I made it through another Baptist meeting. This one was similar to conventions I had attended in other states with the committees, format, and schedules used for the weekend. In that regard, I felt like it wasn’t too different from what I was anticipating. Most of the time was spent in the sanctuary hearing preaching or committee reports. From what I heard, the attendance wasn’t what folks expected. This may have had something to do with the location. Some told me that St. Louis wasn’t the best place attendance wise for the convention.
My initial observations are positive, in that those in attendance seemed interested in promoting fellowship and supporting the missions cause. One comment I recall came from someone who had been very involved in the Missouri Baptist Convention. The retired minister said, “This is how the state convention used to be.” I could pick up a nostalgic tone in that he lamented the loss of so much, and the frustration of how churches continue to support a fundamentalist organization. The BGCM is only 6 years old, so it’s not surprising there is some emotional attachment to old order. However, I think that the overall tone is one of looking ahead rather than focusing on what was lost.
I really appreciated the inclusiveness in the program. Two African-American pastors and choirs were present and brought the house down with their message and energy. I got the impression that there is an effort underway to bring about a New Baptist Covenant celebration with Missouri Baptist churches. If so, this would be an encouraging effort to bridge racial barriers at the least with our Baptist family. Each Baptist group has its own mission and ministry, but at least a recognition and appreciation of other Baptists is a huge step.
The BGCM places its priority on helping local churches. It doesn’t matter whether a church is part of the BGCM or not, the mission extends to any church who needs assistance. I really appreciate this emphasis on getting out among the people and ministering at a local level. There are a few really good ministries ongoing within the BGCM, and the quality of their leadership is impressive.
One of the most moving parts of the weekend actually occurred during an organizational report. Windermere Retreat Center was one of the institutions being sued by the state convention, and a judge recently dismissed the lawsuit. Of course, the MBC is appealing this ruling but it seems like the results will hold. We were told that Windermere is “completely full” this summer and looking forward to a bright future despite the uncertainty that came when the parent organization sought to bring it to its knees. I rejoice with Windermere as they portrayed “David” in slaying “Goliath.” I could go here, but this idea of the state convention sueing fellow Baptists is a big turn off not only to Christians but also the secular world. I hope the $10 Million counter suit against the state convention gets their attention.
The Missions Banquet went extremely well and I enjoyed it very much. Seeing the children in Latin America that are being reached by the BGCM was meaningful. It’s a plus to have an ongoing ministry in this area. The churches seem energized to support this worthy cause.
One unanswered question relates to how the BGCM differs from the CBFMO. I’m planning to attend the general assembly in Columbia in a few weeks and perhaps this will give me a comparision. Both groups are “moderate” and there are members in our church who participate in one or the other, and some do both.
Overall, I enjoyed the one on one conversations about as much if not more than sitting in the pews for long periods of time. I do think having breakout sessions of some type would be welcomed rather than hearing sermon after sermon after sermon. Fortunately, the preachers were really good but I would have enjoyed more structured interaction with others in attendance. Perhaps this can be worked out with future meetings.