The BGCT and Baptist Standard have added news reports to their websites since yesterday’s postings. You can read those, as well as the report of the investigation at either http://www.bgct.org or http://www.baptiststandard.com. There is also a statement from executive director Charles Wade.
In summary, the most disturbing aspects of the report, at least from my perspective, involved four pastors who created “phantom” churches on paper in order to receive money from the BGCT, forged the signatures of pastors of existing house churches, or continued to send reports in order to receive checks for churches that no longer existed. One pastor, after receiving checks from the BGCT, would meet another pastor at the bank, where the money was deposited in the second pastor’s bank accounts, and then a check for half the amount would be written back to the first pastor. Church planting money was being used to finance a pastor’s publishing enterprise and his “Institute for Church Planting.”
The other aspect of the investigation that is disturbing to say the least is the fact that officials of the BGCT who were supposed to be supervising and overseeing the church planting efforts “bent the rules” for these four pastors in particular because their church planting efforts seemed so successful and overwhelming. The slow response at the top of the BGCT is also baffling. Initial reports that things might not be as they seemed were ignored or brushed off because these pastors, or at least one of them, had influence with BGCT leadership, accused those who were pointing to the problem of being “jealous” of his success, and his word was valued over the others.
The report noted that there was very little activity in the memoranda of BGCT leadership related to the inconsistencies and mounting problems being reported relating to the church planting funds going to the Valley. And while it does note that there is no evidence that anyone in the BGCT profited from the misuse of the funds, which is somewhat of a relief, there is no explanation for BGCT leadership virtually ignoring what was going on.
Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess. The convention meets in Dallas in a couple of weeks, which is really not enough time for the impact of all this to sink in. I have no doubt that there are some who are worried about the potential impact of this on their political position, while there are opportunists who are waiting in the wings to take advantage of the situation. Two BGCT employees have resigned or retired as a result, and I would guess that there will likely be others.
I’m not so sure that we Baptists don’t bring a lot of this on ourselves, with the way we do business as a denomination. It is no secret that the key to a job in a denominational office is knowing someone with influence who can put you there. Skill, experience, training and even calling frequently take a back seat to the qualifications of being an influential pastor’s son, or friend, or having a high profile Baptist “pedigree.” Frankly, most of the people I’ve met or dealt with on the denominational level in the four state conventions where I have been involved in local church ministry have not exhibited the servant’s heart or passion for cooperative missions and ministry that should be pre-requisites for filling one of those positions. As a result, when something like this develops, the competence and skills to deal with it properly are not present. Since giving and receiving favors are par for the course, “bending the rules” is easy for an influential pastor whose apparent success is also making you look good to your supervisors.
I’ll be in Dallas week after next at the convention. Hopefully, by then, I’ll have much more of a sense of what God wants us to do. Pray for the messengers, for the future of church planting work in the Rio Grande Valley, and for the BGCT.