Association expels Missouri church over charismatic worship practices

MARSHFIELD, Mo. (BP)--Messengers to the annual meeting of Missouri's Webster County Baptist Association voted to withdraw fellowship from Calvary Baptist Church, Marshfield, over the issue of charismatic worship. The church split 10 months ago after conflict about practices such as speaking in tongues and being slain in the Spirit.

The state Baptist newsjournal Word & Way carried an article about the associational action Dec. 24 soon after it was notified by director of missions John Shuler. The action, however, took place during the association's Oct. 7-9 annual meeting in First Baptist Church, Seymour.

The vote to withdraw fellowship was taken after a report by a doctrinal review committee appointed by the association's executive board in April.

Shuler said Calvary Baptist sent no messengers to the annual meeting, and the motion to withdraw fellowship did not generate much discussion. It passed on a vote of 102-2.

Shuler agreed with the outcome. "When it's detrimental to the fellowship and harmony of the association, action has to be taken," he said.

Calvary pastor Roger Hicks said he disagreed with the action, based on the autonomy of the local church. "There was never a Scripture or Baptist Faith and Message violation ever pointed out to me," Hicks said. "I was told we weren't in violation of Scripture, we were in violation of the way we'd always done things here in Webster County."

According to the report, Hicks confirmed to the committee speaking in tongues, being slain in the Spirit and miraculous healing were accepted practices in the church.

The committee concluded, "Since approximately January 1998, a new system of beliefs and practices of faith have been accepted by Pastor Roger Hicks and the current membership of Calvary Baptist Church.

"It must be noted that these new beliefs had formerly been rejected as not having scriptural basis and were not accepted as Southern Baptist Doctrine by both Pastor Hicks and the membership of Calvary Baptist Church while under his leadership for approximately 12 years."

Hicks recalled to Word & Way in January, "we had church every night." During this time, which he described as a "powerful outpouring," many people's lives were changed. He termed what was happening "a simple moving of the Spirit of God, drawing them into a closer relationship with God."

Such changes began to impact the church as a whole and, the doctrinal review committee noted, led to an "extreme difference in the type of worship services that were being held each Sunday morning."

Hicks said conducting two services originally was done because of space limitations. Then it became a way to accommodate the different worship preferences of members -- traditional and "praise and worship."

In a report to the doctrinal review committee, six former deacons of Calvary Baptist Church noted on March 1, the church met and voted on whether to "go 'praise and worship'" or "remain fundamental conservative." The vote was 173-121 in favor of praise and worship.

Former Calvary deacon Al Eddy said, "The people who won cheered and clapped, while the church split right down the middle. That hurt me probably as bad as anything I've ever seen."

The former deacons reported the following Sunday, 76 departing members met. Two months later, they voted to establish a new church. By the end of June, 202 people who formerly had attended Calvary were candidates for membership. Faith Southern Baptist Church was constituted in July and was accepted by Webster County Baptist Association in the October annual meeting. The new church was pouring a foundation for a new building last week.

Eddy said he and others who left felt the side that stayed with Calvary "stole" the Calvary church building. Hicks responded by supplying an April 12 letter from those who left. It said, "The pain of separation is resolved and over for us."

Hicks said his life began to change radically two years ago. He was taking a class at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and the professor was talking about the Shantung, China, revivals. He returned to Marshfield and read a book about the historic revivals, and he realized the principals in those events had something he did not. "I was lacking a deeper walk with God."

He acknowledged he did not know where his walk would lead. "Every time I would come to a place, it was like God was giving me fresh oil. I thought everybody would be excited about it." He paused, chuckled, and added, "Wrong."

Hicks emphasized he did not want to discredit those who acted in opposition. "Some of my best friends are on the other side." Calvary Baptist Church will continue to relate to the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention, Hicks said. "Based on the Baptist Faith and Message and the Bible, I don't see any conflict."

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