By Bill Webb
JEFFERSON CITY — Baptists in Missouri remained in the news during 2007 with various developments, not the least of which was turmoil within the ranks of Missouri Baptist Convention self-described conservatives.
It was a year in which the MBC Executive Board terminated controversial executive director David Clippard in the spring, then experienced a backlash from the rank-and-file during the MBC annual meeting in the fall.
In addition, litigation initiated by the convention against five traditionally Missouri Baptist entities dragged into its sixth year without resolution. The five are The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University, Windermere Baptist Conference Center and Word&Way.
The year began with some hope regarding litigation. At a December 2006 mediation hearing involving the MBC and the university, Judge Robert Russell of Sedalia suggested at a mediation hearing that the two entities set up a nine-member committee that would appoint new trustees to MBU’s board for two years.
The proposal was to be taken to the Executive Board, but if it was, the board took no action on it, effectively halting the effort to solve their dispute peacefully.
An ice storm played havoc in Missouri — particularly the southwest corner of the state — in mid-January, leaving 330,000 Missourians without electricity. But disaster relief volunteers from Missouri and beyond, as well as local churches and their members, stepped up to minister and won the gratitude of area residents.
They provided shelter and assisted in clean-up with chainsaw crews clearing downed trees and limbs.
The sanctuary roof collapsed at First Baptist Church of Webb City, but no one in the adjacent church office at the time was injured.
The litigation between the MBC and the five entities took another turn when Judge Richard Callahan was assigned to the case, succeeding Judge Thomas Brown, who was defeated in the previous fall for re-election.
In March, Word&Way entered into a publishing partnership with the Baptist Standard in Texas, the Religious Herald in Virginia and Associated Baptist Press in a venture called NeoVox, or “New Voice.”
Beginning in May, Word&Way began sharing design and writing services with the other partners and introduced a bold new design with the May 17 issue. The partners continued toward the introduction of related Web sites.
On April 10, members of the MBC Executive Board heard a report from an ad hoc investigative committee that was particularly critical of Clippard. Without inviting the executive director to respond, the board voted 44-7 to fire him, effective immediately.
They named associate executive director David Tolliver as the interim leader.
A “sanitized” version of the report included reasons for the board’s “lack of confidence” in Clippard, who had joined the staff less that five years earlier.
It cited poor morale among the staff and unwise handling of a discrimination lawsuit filed by former MBC controller Carol Kaylor in 2004. According to the report, Clippard had not always been forthcoming when confronted by the board.
On May 15, a group of 11 Missouri Baptist pastors sponsored a “Save Our Convention” information rally at First Baptist Church of Harvester in St. Charles and called for Missouri Baptists to wrest control of the state convention from Roger Moran, his Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association and other followers.
They charged that Moran insiders — and Moran himself — had handpicked candidates for convention officers and used the powerful MBC nominating committee to garner control of the Executive Board and to load up other entity boards.
The pastors said the group was legalistic and overlooked pastors and others from churches that have remained faithful in significant giving to convention causes through the Cooperative Program.
Organizers urged messengers to the MBC annual meeting Oct. 29-31 at Tan-Tar-A on the Lake of the Ozarks to elect a new slate of officers to turn the tide.
On July 18, the MBC Executive Board named an 11-member search committee for a permanent executive director.
On Aug. 17, Cole County Judge Richard Callahan dropped conspiracy charges against five entities being sued by the MBC and heard arguments on whether or not the convention was a “member” of the entity trustee boards.
On Sept. 10, Judge Callahan moved back a trial involving Windermere and the MBC from Oct. 12 to Feb. 1, 2008, to hear motions plaintiffs say might eliminate the need for the trial.
Fee Fee Baptist Church in Bridgeton culminated a 200th anniversary year-long celebration as the oldest continuously operating protestant church west of the Mississippi River on Oct. 6-7.
At the MBC annual meeting at Tan-Tar-A Oct. 29-31, messengers overwhelmingly backed “Save Our Convention” officer candidates and rejected those closely identified with Moran, electing Gerald Davidson, retired pastor of First Baptist Church, Arnold, as president.
Moran himself was defeated overwhelmingly by John Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, who garnered more than 80 percent of the votes to become second vice president.
Prior to the annual meeting, the Executive Board agreed to sell the aging Baptist Building headquarters in downtown Jefferson City but held off accepting six acres to construct new offices in California.
On Dec. 10, the Executive Board — in a split vote — decided to accept the land offer from developer Kenny Vaughn and move to California.
In addition, the board voted to remove church-plant funding from churches affiliated with the Acts 29 network, which a “theological study committee” reported is soft on alcohol use.
That decision sets off a firestorm among bloggers.