Orginally published on Wednesday, January 02, 2008 at 8:50 AM
by Todd Rhoades
Pastor Kevin Larson of Karis Community Church in downtown Columbia just lost $6,000 in funding from the Missouri Baptist Convention because he wonít forbid his churchís members from drinking an occasional beer. At its December meeting, the executive board of the Missouri Baptist Convention voted 28-10, according to the Baptist Press, to cut funding for all Acts 29-affiliated churches in Missouri. Acts 29 is a church planting, or starting, network based in Seattle. The motion came from Denny Marr, minister of education at Calvary Baptist Church in Republic, in response to what Marr thought was an abuse of "Christian liberty" by some Acts 29-affiliated churches, one of which is Karis Community Church.
“Iím aware that there are some Acts 29 churches affiliated with that organization Ö that use alcohol and even sometimes R-rated movies with content that has at least partial nudity to engage the culture with their church,” Marr said.
Marr is referring to two of Karisí ministries, Movies and Mindmaps and Theology at the Forge. Theology at the Forge is a monthly meeting that takes place at The Forge & Vine restaurant in downtown Columbia. Those meetings aim to discuss a current event from a Christian perspective over a meal, Larson said - and, if people choose, to imbibe a beer. Movies and Mindmaps is another monthly event where a current movie is shown and discussed afterward.
“We are required by the Lord to live a life that honors him, brings glory to him Ö and there are certain things that impede, detract or keep us from our faithful commitments to the Lord - things such as using alcohol as a beverage,” Marr said.
The difference of opinion comes down to scripture, Larson said. Because the Bible does not prohibit alcohol, neither does Karis Community Church, he said.
Not everyone is happy with the MBCís vote.
Roy Dameron, a layman with Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City and executive board member for the central region that includes Columbia, said he voted against the motion because he thinks itís going back on the MBCís word. Church-planting pastors sign an agreement with the MBC to abstain from alcohol and “teach strong Biblical warnings of the consumption of alcohol,” the agreement reads.
Larson said he has kept his word. He doesnít drink, and he preaches against drunkenness. But those 28 members of the MBC executive board think any ministry where alcohol is allowed goes against its prohibitionist stance, Marr said.
Gerald Davidson, president of the MBC executive board, said taking a broad swipe at all Acts 29-affiliated churches in Missouri, when itís unknown whether all of them tolerate the use of alcohol, is unfair. Marr admits he didnít investigate all the churches and has not spoken with Larson.
“I would not take that position because there are some involved with them that would be right where” the MBC “would stand,” Davidson said.
Davidson said he planned to meet with other executive board officers two weeks ago to discuss the vote. Interim Executive Director David Tolliver said he was working to find a way to keep church-planting funding going to Karis Community Church and Believers Church in Hannibal. There are nine Acts 29-affiliated churches in Missouri, but only these two receive funding from the MBC.
Larson said the MBC offered to reinstate the $6,000 of funding if Larson agreed to end Theology at the Forge. Larson refused.
“Biblically, weíre not doing anything prohibited. Practically, weíre not doing anything wrong. Weíre just having a meal and talking about things from a Christian perspective,” Larson said. “I canít look my congregation in the eye and tell them we compromised everything we stand for for $500 a month to pacify some angry pastors.”
FOR DISCUSSION: What do you think of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s vote? Was it justified? Did they go back on their word? Is the church wrong for offering their"Theology at the Forge” program? I’d love to hear your input...
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