One of the things I appreciate so much about my current situation is being outside the state convention. Our church was one of 18 deemed unwelcome due to its dual status in affiliating with more than one Baptist organization. Most of the time I don’t keep up with denominational stuff, but the latest news from Associated Baptist Press prompted interest.
Apparently, there are two groups vying for control of the Missouri Baptist Convention: Missouri Baptist Layman’s Association (MBLA) and the Save Our Convention (SOC) crowd. There are no more moderates to kick around so I guess the fundamentalists are turning upon themselves. This is classic Fundamentalism, and it is educational to some degree to see this kind of behavior demonstrated in my lifetime time and again rather than merely reading about it. The latest chapter in this struggle is the formation of a “Peace Committee” and the use of an outside consultant who specializes in conflict management.
The idea of a Peace Committee is a visit to the SBC archives during the great struggle for the national denomination. We know how well that went, as the moderates abandoned the SBC landscape for other Baptist pastures. It will be interesting to see the results of this effort, and I wouldn’t be surprised at some point to see another Baptist organization birthed out of this impasse. I really can’t see any difference between the MBLA and the SOC, and the issue once again is control.
I would expect printing presses to be cranked up, slates of officers to continue, with both parties getting the word out and pushing for increased attendance at the state convention meetings. Here we go again. Or I should say, here they go again.
A possible impact of the MBC’s trouble could be greater interest in the Baptist General Convention of Missouri (BGCM). I could see more churches getting fed up with the shananigans and looking to another more pleasant alternative. After all, if the issue is control, there are many in the BGCM who can sympathize with the frustration. I’m not certain if the CBF would stand to gain a second look from some of these congregations, but it’s possible.
One of the most meaningful comments about the SBC conflict I ever heard was spoken by Dr. Frank Pollard, longtime pastor of FBC Jackson, MS. When asked why he didn’t “get in the game” and choose sides in the conflict, he said “I am in the game (telling people about Jesus). You all are in the fight under the stands.” One lesson from this for me is the lessening importance of denominations at the national and state level and the ongoing need for local church vitality and health. The church is the headquarters for world mission, and if people in the pew get fed up enough with what is happening with conventions they’ll figure out they can do missions on their own without sending a signficant portion of their receipts to the state convention.