By Bill Webb, Word&Way Editor
Remember those days on the elementary school playground? Sally spots her good friend, Amy, playing with Linda. Sally has had a falling out with Linda, so she pulls Amy aside with a pre-adolescent admonition: "If you want to be my friend, then you are going to have to stop playing with Linda. You see, Linda and I had an argument, and she's no longer my friend."
Amy responds rather innocently: "But Linda is still my friend. I want to be friends with both of you."
"No way!" Sally replies. "If you are going to be my friend, you can no longer hang around with Linda. And if you do, I'll tell my other friends to stop playing with you."
It's peer manipulation plain and simple — at an age when children should not yet know how to be so hurtful to each other.
Shift to the Oct. 24 meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board. A motion is approved instructing the executive director to send letters to LifeWay Christian Resources, GuideStone Financial Services and the Missouri Baptist Credit Union, asking those three institutions to discontinue advertising in Word&Way.
The backdrop of the Executive Board action is the filing of a suit against this newspaper and four other institutions, claiming the Missouri Baptist Convention owns all five and should be entitled to elect trustees for each of their governing boards.
This is not the first time the executive director and others have used correspondence to attempt to disrupt operations of the five institutions or other entities. It may be the first time the Executive Board has gone on record with such a motion.
Officials at LifeWay (the former Baptist Sunday School Board) and GuideStone (the former SBC Annuity Board) had previously made it clear that Word&Way should not expect to receive much advertising from either because of the Baptist battle in Missouri.
The ads that apparently irked the Executive Board appeared in the Oct. 20 issue. The GuideStone ad promoted a planning resource to benefit ministers and others whose retirement funds are with GuideStone. Many of those GuideStone clients are Word&Way subscribers.
The LifeWay ad promoted "The Gift" New Testament, a witnessing and follow-up tool marketed by LifeWay to be used in conjunction with SBC president Bobby Welch's challenge for churches to baptize 1 million people this year. Many of our readers are longtime LifeWay customers, as are their churches. They respond to evangelistic challenges and buy supporting products.
Word&Way has a philosophy that begins with the needs of our readers and their churches. We report news from SBC institutions like GuideStone and LifeWay because it is either of interest or of help to our constituents. We also have tried to keep Missouri Baptists aware of the Missouri Baptist Credit Union because of the services it provides to many Baptists in the Show-Me State.
Ads from all three have been an important part of that agency-to-constituent information process. We are grateful for the partnership we enjoy with these and other advertisers. Obviously, Word&Way benefits from ad income, and advertisers benefit from the exposure of their products and services to our readers.
If Word&Way never receives another ad from either LifeWay, GuideStone or MBCU, this newspaper will continue to act in the best interests of our readers. That includes promoting useful programs and products from all three through our news pages.
Unfortunately, in the Executive Board's eyes, GuideStone, LifeWay and MBCU are "aiding and abetting the enemy" when they advertise with Word&Way. But surely the intent of all three in placing their ads has been to be responsive to current and prospective constituents. Good for them. It would be a shame if Missouri Baptists' family feud influenced LifeWay, GuideStone or MBCU to under-serve any of their clients.
Of the Executive Board's action, we can only say, "Sally would be proud."
Parable of the starved cow
One of the questions that surfaces frequently — usually as a hypothetical question — is "Why would the MBC try to hurt the very institutions it says it is going to court to prove are its own?"
That brings to mind the story of a couple of ranchers and a disputed cow. The cow was in the possession of the rancher whose spread lay downstream of a water source that ran through both ranches. The rancher on the upstream side claimed the cow was one of his own.
To force the downstream rancher to give up the cow, his adversary dammed up the creek and diverted water away from his neighbor's land. The result was devastating to the affected rancher. His land suffered and his livestock suffered. Pretty soon, the prized cow was showing the effects of the water shortage. Sadly, the upstream farmer was willing to starve the disputed cow to win his claim.
Why would MBC leaders and others seek to block loans for construction of needed facilities at Windermere Baptist Conference Center, or seek to intimidate organizations that desire to use Windermere for their conferences? Why would people who claim the conference center is really their own want to undermine its present and future ministry?
The same question could be asked in regards to Word&Way, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University and The Baptist Home. Unfortunately, there are no flattering answers to those questions. Fortunately for the institutions, friends with their best interests at heart have stood faithfully in the gap, helping them to maintain strong ministries as they continue to serve all Missouri Baptists in spite of obstacles. (11-17-05)