COLUMBIA – The Little Bonne Femme Association affirmed the inerrancy of Scripture and their cooperation with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during their annual meeting at Calvary Baptist Church, Columbia, Sept. 15.
The decision could strengthen an association in need of renewal, said Larry Lewis, interim pastor at Calvary Baptist, Columbia, and president of the association.
“The Little Bonne Femme Association has continued to lose churches pretty consistently through recent years, and as far as I know we have not been responsible for starting a new church in about 10 years,” said Lewis, who is also a former president of Hannibal-LaGrange University and of the North American Mission Board.
“We do have some very meaningful ministries,” he added, noting the association’s food distribution ministry, involvement with the Baptist Student Union, and ownership of a campground in partnership with the Grand Crossing Association. However, widespread perceptions about the association have contributed to a lack of growth and vitality.
“We’ve been perceived as being non-cooperative with our MBC and SBC, and we have been perceived as being very moderate in our doctrinal stance and, in many cases, sympathetic with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship movement,” Lewis said. “And as a result of that, we have lost at least half a dozen strong churches and have not started any in their place.”
“Our leadership council, though, is very strongly conservative and very supportive of our Southern Baptist work in ministries,” Lewis added. He explained that messengers at the association’s 2012 annual meeting approved a motion that called upon the leadership council to “restructure the association for better efficiency and effectiveness and to rewrite our documents.”
Then messengers to the 2013 annual meeting approved these changes, clearly aligning themselves with the theologically conservative Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM 2000) and affirming their cooperation with the MBC and SBC. Messengers also voted to reinstate the position of the director of missions within the association, who will work to enhance the cooperation between churches and the convention.
Although a “strong majority” of messengers upheld this decision, messengers from three churches in the association voted against the change. In a letter to the association, the First Baptist Church of Columbia explained their dissent, expressing the church’s disappointment to find that the revisions to the constitution and core values document reflected the BFM 2000.
First Baptist Church, Columbia, has a “high view of scripture” and believes that the Bible is “inspired,” the letter explains. However, the biblical writings cannot be “without error,” as described in the BFM 2000, since these writings were impacted by the “personality and cultural context” of each human author. Additionally, the letter takes issue with the association’s support of the “traditional family” and opposition to women in the pastorate and to homosexuality.
“It is our belief,” the letter states, “that these changes will be detrimental to the association and to our ability to share Christ with a hurting world.”
Lewis, however, disagrees with this appraisal of the association’s future.
“I hope to think that we will not continue to lose churches from the perception that we have not taken a strong doctrinally conservative or supportive position,” he said. “I’m hoping that we will get back on track in starting new churches and developing them, as well as doing a better job of strengthening the churches that we have.”
“It will be a new day,” he added, “for Little Bonne Femme Association and for the work of Baptists in Columbia.”