Jefferson City — The Missouri Baptist Convention's credentials committee will recommend that messengers from18 affiliated churches be disqualified from participation in this year's annual meeting.
The vote by messengers to the 172nd session, set for Oct. 31-Nov. 1 in Cape Girardeau, will affect Chandler Baptist, Liberty; Cornerstone Baptist, Columbia; Cornerstone, Lee's Summit; Grace Point Baptist (formerly Swope Park Baptist), Kansas City; Little Bonne Femme Baptist, Columbia; Olive Branch Baptist, Sedalia; Rock Falls Baptist, near Orrick; Third Baptist, St. Louis; University Heights Baptist, Springfield; Winnwood Baptist, Kansas City; and First Baptist churches of Cape Girardeau, Hamilton, Independence, Jefferson City, Lee's Summit, Savannah, Smithville and Sweet Springs.
According to the meeting's provisional program, chairman Rick Seaton is scheduled to report the committee's findings at 9 a.m. on Oct. 31. The committee will recommend that messengers representing those 18 churches not be seated at this year's convention or in subsequent annual meetings.
Each church's messengers will be excluded until "their congregation takes the appropriate and necessary action to demonstrate a desire 'to cooperate with the Missouri Baptist Convention in her program of single alignment with the Southern Baptist Convention,'" the recommendation states.
At least one of the 18 — Third Baptist, St. Louis — plans to send a messenger to the Cape Girardeau meeting.
"We have tried to be above-board with our process," Third Baptist pastor Warren Hoffman said by phone on Oct. 26. "We realize that we are in non-compliance."
But, he added, the church historically has related to all Baptist groups.
Third Baptist members disagreed with the move in 1915 that abolished the Missouri Plan, a means by which churches could contribute to both American (Northern) and Southern Baptist conventions, and disagreed in 1919 when messengers approved aligning solely with the SBC.
"We see ourselves as one of the agents to bridge the gap between groups," Hoffman said.
He added that the Third Baptist contingent would not protest if messengers approve the committee's recommendation. "We are sad at the change, but we are excited about what God is doing in Missouri and in St. Louis," he said.
Messengers of affiliated churches, not the churches themselves, are considered members of the convention, according to the MBC Constitution. The Constitution also allows the convention to determine whether to continue cooperation with its affiliated churches.
The proposed recommendation only asks that messengers from those churches not be seated. It is unclear whether the MBC will continue to include those churches in its statistical count.
In September, the credentials committee released a list of 24 churches that might be in violation of membership requirements adopted by messengers to last year's annual meeting. After contacting leaders of those congregations, committee members narrowed the list to 16 and added First Baptist, Savannah, and Rock Falls Baptist.
The Savannah church is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.
Seaton told the MBC's news journal, The Pathway, that some churches dropped from the list either had never been MBC churches or had decided to remove themselves from the convention.
The eight churches dropped from the original list include Englewood Baptist, Kansas City; Heartland Baptist Fellowship, Marshfield; Holmeswood Baptist, Kansas City; Memorial Baptist, Columbia; Sanctuary Fellowship, St. Louis, which was never affiliated with the MBC; South Liberty Baptist, Liberty; Susquehanna Baptist, Independence; and Webster Groves Baptist, St. Louis. (10-26-06)