For a second time, Missouri Baptist Convention president David Tolliver has refused to allow Word&Way staffers to attend an Executive Board session.
Tolliver cited the legal struggle between the MBC and five affiliated entities, including Word&Way, as his reason for directing the editor and a news writer to leave the board's April 13 meeting.
Tolliver issued a presidential directive prior to the board's December session that forced the two staffers from that meeting – citing the fact that the newspaper and the board were litigants at the time.
As he left the meeting, Word&Way editor Bill Webb said he wanted the records to reflect that "we are leaving under protest."
In a letter to convention officers, Word&Way chair Robert Cox noted that at the time of the meeting, the two parties were no longer litigants. "The MBC's petition had been dismissed and no appeal or additional petition had been filed," he said.
Webb said that just prior to the opening of the Executive Board meeting, Tolliver told him and Vicki Brown that he (Tolliver) had been led to believe that an appeal had already been filed in the case. Clippard indicated he was under the same assumption, but he suggested only convention attorney Michael Whitehead was authorized to say for sure.
Just before the April 13 meeting began, Whitehead acknowledged that no additional legal documents had yet been filed.
Cole County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Brown dismissed the convention's case against Word&Way, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University, Missouri Baptist Foundation and Windermere Baptist Conference Center on March 11 and affirmed the dismissal on April 5.
"It would seem your rationale for exclusion was without merit for this meeting," Cox wrote.
In his letter, Cox also emphasized that staff members are Missouri Baptists and should have been allowed to attend the session. "The governing documents of the Missouri Baptist Convention assure that Executive Board meetings are open to any Missouri Baptist who wishes to attend," Cox wrote. "If for no other reason than this, the Word&Way staff should be entitled to be present."
Webb said later that he plans to continue to seek access to board meetings. "Our readers expect coverage of the MBC, its plans and its ministries," he said.