By Vicki Brown
Word&Way News Writer
Members of Missouri Woman's Missionary Union overwhelmingly ratified two sets of proposed bylaw changes during their annual meeting April 23-24. The first set clarified relationships between Missouri WMU and other agencies, and the second made some changes in selection of officers, board members and committees.
The board rejected a third proposal that would have required officers and board members to be a part of a Missouri Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church. Although the board did not recommend the proposal, WMU outgoing president Debbie Miller allowed discussion about it during the business session.
Women voiced no opposition to changes that allow WMU to focus on SBC-related agencies and programs. For about a year, WMU leaders and MBC officials struggled with wording in WMU's bylaws that the convention believed would have allowed WMU to support any religious group.
In 2001, WMU incorporated as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation and updated its bylaws. The article on relationships 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.
The same words were used in the bylaw related to giving, which noted that WMU would promote mission giving and offerings "including but not limited to" the Cooperative Program, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the Rheubin L. South Missouri Missions Offering.
At a July 11, 2003, meeting with MBC leaders, WMU board members suggested replacing the "not limited to" language with "with focus on." MBC executive director David Clippard and then president Monte Shinkle agreed.
The board conducted listening sessions in several places throughout the state and adopted the changes at its November meeting.
Changes in selection of the nominating committee and in verification of nominees stirred some opposition from a handful of members at the annual session. The board approved the changes during its meeting Friday.
A change to the nominating committee makeup opened the door to service on that body to most WMU members. In the past, three at-large members had to include a past president as chairman and two former board members. The change now requires a past WMU officer to serve as chairman and two women who are at least 18 years old and who are members of local organizations in Missouri Baptist churches.
Nancy Callahan of First Baptist Church, Marshall, offered an amendment to add the word "Convention" after Missouri Baptist. Without that clarification, she said, nominating committee members "could be women from churches other than Missouri Baptist Convention churches."
The amendment could not be voted on at the session because all bylaws changes must be presented to and approved by the board first.
Callahan also questioned a change in the bylaw governing nominations, which requires that the nominating committee verify the qualifications of individuals nominated from the floor.
Miller noted that members may nominate candidates at any time during the year and encouraged them to do so. She added that nominations from the floor would continue to be accepted.
Later the business session was delayed briefly so that the committee could meet with Sue Lamb of First Baptist Church, Paris, after she was nominated from the floor for treasurer. Members chose board nominee Lucy Praisewater of Linden Baptist Church, Gladstone, to fill the position.
Although the proposal was not brought to the full body, Miller noted board members turned down bylaw amendments that would have limited officer nominees to MBC/SBC-affiliated churches only. Board members decided that "such changes are premature" because currently no clear definition of an MBC/SBC-affiliated church exists.
The board also decided that the changes were unnecessary because procedures for electing officers are already in place and because a majority of members did not express a preference at the listening sessions.
When Diane Hammonds of First Baptist Church, Paris, asked who would have to develop a definition, Miller said WMU leaders had anticipated that would have been determined at the MBC 2003 annual meeting, but was not.
"Until the convention more clearly defines that, we think it would be irresponsible for the board to make that decision," Miller said.
"Why have annual meetings if the body is not allowed to make these decisions? The board has too much power," Lamb, who offered the proposed changes, said. "Ladies, that's not going to change until you do something."
Lamb said she believes that WMU violates one of its principles - to support and undergird the work of the church - when it allows officers to come from congregations that are no longer aligned with the MBC or SBC.
"If we are taking Cooperative Program money from the convention, we need to line up with them. It's time to come back to our...principles or change them," she said.
Nominating committee chairman for 2003-04 Barbara Bray noted that the committee asked WMU director Vivian McCaughan to check with Clippard about qualifying churches. "He said that if that church [to which a nominated individual belongs] was listed in the [MBC's] Book of Reports as giving to the convention, then that was alright," Bray said.
Miller noted the board would consider all comments.
In other action, a proposal to help pay to send The Pathway to overseas missionaries instead of Word&Way was referred to the board. Miller noted that since The Pathway began as an online publication, board members felt missionaries had access to it. Since Word&Way went online about two weeks ago, the board may reconsider helping send a print version. (4-29-04)