Texas Baptists will have a choice between two candidates for convention president in November.  Joy Fenner, Executive Director Emeritus of the Texas Baptist WMU is the announced candidate of Texas Baptists Committed, the group that has named the candidate for president of the BGCT through the stormy years of the attempted fundamentalist takeover of the convention, and since.  David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church of Canyon, is the “independent” candidate. 

It does not appear, at first glance, that this will be particularly divisive, at least, that’s my hope.  I don’t see that the supporters of one candidate will take their football and go home if they don’t win the game.  Of course, any difference of opinion among Baptists can be divisive, but the differences represented by these two candidates aren’t convention busters, at least, not in my opinion. 

Joy Fenner represents the current BGCT establishment, the “moderates” who essentially kept the state convention from falling into fundamentalist hands and have minimized the damage from the split when the fundamentalists formed their own convention.  Her candidacy appears to be anchored to two particular posts.  One is that the election of a woman, long overdue in the BGCT, would be a recognition of their contributions in church life.  The other is the long standing Baptist appeal to missions, and the affinity we have as a denomination for those who have served as missionaries and in missions support.  Fenner served on the international mission field in Japan, and then as WMU executive in Tennessee and Texas. 

Lowrie’s candidacy is an acknowledgement that there is no longer a threat of a “takeover” of the BGCT by fundamentalists, and that it is time to move on.  There may even be a hint that it is also time for Texas Baptists Committed to find a new role in the life of the state convention.  His candidacy also represents a very realistic appeal to the future, and an acknowledgement that deep change is necessary in the way the convention operates.  His vision of the future is in line with the post-denominational perspective.  His articulation of cooperation based on “points of connection” demonstrates very realistic and practical thinking. 

It’s a clear choice.

Fenner represents the BGCT establishment.  She’s a Baptist Building “insider,” a very nice, personable individual with a long Baptist pedigree, a three term missionary to Japan, alumnus of East Texas Baptist University but with the obligatory connection to Baylor.  She’s followed the rules by waiting her turn in line and paying her dues in order to move up through the ranks.  She’s exhibited appropriate modesty (“I’ve never sought a position in my life,” though she has served as BGCT second VP) in “agreeing” to serve, and emphasized the appeal to missions and to “the value of women in Texas Baptist life.”  Her candidacy says that the future of the BGCT lies in maintaining the status quo.  And in spite of objections to the contrary, it is very obviously about electing a woman for the sake of adding another notch to the diversity stick. 

Lowrie has a bit of a Baptist pedigree as well, particularly with regard to committees, trustee boards and officer positions.  He’s a Baylor grad, which says a lot without actually having to go too deep into the issue.  He’s a West Texas pastor in a prominent, well established church that’s a strong supporter of the BGCT.  He’s had some service in one of the “mission” conventions in Minnesota-Wisconsin.

His candidacy says that future of the BGCT lies in “seeking points of connection with all kinds of Baptists.”  It acknowledges that those in the BGCT who still want to find ways to connect and cooperate with the SBC have as rightful a place as those who don’t. It carries a hint of suggestion, though not an all out acknowledgement, that the convention is going to have to make some changes in its way of operation in order to remain vital and relevant.  And it will unarguably be a referendum on the role of Texas Baptists Committed in the future BGCT.   

Regardless of the outcome, the vote tally will carry a message that both the leadership of the BGCT, and Texas Baptists Committed, need to heed.

Advertisements

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.

12 responses

  1. Dylan3707 says:

    Good analysis.

    Does it really matter, in the long run, who is elected president of the BGCT? I believe state conventions, denominational structures, and similar things are going the way of the dinosaur. The coming generation of church leaders is much smaller, far less interested in attending meetings, and not likely to care much about who the officers are. Emergent and contemporary style churches aren’t going to support conventions led by old white men who are critical of their approach and inhospitable with regard to cooperation and fellowship. The last generation of big-time convention loyalty is made up of senior adults and they’ll be gone in a decade, perhaps a little more, and there won’t be a lot of younger people to take their place.

  2. Gary May says:

    I am glad to see one in David’s generation stepping into the leadership circle. The convention will die only when churches fail to see the need to cooperate together. I welcome the move from past politics toward a new day.

  3. Tim Dahl says:

    I believe that traditional conventions are on the down swing at this time. However, life tends to be cyclical, so perhaps their day will come again. However, there will always be an need to cooperate. The convention that changes enough to help me cooperate with as many diverse groups as possible, may actually become a relevant organization in my life. Those that continue to draw the circle of association tighter and tighter will continue their decline into irrelevancy.

    Tim Dahl

  4. joerstewart says:

    check out roozen’s book on denominationalism. it tends to suggest the talk of demise is way overstated.

  5. Gary says:

    If we pay close attention to what is happening in the area of networking, there may be a blueprint for what effective conventions will look like in the future. Today, Rick Warren or Ed Young Jr. can put a conference together that will draw more people than any state or national meeting held by a denomination. Conventions have always been about networking. If we buy into the idea that pastors will not travel to attend a meeting in lieu of modern technology we are ignoring this phenomenon. A large crowd at a meeting my not seem like much but it does indicate a willingness to belong to a large body and it does indicate a willingness to cooperate together.

    Tim, I hear you about diverse groups. I just seem to be limited as to how many groups I can contribute too and cooperate with due to available resources and time. There are other limits to diversity as seen with the recent refusal by the NBC to welcome two particular groups as sponsors.

  6. Tim Dahl says:

    Gary,

    What you say is all to true. Due to the limited nature of money and time, those we choose to individually work with will also be limited. However, the larger the organization, like a state or national convention, the greater the possibility of leveraging that time and money. I hope that our state convention continues to be a diverse and open place. I hope none of our leaders say some thing like, “We’ll dialogue with anyone that affirms our faith statement.” That would make me cry.

    Tim

  7. Louis Johnson says:

    Lee,

    I apologize for using the “reply” section of your blog for this purpose, but in perusing the blog’s home page (which, incidentally, I found to be great reading) I could not find a way to e-mail you directly.

    In any case, I read your comment on Spiritual Samurai about Ken Hall’s salary and the Cooperative Program. This might or might not be helpful information, but actually only about 1% of Buckner’s total budget income comes from the Cooperative Program. So, Texas Baptists actually are only paying approximately $2680 of Ken Hall’s combined annual salary and expense account.

    Blessings,
    Louis Johnson

  8. Tim Dahl says:

    This is true Lee.

    Tim

  9. Lee says:

    Email me at lsaunders1957@gmail.com. Thanks for the clarification. I thought Buckner was supported by the Cooperative Program through the BGCT.

  10. David Lowrie says:

    Hey guys,

    Thank you for your comments. It has been helpful to see this time of transition and opportunity through your eyes.

    I especially apprecited Gary’s comments about the role of men like Ed Young, Jr. and Rick Warren. This transition of spiritual leadership has been going on for years. I suspect these leaders have taken on the role of equipping once held by the seminaries and conventions. There success in ministry has given them something to share and a huge following. The challenge however is how to take their principlies and to apply them on the local church level, especially the older established smaller churches.

    Thanks again for your thoughts about the future.

  11. debra says:

    For those churches who wish to partner soley with the SBC and share their cooperative progam dollars with Criswell College and East Texas Baptist, there is already the Southern Baptists of Texas convention. To be a part of the SBT, you must affirm the 2000 BF&M, and they will, according to Jim Richards, their director, welcome you and dialogue with you.

    David Lowerie has commented that he wants to bring back the convention to the center. What a surprise! Did it ever go left, or did the SBT just go further right?

    Agreed, men like Warren and Young bring together big numbers, but Anne Graham Lotz, Priscilla Shirer, Kay Arthur and Beth Moore not only bring crowds when they speak, but they also teach and lead thousands each day! Their spiritual leadership influences millions of people around the globe. Their successes at helping to lead people to Jesus Christ and a deeper relationship with Him is one thing that their missions heart does for so many.

    I appreciate the leadership to missions that Joy Fenner gives and encourages. It could be right that “convention” is changing and it’s not so much about meetings as it is about moving from our comfort zone and sharing the message of Jesus Christ with those next door and across the ocean.

  12. Lee says:

    According to its own Cooperative Program records, 90% of the churches in the BGCT still support the SBC through the Cooperative Program. Obviously, there are quite a few Baptist churches in the BGCT, about 4,500 of them, who are still want to partner with the BGCT and its agencies and institutions, and who want to “solely” relate to the SBC, rather than CBF. Apparently, these churches would rather not affirm the 2000 BFM, or support Criswell College, and they would also rather not support the CBF or the New Baptist Covenant, either.

    I see no reason why Texas Baptists cannot set an example for Baptists in state conventions everywhere, and respect each other, cooperating wherever we can, and allowing others to cooperate where they choose, without feeling we must dictate to them, or impose our own perspective on them. There is room in the BGCT for those who still want to cooperate with the SBC, as much as there is room for the 300 or so churches who want to cooperate with CBF.

    I did not expect that moderate Baptists, who have felt the pain of exclusion, would adopt the “my way or the highway” attitude of the fundamentalists that your tone implies.