The four executive director search committee members who conducted tonight’s listening session in the commons at Truett Seminary on the Baylor University campus did an outstanding job of convincing me that they are listening, and want to hear what Texas Baptists have to say about what they want to see in the next executive director. Aside from opening the session with a few instructions, and a few prompts to gather information that had not come up in the general discussion, the committee members spent most of their time with pens moving on paper, taking careful notes.
There were several themes around which the discussion centered. The issue of trust, as a result of the incidents with missions money in the Rio Grande Valley surfaced early, and was one of the main focuses. It is clear that the BGCT is going to need a leader who can rebuilt trust in the state convention and get it past the Valleygate issue. The suggestion was made that perhaps the convention could look at an intentional interim for a period of a year or two, under the leadership of someone who already has the trust of Texas Baptists in order to facilitate the healing process. This suggestion was well received.
The other issue that came to the surface rather quickly was the desire to “stop the spitting contest” with the SBC. Those present expressed a strong desire to see our denominational relationships shed their political characteristics, and re-develop along the lines for which they were originally intended, in enhancing ministry cooperation around missions. “We want to take the high road,” was one statement that was made. We’re all believers in Christ, and we’re all Baptists and we should be able to work together. And while it was acknowledged that the split which has occurred with the SBTC is probably not going to be completely reconciled, it was also mentioned that, as we look to the future, we also need to find ways to cooperate with the SBTC to make sure Texas is covered with an effective Baptist witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The theme that we are about kingdom work, and not personal kingdom building, is a very strong one.
There was also some discussion about whether the executive director needed to be an administrator or a pastor. Those present felt that the exec director needs to have a deep understanding of, and relationship with small church pastors, and also have the ability to build relationships that will help younger pastors see the value of cooperation with the state convention. Administrative ability and relational ability were high on this group’s priority list, someone who has paid their denominational “dues” and has a long Baptist pedigree was low on the list.
As a result of the issue of trust, and the desire of the four committee members present to restore that trust in the BGCT, the search committee members went out of their way to dispell the rumor that this selection has already been made. The restoration of trust in the BGCT was clearly the central theme of tonight’s meeting, and I sensed a strong desire on the part of these committee members to be pro-active in restoring trust in the BGCT. Their credibility rests on the accuracy of their insistence that this isn’t a “cut and dried” decision. I don’t believe it is.
One thing is certain. Tonight, four executive director search committee members came into the commons at Truett Seminary, and at least one person left the room feeling a whole lot better about this process, and about the future of the BGCT.