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Church planters who receive money from the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) must now teach alcohol abstinence. The policy change was sparked by the Journey, a growing interdenominational church that borrowed $200,000 from the MBC to renovate a church two years ago. One of the Journey's outreach groups meets in a St. Louis microbrewery.

"Theology at the Bottleworks was started to reach people who are actively opposed to Christianity, by discussing contemporary cultural issues in a neutral environment," explained Darrin Patrick, founding pastor of the Journey, which attracts about 1,500 people weekly to three sites. Those who attend Theology at the Bottleworks grab a beer and discuss political or spiritual topics, such as the role of women in society, the legal system, or animal rights.

The outreach caught the MBC off guard, said interim executive director David Tolliver. "We need to engage the culture, but without compromising our biblical, traditional Baptist values," Tolliver said. "For me, that includes abstinence from alcohol."

Patrick said that the Journey adheres to the same theological confessions as the MBC, the state division of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Because the Journey received the money by loan, not by grant, the new policy does not affect the church. But future borrowers will be scrutinized more closely, Tolliver said. Previously, church planters were asked to sign a statement agreeing to abstain from alcohol. Now they must teach "the strong biblical warnings" against drinking beer and wine. Though the Bible does not expressly forbid alcohol consumption, the new policy states that alcohol consumption is not wise.

The policy addresses an ongoing ...

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July 2007

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