Candidates identified with ‘Save Our Convention’ win top elections again
By Bill Webb
ST. LOUIS — For the second year in a row, messengers to the Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting elected officers identified with the Save Our Convention (SOC) movement that a year ago pitted itself against the Missouri Baptist Layman’s Association and won. But it wasn’t easy.
A motion from the floor sought unsuccessfully to bar first vice president Bruce McCoy and second vice president John Marshall — both elected on the SOC-endorsed ticket a year ago — from being nominated for president and first vice president respectively during the Oct. 27-29 meeting.
It was membership on an ad hoc peace committee, formed by the MBC Executive Board in April, that threatened the nominations of McCoy, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church, St. Louis, and Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Springfield.
In what he called “background information” prior to the peace committee’s opening-session report, chair Jeff Purvis, pastor of First Baptist Church, Herculaneum-Peveley, told messengers that it was his opinion that if the two were nominated as convention officers, the peace process would be undermined.
McCoy, Marshall and Wesley Hammond, First Baptist Church, Paris, represent SOC on the committee, while Purvis, retired pastor Jay Scribner and MBLA research director Roger Moran represent MBLA, whose endorsed candidates for several years were elected to lead the MBC and its boards and commissions.
That string was broken last year when SOC candidates swept the officer elections.
Though he did not name McCoy and Marshall by name, Purvis said the matter of their plans to be nominated surfaced during committee meetings, prompting him to discourage their nominations and make his own suggestion.
“I think it would go a long way in the peace process if two of the SOC guys would nominate two MBLA guys for two of the offices and for two guys from MBLA to nominate two guys from SOC…,” he said.
“I pleaded with them to change their minds but they felt it was not the committee’s responsibility to offer a slate of candidates but to allow messengers at the annual meeting to decide,” Purvis said.
“Yes, it is ultimately messengers who decide which persons will serve in the four officers positions. But I personally feel that the average Missouri Baptist wants peace within our convention, and they want it now.”
Purvis’ remarks set the stage for a motion by messenger Jim Wilson of First Baptist Church, Seneca, the next morning that “the MBC instruct all members of the peace committee to not allow their names to be put in nomination for the officers of our convention.”
An amendment proposed by messenger Scott Weldon, Fourth Street Baptist Church, Marshfield, to enable the matter to be considered prior to the Tuesday morning election of the president received a simple majority, 494 to 463, but failed to gain the two-thirds necessary for passage.
Wilson’s motion was later referred to the Committee on Continuing Review, which declared it out of order, a decision affirmed by messengers.
McCoy was elected president 404-387 over Danny Decker, pastor, First Baptist Church, Warsaw, in a runoff.
Bob Knight, pastor, First Baptist Church, Cuba, and Jesse Taylor, retired minister, Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, also were nominated but fell short in the first ballot vote.
Marshall received 426 votes to 219 for Ron Crow, pastor, First Baptist Church, Diamond, to win the first vice president election, the only one not decided in a runoff.
Former MBC president Mitch Jackson, also sympathetic with SOC, was elected second vice president 275-239 in a runoff with Jody Shelenhamer, First Baptist Church, Bolivar.
Spencer Ray, pastor, First Baptist Church, Gallatin, was eliminated on the first ballot.
Music evangelist Jamie Hitt, First Baptist Church, Winfield, was elected recording secretary. She received 217 votes to 190 for Ken Parker, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Kearney, also in a runoff.
Dennis Ward, pastor, Memorial Baptist Church, Poplar Bluff, and James McCullen, pastor, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Piedmont, were eliminated on the first ballot.
Apparently out of deference to the peace committee’s work, no candidate acknowledged endorsement by any group.
The peace committee’s official report to the convention suggested progress, but acknowledged that the committee had reached an impasse and planned to invite Peacemaker Ministries to provide mediation services, a provision of the Executive Board motion that created the ad hoc committee.
Among the report’s other conclusions were:
1. The former MBC executive director [David Clippard] and other MBC leaders pitted Executive Board members and key MBC leaders against each other. The committee found that public charges of power brokering and legalism within MBLA were “baseless,” Purvis said, prompting the entire committee to apologize to Moran.
2. The work of the Executive Board investigative committee (named to investigate Clippard prior to his firing) and the conclusions of the Executive Board were handled properly, working within the framework of the MBC structure and within legal parameters, according to the committee report.
3. “At all levels in Missouri Baptist life, we did not live by the Matthew 18 principle and did not go to persons directly with which we might have had an issue.” The result was bitterness, gossip, distrust, accusations and untruth, according to the report.
4. Because of divisive ways, “a multi-layered and multi-leveled series of events, meetings, letters, e-mails, resolutions, etc.” were set in motion to perpetuate divisiveness.
Above: Newly-elected officers of the Missouri Baptist Convention include (from left) John Marshall, first vice president (with wife, Ruth); Bruce McCoy, president (with wife, Cindy); Jamie Hitt, recording secretary; and Mitch Jackson, second vice president (with wife, Cindy). (Photo by Jennifer Harris.)