During the Missouri Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in St. Charles, a leading trustee for Southwest Baptist University urged reforms to the trustee selection process as he criticized MBC leaders for fueling controversy at the school in Bolivar, Missouri. Robert Ingold, acting chair of the SBU Board of Trustees, made five motions to edit the MBC bylaws related to nominations, and he passed out an eight-page booklet expressing his complaints about MBC actions during the two-year controversy at SBU.
“Forces are at work to undermine and destroy the MBC, its entities, and the great missions enterprise known as the cooperative program,” Ingold wrote in the document. “Throughout the past several years, a small, vocal group of mostly young pastors, with strongly Calvinistic views have been engaged in a smear campaign to paint SBU faculty, staff, and trustees as theologically liberal. These lies are patently false.”
Ingold, an SBU alumnus who worked at the school for over two decades as vice president for estate planning, is at the meeting as a messenger from Second Baptist Church in Springfield. In addition to serving as an SBU trustee, he held other MBC roles, including as a parliamentarian to the MBC for 12 years. He served as vice chair for the SBU Board this past year and is currently acting chair since the trustees did not vote on new officers during last week’s meeting.
Ingold’s motions include empowering messengers — instead of just the MBC Executive Board — to approve the MBC Nominating Committee rules, and prohibiting former or current employees of institutions from serving on the Nominating Committee (with some possible exceptions). Ingold also details at the end of his document an alternative slate of six candidates for SBU trustees, which he apparently will nominate from the floor today (Oct.27) to replace those the MBC’s Nominating Committee puts forward.
Much of Ingold’s documents recounts the efforts by former SBU religion professor Clint Bass and other others to drive out other religion professors and trustees. SBU President Eric Turner, who announced his resignation last week due to the controversy, fired Bass in November 2018 for violating the faculty handbook.
Ingold noted that instead of offering concerns to the dean, provost, or president, Bass instead “collaborated with Convention leadership to remove all trustees from the SBU Board and replace them with trustees they regarded as doctrinally pure and loyal to the MBC.”
A key to this effort, Ingold explained, was the MBC’s president, Ken Parker, appointing Ted Bachman, pastor of the church where Bass serves as elder, to the MBC Nominating Committee. Ingold sees a conflict of interest in Bachman’s position, who was elected to three-year term in 2017.
“The pastor of the church referred to above [Bachman] had previously taught part-time at SBU but his contract has not been renewed due to poor student reviews,” Ingold wrote. “The pastor, with an ax to grind against SBU, was placed in charge of nominating trustees to SBU.”
In 2018, the MBC Nominating Committee broke from past practices and written rules to replace SBU nominees with new individuals. Ingold wrote that “three personal friends of the disgruntled former employee of SBU were named to the Board, one of them being a youth member at his church.” A similar action occurred again in 2019, although that time Turner and the SBU Board went public with complaints about the process and the replacement of SBU’s slate of nominees.
Ingold’s document includes details of a March 2019 meeting in Turner’s SBU office with MBC leaders, including MBC Executive Director John Yeats, immediate past president Ken Parker, new president Jeremy Muniz, and SBU trustee Eddie Bumpers.
“At that meeting, Convention leadership expressed regret that Dr. Turner had been kept in the dark regarding the trustee selection process and promised better communication in the coming year,” Ingold wrote.
But that didn’t happen. As Turner said during his SBU report at the 2019 annual meeting, SBU did not learn of the nominees until just six days before the meeting and after the Board publicly complained. Turner said they learned their “entire proposed trustee slate was rejected.” He then shared that SBU and MBC leaders worked “to develop a compromise slate.” However, the Nominating Committee rejected that compromise and pushed the Committee’s five nominees.
Ingold attended a meeting during the MBC annual meeting to work out that compromise slate of candidates. He wrote that “in spite of entreaties from Dr. Yeats and Dr. Muniz to work out a mutual agreement on new trustees, the chairman of the educational sub-committee [Bachman], the one who is a disgruntled former employee of SBU, the one who has an ax to grind against SBU, and the one who had his poorly qualified buddy from his church named to the SBU Board, ended the meeting by saying that he could not believe he almost violated his conscience by agreeing to a compromise.”
“Why would the Executive Director and the President of the Convention allow the good fellowship of the Convention to be placed in jeopardy by a disgruntled former employee of SBU” Ingold added in his document.
Ingold noted the treatment continues, with SBU still unaware of who the new trustee candidates would be ahead of the annual meeting. This year, the MBC Executive Board changed the MBC Nominating Committee rules to codify its treatment of SBU over the past two years. Thus, Ingold added, SBU hasn’t “been permitted in the vetting process.”
“How does SBU know if one of the new trustees has a checkered past with respect to personal integrity?” Ingold wrote. “How would we know if they are contentious in their local church or if their giving to [the] cause of Christ is anemic? How do we know if they have an authentic daily walk with the Lord? We are told to just trust the Nominating Committee.”
“Well, how is that working out — to just trust the Nominating Committee?” Ingold added. “I am sorry to report that most of the trustees you have sent us in the past two years are spiritually unqualified. You have sent us a few good trustees, but the majority are typically from small churches with a history of acrimony within the church.”
“What I have observed in most of the new trustees is that they were elected, not on the basis of spiritual or professional qualifications, but because they knew somebody on the Nominating Committee,” Ingold continued. “You have heard of court packing. Now you know about packing of the SBU Board.”