By Vicki Brown, Word&Way News Writer
Woman's Missionary Union of Missouri has turned down inclusion in the 2005-2006 Baptist General Convention of Missouri budget and directed its president to decline requests to appear at BGCM meetings.
The BGCM board of directors voted at its March 5 meeting to include WMU in its 2005-06 operating and state missions budgets. The convention had not budgeted for WMU in the past, but had passed along gifts designated for WMU from affiliated churches and individuals. The BGCM's remittance form for 2004-05 specifically lists two WMU special funds - the Madge N. Truex Fund for support for missionaries and their children and the Alberta Gilpin Fund for special WMU projects and ongoing needs.
Missouri WMU president Lorraine Powers said the mission organization's decision to request withdrawal from the BGCM budgets would not jeopardize its relationship with churches. WMU still would welcome contributions from BGCM-affiliated churches, she said.
The decision also will not affect state WMU's service to age-level mission organizations in BGCM-affiliated churches. "WMU is WMU regardless of church affiliation," Powers said.
BGCM interim executive director Jim Hill said he believes the Missouri WMU's decision is a result of "political and financial pressure" by the Missouri Baptist Convention.
"Obviously, I regret the decision of the board, and I have a difficult time understanding how it fulfills the WMU commitment to serve all churches in our state," Hill wrote in the BGCM's most recent newsletter. "Even more, I regret the political and financial pressure the Missouri Baptist Convention leadership has put on the Missouri WMU organization."
Meeting in closed session on March 15, WMU directors reaffirmed the article in the organization's bylaws which allows them to determine the state and national entities with which Missouri WMU will cooperate. The focus is to be "on Missouri/Southern Baptist Convention missions."
At their 2004 annual meeting, WMU members modified the wording of the relationship bylaw. WMU updated its bylaws in 2001 when it incorporated as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit entity. The bylaw included a statement that Missouri WMU would cooperate with state and national entities that "may include, but not be limited to" the national WMU organization, the MBC and the SBC.
WMU and MBC leaders struggled with the wording in 2003 and early 2004 because some convention personnel believed it would have allowed WMU to support any religious group, including Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the BGCM.
The WMU board conducted a series of listening sessions throughout the state and adopted the wording changes at its November 2003 meeting. Members ratified the change at the April 2004 annual meeting.
At their March 15 session, WMU directors also instructed their president to decline any requests from the BGCM to attend BGCM board meetings or to provide exhibits at BGCM functions.
WMU directors informed both the Missouri Baptist Convention and the BGCM of their decision through a letter to MBC executive director David Clippard on March 16. Directors did not share their reasons for the move. A copy of the letter was also sent to all WMU board members.
Powers said the March meeting was closed so that directors could speak openly. Board members agreed to release only the information contained in the letter.
Attendees at the WMU annual meeting at First Baptist Church, Ellisville, will have an opportunity to ask questions about the decision in an informal setting following the evening session on April 15.
The BGCM board has adjusted its budgets by changing the wording from "Missouri WMU" to "WMU Projects" to reflect WMU's decision, Hill said. The budget will be presented for adoption at BGCM's annual meeting April 29-30.
"We will certainly continue to support Woman's Missionary Union and assist our church WMU groups," Hill said.