By Vicki Brown, Word&Way Associate Editor
When Bill Miller stepped down as president of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri on April 1, he still carried his conviction that the organization is good for Missouri Baptists.
And he will continue to pour some of his energy into making the BGCM a stronger option for Baptists in the state.
Under the BGCM constitution and bylaws, Miller, who served as president for three of the organization's four-year history, could not be elected to a fourth term.
Instead, messengers to the annual meeting March 31-April 1 elected him to a three-year term on the board.
Although the president has "little authority," Miller said, he believes his prior experience in denominational work allowed him to play an active role in guiding the new convention.
"The experience I had in convention work helped me give leadership to the structure," he said by phone on April 10.
Miller had served on the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board during the struggle between the state's so-called fundamental-conservative and moderate-conservative factions to set the MBC's direction.
"Some of the conflict started before there was thought of a new convention," the pastor of First Baptist Church, Farmington, said. He resigned from the MBC board in 2002.
The uproar at the convention level caused First Baptist members to question with which groups and organizations the church should cooperate.
"We went through a long and thorough decision-making process" at the church, Miller explained.
"If you see something that needs to happen, you should do it. We felt like this [forming a new state convention] needed to happen," he added. "[I] as a person and First Baptist as a church decided we needed to help give a different opportunity of expression for the Baptist faith.
"I think we have seen continual growth [of the BGCM]...so it seems it was the right thing to do. I think we have a lot of opportunities."
Miller said he does not regret the decision to be involved. He pointed to former MBC executive director Jim Hill's decision to take the new convention's helm as the most significant event of his presidency.
"I had a part in helping that happen," Miller said. "Under him, I have seen new opportunities for ministry."
Hill resigned the top MBC post in 2001 as the split between the two factions widened. He accepted the BGCM position as an interim in 2004 and then became executive director in 2005.
Miller especially noted three partnerships the BGCM recently approved with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, WorldconneX and the Guatemala Baptist Convention. "It's something we wanted to do, but Jim helped make that happen," Miller said.
Hill credits Miller's faith as the basis of his leadership skills. "I am so grateful for the leadership of Bill Miller in Baptist life in Missouri," Hill said. "Bill is a committed Christian, an exceptional pastor and a visionary leader."
Miller believes the BGCM will be able to offer more opportunities in the days ahead. He said he hopes to see additional partnerships develop and that the convention will offer more opportunities for churches to have hands-on mission and ministry experiences.
And he hopes to see the BGCM offer more training in the future and encourages churches to take advantage of what is already in place. "We have the help available for churches that want to utilize it," he said.
Miller added that the BGCM has fulfilled his need for contact with likeminded Christians. "I really crave fellowship," he said. "I made a whole lot of new friends, and I sure value that."
And the former president believes the young convention is in good hands for 2006-07. "I'm happy Harlan [Spurgeon] is the new president. I consider him a Baptist statesman," Miller said.
A retired missionary and pastor, Spurgeon was elected at the BGCM's recent annual meeting. (04-20-06)