Jefferson City — Individuals who wish to challenge any church's standing with the Missouri Baptist Convention must formally request a review. The request must be made on a form the MBC credentials committee has developed.
The form, supplied to Word&Way by several sources, requires the individual to provide his or her name, address, telephone numbers and church membership.
Complainants must specify the action they believe the church has taken that would warrant the church's removal from fellowship with the convention.
They also must present evidence of the congregation's action and describe their relationship to the church they criticize.
'Matter of public record'
The form warns that the information shared becomes "a matter of public record." It does not clarify in what way the information becomes public or who has access to it.
Individuals are to send the completed form to the committee in care of MBC executive director David Clippard at the Baptist Building in Jefferson City.
In a cover letter that accompanied the form, Clippard noted some procedures the committee has adopted to deal with challenges to churches.
No anonymous challenges
The committee, led by Rick Seaton, pastor of First Baptist Church, Kahoka, will not consider anonymous challenges.
According to the letter, committee members will not examine financial or business meeting records. Instead, "the word of the church's official spokesperson will be taken."
The credentials committee will examine the information and present its report to the next annual meeting. Messengers to that meeting would vote on the committee's
Messengers to the 2005 annual meeting approved making the credentials committee a standing committee.
In the past, the MBC president named a credentials committee at least 30 days prior to the convening of the annual meeting. The committee would deal with any challenge made to a church's messengers prior to or during the annual session.
Committee functions year-round
With the change, credentials committee members now can take up questions about a church's status or challenges to a church's messengers at any time throughout the year.
Messengers also approved guidelines that spell out the rules a congregation must follow to be considered a cooperating MBC church.
Although the convention's constitution does not list a financial requirement for membership, the committee's guidelines note that a church will be considered singly aligned if it contributes to the MBC "at least on an annual basis" and does not belong to or financially support another state convention or organization that "serves and/or acts as a state convention" in Missouri.
The MBC will consider a church as cooperating with another body if that church sends representatives to the organization's meetings, financially supports its work or includes the organization in the church's budget.
SBC cooperation required
A church also must be a cooperating Southern Baptist church, which the MBC defines as adopting a doctrinal statement in line with accepted faith and practice, contributing financially to the SBC, and refraining from participating with or contributing to another national convention.
The guidelines define a national convention as any organization that can independently endorse chaplains to U.S. military service branches. The military recognizes the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as a chaplaincy endorsement agency, although CBF does not consider itself as a national convention. (03-10-06)