Former breakaway entities begin 'new day' with MBC


By Ben Hawkins & Brian Koonce/Missouri Pathway

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) — "A new day" and "a new beginning" are among the ways newly-seated trustees described meetings at two institutions that have been restored to the Missouri Baptist Convention after nearly two decades of legal battles.

Trustees of The Baptist Home — a four-campus ministry to meet senior adults' spiritual, physical, and emotional needs — convened April 4-5 at the Baptist Building in Jefferson City, Mo. Missouri Baptist University (MBU) trustees convened March 28 on the St. Louis campus.

The Home and MBU declared their independence from the MBC in 2000 and 2001 respectively, moving to self-perpetuating boards. A protracted legal case ended in February, when the Home and MBU decided not to appeal a ruling by the Missouri Court of Appeals returning both institutions to MBC control.

The ruling allowed both entities to seat trustees elected by the MBC.

The Baptist Home

The Baptist Home's trustee plenary session was reportedly marked with thanksgiving and graciousness among MBC leaders.

Trustee chairman Ken Parker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kearney, Missouri, opened the meeting by welcoming trustees and guests, many of whom were staff members from The Baptist Home.

"It's a new day," Parker said, "and we can commit to be kind and gracious to everyone who has been affiliated with The Baptist Home on every front, and in so doing we honor the Lord Jesus in the process. ... We're going to be wise, but we're going to be winsome. We're going to be compassionate and kind on every front. We're going to function as if we actually believe the words of the apostle Paul in Rom. 12:18, where he says, 'If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.' ...

"We're going to work together," Parker added. "We're going to serve together. We're going to honor the Lord Jesus together. And we're going to preserve the wonderful legacy of The Baptist Home together."

MBC executive director John Yeats also welcomed trustees.

"We really are excited about this meeting," Yeats said. "This is the final piece of the puzzle of Baptist life over the last 16 years — 16 years and 7 months, I was reminded last night. Now it's the time to welcome one another home, and let us rebuild those great ministries that God has been doing through Missouri Baptist life. Not that this ministry has not been flourishing, but we are very grateful that now it has returned to proper governance."

Yeats encouraged trustees to visit The Baptist Home's various campuses around the state and to meet staff members and residents. He also urged them to learn and share The Baptist Home story, as well as to show their commitment to the ministry by financially investing in The Baptist Home.

During the meeting, Baptist Home President Steven Jones pledged his loyalty and the loyalty of staff "to you as trustees and to the ministry of the Baptist Home."

"As trustees, I want you to know that we are very transparent," Jones said. "We don't hide anything. You are welcome to come to our facilities anytime, and you can ask any question, and we would be glad to answer your questions and be as forthright with you as possible." He added that Baptist Home staff are required by law to keep confidential the personal, medical condition of residents.

During their meeting, trustees also learned about ministry taking place on the four Baptist Home campuses in Arcadia Valley, Missouri; Ashland, Missouri; Chillicothe, Missouri.; and Ozark, Missouri. They also heard how The Baptist Home is taking its ministry to senior adults across the globe through its Global Aging Missions department.

To learn more about The Baptist Home, visit their website.

Missouri Baptist University

The MBU trustee meeting was "a new beginning for us all — for our trustees, for the MBU staff, faculty, and students, and even for the former trustee board that we replace today," trustee chairman James Plymale said.

Keith Ross, who has served as MBU's president since Jan. 10, 2018, reported to trustees on the state of the university: 5,300 students (900 graduate, 4,400 undergraduate, 850 commuter students, 350 living on campus); 26 men's and women's athletic teams; 40 undergraduate degree programs; graduate degrees in education and business; a 14-to-1 faculty-to-student ratio; and a $52 million budget with a $1 million surplus.

"At Missouri Baptist University," Ross said, "we believe that the two most positive forces of change on this earth are education and the Christian faith. We are so blessed to bring those two things together."

In its open session, the new MBC-elected board voted not to rescind the prior board's approval of $4 million in financing related to expansion of Spartan Field. The expansion will include bleachers, a concession stand, restrooms, a women's locker room, a track, field lights, and improvements to the fitness trail connecting the main campus to Spartan Field. The remainder of the $8.6 million project will come from cash reserves and donors.

In a three-hour executive session, the board formally selected officers, affirmed recent court rulings concerning MBU, elected legal counsel, terminated former counsel and passed standard resolutions to retain consultants to conduct reviews and make recommendations.

Long-time provost Arlen Dykstra told trustees he plans to retire later this year. Andy Chambers, who has served as vice president for student development, will assume the duties of provost July 1.

Plymale's relationship with MBU is a long one. He said he sees evidence the school is set for a bright future.

"Having been here myself on the trustee board when that decision was initially made in 2001, along with several others in this room, I know what the finances, programs, enrollments and condition of the school was like at that time," Plymale said. "It is now time for us all to press forward and to build upon this strong foundation a university with an even greater impact on our world and a living legacy for our future. May God grant His grace to enable all of us to be faithful to that which He has called us both to be and to do."

The MBU board's next meeting will be May 23.

Ben Hawkins and Brian Koonce write for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Missouri Baptist Convention, Missouri Baptist University, The Baptist Home