regarding alcohol and The Journey are a concern to me and do warrant my attention,” Patrick added. The Journey’s official position on alcohol is, said Patrick: “We do not personally encourage nor corporately promote the use of alcohol.

“The last thing I want to do is hurt the cause of Southern Baptists. We are on the same team, theologically,” he said. “It’s methods that the church usually fights about.

“We just want to preach the Bible and reach people for Christ. That’s what we’re about.” Since 2002, The Journey has grown from 30 people to more than 1,200 in worship.

Responding to concerns raised by Edwards, board member Kerry Messer, member of First Baptist Church in Crystal City said he was all for engaging the culture, but that when Christians do so, “We need to be seen with clarity that we are not conforming to the world, and that we are light-bearers.”

In an earlier church planting sub-committee meeting chaired by Edwards, he asked MBC Director of Church Planting Jerry Field whether The Journey is considered an MBC church plant. Field said it was not, adding that the MBC doesn’t plant churches but identifies those who do and seeks to assist them. Edwards later told Baptist Press that it wouldn’t make much difference to Missouri Baptists exactly which MBC committee was most closely associated with The Journey, but that they would still be concerned that the MBC had loaned $200,000 to a church that had alcohol-related issues attached to it.

Regarding the purpose of the loan, an article appearing in the January 3, 2006, edition of The Pathway, the official news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention, states: “In an effort to help facilitate a center for church planting, the Executive Board approved with opposition a New Work Fund loan of $200,000 for The Journey, a St. Louis church that is purchasing the former Holy Innocents Catholic Church.”

Edwards told Baptist Press that the alcohol-related issues include The Journey’s association with Acts 29, an association of emergent churches of which Patrick is vice-president, and which, according to Patrick, holds a much more liberal view of alcohol use than does The Journey.

Edwards asked Field whether The Journey was fulfilling its part of the loan agreement to contribute 10 percent of the church’s budget to MBC’s Cooperative Program. Field said no, but that The Journey and MBC officials had worked out a three-year plan for The Journey to meet that obligation.

According to the Acts 29 website, The Journey is a member of Acts 29, and Acts 29 membership requires that their churches give 10 percent of all internal tithes and offerings to Acts 29. However, the site also states Acts 29’s willingness to work out terms for churches committed financially to other organizations.

Edwards asked Field if all MBC church plants -- which are required to give 10 percent of undesignated offerings to the MBC Cooperative Program – were fulfilling their CP obligations. Field said 10 were not. Edwards then asked for a list of those churches and was told he could have it.

In other business, board members:

-- determined that a request for the MBC to begin to help "our brothers in Detroit evangelize their city" be referred to the MBC Partnership Office;

-- referred a series of motions submitted by Keith Vawter, pastor and messenger from First Baptist Church in Mansfield, be referred to the Committee on Continuing Review;

-- granted The Pathway, the official news journal of the MBC, a $16,000 increase in the 2007 budget for postage to cover anticipated costs;

-- approved a contribution of $50,000 for the Adopt an Annuitant program in 2006; and,

-- finalized, by a letter dated Dec. 12, a process of affirming Hannibal-LaGrange College and Southwest Baptist University for their kind understanding with regard to monetary donations given to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary beginning in 2002.

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