There has always been the suspicion that the Missouri Baptist Convention has been using Cooperative Program funds for their ongoing lawsuits against five “breakaway” institutions. Ethics Daily had an article which affirmed that thinking. Now, the MBC Executive Director states openly that it is time to tap CP funds to maintain these legal battles in the hopes of forcing them back into the convention stable.
I can remember leading congregations who were extremely loyal to the Southern Baptist Convention and state convention. There may have been difficult budget decisions to make regarding staff and ministries, but the church would sacrifice dearly to send those CP dollars onto Nashville to take care of the missionaries. I can’t remember the exact formula, but denominational execs made annual appeals to pastors about the importance of funding cooperative missions and that we could “do more together than by ourselves.”
It is beyond the realm of understanding why the state convention would continue sueing fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when this contradicts the teaching of I Corinthians 6. The current Executive Director, David Tolliver, believes that MBC congregations can feel good about taking these lawsuits forward because there are “differences of interpretation” about what this passage means.
What I’d like to know is where was this kind of understanding for those congregations who had differences of opinion about other passages of Scripture? The MBC voted out 18 churches who were not practicing “single alignment” with them and the SBC. Some of these churches affirmed men and women serving in leadership positions. Some of them carried out their mission with a variety of ministry partners, and were given the choice of conforming or being excluded from fellowship. That of course was years ago, and our church in particular is better off on our own apart from the MBC. But, this latest admission from Tolliver shows a great deal of hypocrisy on the part of the state convention in interpreting Scripture to suit its own agenda.
I cannot imagine that any of the Southern Baptist forefathers and mothers ever imagined that their hard earned CP monies would EVER be used AGAINST other Christians, especially Baptists. From a more practical standpoint, our country is going through a painful recession and people are losing their jobs, incomes, and houses while pastors are trying to maintain ministries and programs with diminishing budgets. Indeed, it will be very interesting to see how some of the congregations and leaders still in the Convention will respond to the news that some of their contributions will be used in this way.
No one is keeping Tolliver away from Windermere. No one is preventing Missouri Baptists from using Windermere for retreats, conferences, and other gatherings. This emotional appeal doesn’t justify using CP money to maintain this legal oppression of a place that is supposed to mean a great deal to him. It sounds like a case of allowing feelings to outweigh what the Bible says about this issue of sueing fellow believers. In the Pathway article, Tolliver himself indicates that he is theologically against it but apparently conflicted between his convictions and control of those “breakaway” institutions. That’s an interesting statement to make by a denominational leader.
One final thought, I had to check the MBC website to check the spelling of their Executive Director. You’ll find some photographs on display with the subtext “show me Jesus.” I’ll let you figure that one out.