Jefferson City — The Missouri Baptist Convention has targeted 24 churches that may have ties to Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri for potential exclusion from the MBC. The MBC credentials committee recently released the list through The Pathway, the convention's news journal.
Those churches have been sent letters by the convention's credentials committee informing them they could be in violation of MBC membership requirements.
The churches that received the letter were Chandler Baptist, Liberty; Cornerstone Baptist, Columbia; Cornerstone, Lee's Summit; Englewood Baptist, Kansas City; Grace Point (formerly Swope Park), Kansas City; Heartland Baptist Fellowship, Marshfield; Holmes-wood Baptist, Kansas City; Little Bonne Femme, Columbia; Memorial Baptist, Columbia; Olive Branch, Sedalia; Sanctuary Fellowship, St. Louis; South Liberty Baptist, Liberty; Susquehanna Baptist, Independence; Third Baptist, St. Louis; University Heights, Springfield; Webster Groves, St. Louis; Winnwood Baptist, Kansas City; and First Baptist churches of Cape Girardeau, Hamilton, Independence, Jefferson City, Lee's Summit, Smithville and Sweet Springs.
The names were drawn from CBF of Missouri's Web site, committee chair Rick Seaton, pastor of First Baptist Church, Kahoka, told The Pathway.
"These churches were found listed on the CBF Missouri Web site, a public Web site," he said. "While we stated earlier this year that we would respond to challenges using an official form produced by our committee, it was not our intention to limit ourselves to that action alone. We deemed it prudent to act on the information provided by this listing and inquire of these churches concerning their connection to the CBF."
A memo that included some of the guidelines and the form was circulated to churches and associations in March.
However, Sanctuary Fellowship, started in July 2004, has never been affiliated with the MBC. And three targeted churches have not been recognized as MBC congregations since they were last included in the MBC Book of Statistics in 2001 — Cornerstone Baptist, Columbia, Holmeswood and Englewood Baptist, Kansas City. Webster Groves last appeared in the MBC church list in 2000.
Kirkwood Baptist and Tryst Falls Baptist, Kearney, which appear on the CBFMO Web site, also were considered MBC churches through 2001, but are not included on the credentials committee list.
Neither did the committee target other congregations that have previously been listed as MBC churches — Church of Abundant Life, Kansas City, for the last time in 2002; Second Liberty Baptist, Liberty, in 2003; and First Baptist Church, Columbia, in 2004. Christ Memorial Baptist, St. Louis, and Rock Falls Baptist, near Orrick, are included in the 2005 Book of Reports & Statistics and are listed on the CBFMO site, yet they also did not receive the MBC letter.
Last year, messengers adopted changes that converted the credentials committee from temporary to standing status and that tightened affiliation requirements to include churches that exclusively support the Missouri Baptist and Southern Baptist conventions.
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 the seating of a church's messengers prior to or during the annual session.
The change now allows committee members to take up questions about a church's status or challenges to a church's messengers at any time throughout the year. The committee also can investigate "upon receipt or discovery of any information which causes the committee to believe" a church or individual does not qualify.
New affiliation guidelines
The committee's recent letter reminded targeted congregations that churches cannot include another denomination or convention in their budgets, financially support another such body's work, or vote to send messengers to another denomination or convention's meetings.
Aside from the reference to CBF, the committee made no specific charges. The committee also did not ask for a personal meeting with the pastor or church leaders, although, according to the March memo, a committee member is supposed to do so. Some targeted churches have responded by letter.
The committee will offer recommendations at the annual meeting in Cape Girardeau Oct. 30-Nov. 1, when messengers will vote on the affected churches' membership status.