Dr. Charles Wade has announced his retirement from the position of executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas effective January of 2008.  Without going into a long description of events related to his selection and term of service in this capacity, I’ll just say, in a rather understated way, that his selection for this position was controversial, and led to the formation of a rival state convention. 

Dr. Wade was a leading “moderate” pastor in Texas, during the time when those aligned with the “conservative resurgence” in the SBC were also making moves to control trustee boards in state conventions, including Texas.  In Texas, those aligned with the “moderate” side were in the majority in the state convention, and were well organized as a result of learning from the mistakes made by moderates in the SBC.  The formation of an organization called Texas Baptists Committed essentially prevented the conservative resurgence from gaining control of the BGCT.  Dr. Wade’s leadership among the moderates in Texas eventually led to his being selected as executive director of the convention when the post became vacant. 

The controversy surrounding his selection has never really died down.  There were those who saw his selection as a sign that the BGCT was distancing itself from the SBC, and perhaps even moving into alignment with CBF.  It was seen as evidence that the BGCT was shutting out those associated with the SBC’s conservative resurgence.  The political wrangling that followed was unprecedented in Southern Baptist life, and included the outside involvement of SBC leadership in helping some Texas Baptists start another state convention in an attempt to prevent diversion of Cooperative Program money and to protect the influence of leaders from Texas who were no longer connected with the state Baptist convention. 

Frankly, both sides behaved badly.  The BGCT’s attitude toward those who decided to depart was, “Don’t let the door hit you on the rear on your way out.”  Those who departed did so snarling, name calling and making accusations.  It was a pathetic display of pettiness, unworthy of individuals who claim to be called to leadership in a Christian denomination who are supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ.  Few attempts at reconciliation were made, and what was attempted was stubbornly resisted. 

I don’t see anything that has transpired as a result of all of this being of any benefit at all to Texas Baptists, either of the state conventions, or the Southern Baptist Convention.  It certainly hasn’t benefitted the Kingdom.  I think God grieves at our pettiness and insensitivity to each other.

But now we have an opportunity to make things right.

There’s already plenty of discussion as to who Dr. Wade’s successor will be, and who will have the power to pull the strings to name him.  There are those who don’t see anything wrong with Texas Baptists Committed using their influence to keep the convention on its current course.  There are those who want to steer it away from their influence and make it a choice that will appeal to a wider “consensus” of Texas Baptists. 

I have a suggestion.

Why don’t we set all these political shenanigans aside, and allow God to be the one who puts his man, or woman, into this position?  Unless the purpose of the BGCT is something other than the advancement of His Kingdom, it stands to reason that God ought to have full say in who the next executive director will be.

It’s long past time for Texas Baptists Committed, the Conservative Resurgence, and any other denominational political group to set aside their own perceived interests, and get serious about doing cooperative missions and ministry in a hurting, needy world instead of turf protecting and influence peddling.  Our little doctrinal wars and political maneuvers aren’t doing anything to reach the millions of lost people within the boundaries of the state of Texas.  Nor are they doing anything to disciple and equip church members to reach and minister to the people around them.  The theme of the annual meeting last November was, “Together, we can do more.”  Yeah, we sure can, but we’ve got to get together first. 

It is time for all Texas Baptists to get down on their knees and ask God for a revival.  I pray that the selection of the next executive director will not be “business as usual,” but that it will be an opportunity for a positive change to begin, moving toward the day when Baptists in this state will be united behind the cause of advancing the kingdom, not divided by petty doctrinal or political issues.

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About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

2 responses

  1. Gary says:

    Correction of a fact.
    The first meeting of the so called rival convention in Texas was held in 1998, over one year before Charles Wade was selected as the ED.
    With this fact considered, his election could not have led to the formation of the new convention. It was already in place.

  2. Lee says:

    Technically, Gary, you are correct.

    However, the traction that the rival convention gained came after Wade’s selection as executive director. Wade was an outspoken critic of the SBC’s conservative resurgence, an activist on the moderate side of BGCT, and deeply involved in CBF.

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t see anything wrong with being involved in CBF, nor being a critic of the conservative resurgence in a constructive, Christlike way, nor being actively involved in convention politics. But at the time Wade was selected as exec, with the climate in the BGCT being what it was, the combination of those things was the main catalyst that convinced the conservatives in Texas that his choice as executive director was a slap in their face.

    The complaint of Baptist moderates regarding the conservative resurgence’s domination of the SBC has been that they’ve been disenfranchised and shut out of the convention’s leadership in proportion to their support of the Cooperative Program. The complaint of those who formed the SBTC was that they were disenfranchised and shut out of the convention’s leadership in proportion to their support of the Cooperative Program. Wade’s selection as exec director, whether it was intended as such or not, because of his involvement in and ties to CBF, was interpreted as a move to both distance the BGCT from the SBC and to move it closer to CBF. For some conservatives, this wasn’t reconcileable.

    I certainly understand the feelings of disenfranchisement felt by many of those in BGCT leadership regarding the conservative resurgence in the SBC. But if you’ve been through that kind of experience, and happen to find yourself in a position of power and influence down the road, is turning the tables and “payback” the right thing to do?

    I think the critics of the BGCT in particular, and moderate Baptists in general, would have been shamefully silenced had the BGCT’s leadership selected an executive director who would have had the credentials, trust, and leadership ability to bring the factions together and make an honest effort at working out the differences. Taking the high road might not have brought about a real reconciliation, but I’d be willing to bet that the outcome would have been substantially different than the current situation.