By Vicki Brown, Word&Way News Writer
Ellisville - The Missouri Woman's Missionary Union board explained to its members why it has turned down inclusion in the Baptist General Convention of Missouri's budget. The board talked with WMUers at an informal listening session during WMU's annual meeting April 15 in Ellisville.
The BGCM had included WMU in its proposed 2005-2006 operations and state missions offering allocations budgets. At its March 15 meeting, the WMU board turned down the offer.
BGCM had not budgeted for WMU in the past, but had passed along gifts designated for WMU from affiliated churches and individuals.
During the April 15 session, Lucy Engelbrecht of Tipton asked if the board turned down the BGCM offer out of "fear" of losing Cooperative Program money from the Missouri Baptist Convention. "I'm not sure I would use the word 'fear,'" WMU president Lorraine Powers said, "but, yes, it was a factor."
Treasurer Lucy Praiswater noted the board also considered a change made in the WMU's bylaw on relationships in 2004. "That was one of our concessions [to the MBC] at that time, so we felt we should decline," Praiswater said.
At their 2004 annual meeting, WMU members ratified a board modification of the wording of the relationship bylaw which allows the board to determine the state and national entities with which Missouri WMU will work.
Before the change, 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 Southern Baptist Convention.
WMU and MBC leaders struggled with the wording in 2003 and early 2004 because some convention personnel were concerned that the bylaw would have allowed WMU to support any religious group, including Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the BGCM.
In 2004, members changed the "may include, but not be limited to" wording to "with focus on Missouri/Southern Baptist Convention missions."
A legal factor also played into the decision, Powers said. Currently, WMU's articles of incorporation note WMU receives money from the MBC. If the board changes its articles to include funds budgeted by the BGCM, it would have to reapply for the not-for-profit status the Internal Revenue Service granted when the organization incorporated in 2001, attorneys told the board.
"Just because we are not part of the budget doesn't mean we won't accept gifts from the churches," Powers said. She added that the board can accept designated funds - even from BGCM - without jeopardizing its 501(c)3 status.
Praiswater said the board also considered that the MBC provides the WMU staff person, Vivian McCaughan, and a ministry assistant. WMU is part of McCaughan's duties as the MBC women's missions and ministry specialist.
Toni Evans, a member of First Southern Baptist Church, Alden, said she was confused about WMU's affiliation and asked for clarification. Powers noted that national WMU is an auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention. "Our board has determined to work with all Missouri Baptist churches," she said.
Powers asked if she could step out of her presidential role to make a personal observation. "WMU is WMU," she said. "We work with all churches."
"Some churches have been Southern Baptist Convention churches and have changed affiliation, and we have decided to work with them and support them," WMU communications consultant Patricia Rogers said. "Those churches still have age-level groups."
Executive Board resolution
During the Friday evening general session, MBC Executive Board member Eleanor Warner presented a resolution the Executive Board passed at its April 12 meeting. The resolution noted actions WMU has taken "to show support of the Missouri Baptist Convention," including that it moved several of its activities away from Windermere Baptist Conference Center and that the nominating committee looks at the MBC church list "before determining a nominee for an office."
The resolution also pointed out that the WMU board had turned down the BGCM offer and had directed its president to decline BGCM requests for WMU participation in its board sessions or to provide exhibits at meetings.
The Executive Board resolved to "continue to look for ways of encouraging and supporting Missouri's WMU."
At the informal session, Judi Bamberg of Jefferson City expressed dissatisfaction with the resolution's being presented during the Friday session, noting it was bringing the convention controversy into the meeting. Powers explained that the resolution called for it to be presented at the annual meeting. She chose the Friday night general session, she said, so that women would hear it before the open forum.
One WMU member said she supports the resolution. "If I'm the only one, so be it. I just am Missouri Baptist and I love what Missouri Baptists do for missions," she said. "We were together and now it seems like a separation.... My question is why?"
Only one member addressed MBC executive director David Clippard's concern over national WMU executive director Wanda Lee's upcoming appearance at the BGCM annual meeting.
"I'm proud that she does what she says national WMU does - service all Baptist churches," Donna Potts of St. Louis said.
During the Saturday business session, members adopted the slate of officers proposed by the nominating committee. Members reelected Powers as president, Linda Graham as vice president, Maryetta Dennis as secretary and Praiswater as treasurer.
Joan Dotson was elected as missionary advocate, the position Barbara Popp had held the past five years, and Martha Hall will take Lucy Wagner's place as prayer advocate. Popp and Wagner retired from the board and were honored at the annual session.
Virginia Stephenson and Beulah Peoples were reelected as regional consultants, Stephenson for the northwest and Peoples for the central region. The board named Cherri Crumb to replace Dotson as consultant for the south central region. (4-20-05)