One of the responses on the BGCT  blog related to the cutting of convention jobs suggested that if the churches would not cut their Cooperative Program giving, then these cutbacks would not have been necessary.  That statement can be taken several ways.  If it was mean to put the blame for the cutbacks on the churches that have cut their Cooperative Program giving, then I must emphatically disagree. 

First, the executive director has already stated that it is not a drop in Cooperative Program gifts that is creating the budget pinch which leads to jobs being cut, but rather a drop in investment income and a desire to be less dependent on allocated funds.  We’ve been told that there is an anticipated “slight”  increase in Cooperative Program receipts expected for 2008.  That’s either positive spin, or reality.  To admit that there might be an anticipated drop in Cooperative Program gifts from the churches might be an admission that there is a level of disatisfaction with the way finances are being handled in the convention, or that the political influences that have held on to convention control for the past decade or so are slipping.  To lay the blame at the feet of investment income says that the BGCT is doing its part and holding up its share of the expense, and that the vague and ambiguous “circumstances beyond our control” are to blame for the job losses. 

Examination of the Cooperative Program giving for this year might be a clue to determine what is reality.  Receipts are 5% below the budget, almost $1.5 million short, and 1% below the same period last year, almost $300,000 less.  You tell me what that says about reality.

I’ve been a member of a Southern Baptist church in one place or another all my life.  I know how Southern Baptists feel about the missions causes tied to the Cooperative Program.  I know that, in spite of all of the ugly politics of the past 25 or more years, that most Southern Baptist churches will continue to support their missions causes, and find ways to keep the money going to the places where it is needed most, in spite of the denominational politicians and power brokers who are building their own personal kingdoms and using the structure of the convention to their own benefit and for their own control.  Observing the reaction of Southern Baptists to the tactics and methods of the conservative resurgence in the SBC, I am convinced that the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches will not use the threat of reducing or shutting off completely their Cooperative Program support unless they feel completely disenfranchised and cut off from the democratic processes of convention operation, and there is no other recourse. 

Throwing this back in the lap of the churches, and blaming it on cuts in Cooperative Program support is nothing but a good, old fashioned guilt trip.  The churches of the BGCT have been more than generous in their Cooperative Program support, stepping up as the formation of the SBTC led to the departure, either completely or partially, of more than 1,000 churches.  The financial setbacks were not nearly as devastating as they could have been, partly because most of those who left for the SBTC weren’t big supporters of the Cooperative Program to begin with, and partly because the churches that supported the BGCT stepped up as a result of their committment to Texas Baptist causes.  They do not need to be slapped in the face now.

Get real.  The BGCT lost over $1.5 million dollars in church planting funds by writing checks to phantom churches.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter who was at fault, or how that happened, but indications are that the good old boy system of influence peddling, and getting around the rules and policies by “knowing the right people,” and by pulling strings were at fault.  The reaction and response of the BGCT administration and executive board has been at best lethargic and apathetic.  A new set of tougher policies was put into place.  The executive director, who may not have been directly involved, but whose lack of action ultimately prevented a timely investigation and the ability to recover at least some of what was lost, announced a year-long transition to retirement.  Since the original investigation occurred, more revelations of improper use of BGCT money have come out, in the same geographic region. 

In addition to that, the lame-duck executive director announced, on his own authority and without convention approval, that the BGCT would be a full supporter of and participant in the controversial New Baptist Covenant.  If you don’t see any problems with that, you are blind, deaf and mentally impaired.  It’s not the NBC itself that I have a problem with, since, like any other Baptist gathering, participating is a matter of personal conviction.  It is the apparent lack of respect for the many Baptists in the BGCT who will obviously have arguments against participation that upsets me.   It is the convention, not the executive administration or even the executive board, which holds the sole right to make this kind of decision.  In failing to do that, the executive administration of the BGCT is telling churches, “We couldn’t care less about your opinion or your feelings.”

And you want to blame those churches for cutting their Cooperative Program giving? 

If rebuilding the trust of the churches in the BGCT is going to take place, some major changes need to be made.  I’ve got some good ideas as to how to go about that, but I’ve already written enough for one day, and I’m too angry and too upset to write clearly. 

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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.

15 responses

  1. JMatthews says:

    Lee said, “I am convinced that the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches will not use the threat of reducing or shutting off completely their Cooperative Program support unless they feel completely disenfranchised and cut off from the democratic processes of convention operation, and there is no other recourse. ”

    During several of the stormiest years of the conservative resurgence in the SBC, my wife and I attended a church that was almost literally “down the street” from Lifeway (it was the Baptist Sunday School Board then) and the SBC headquarters. Our congregation was grieved on several occasions by things that the convention leadership did, but we had members who worked at both the Sunday School Board and the headquarters building who kept insisting that we did have a voice through the convention process, and that cutting our Cooperative Program giving would only hurt innocent people. When things got really bad, we began designating our CP giving. I cannot tell you how much we agonized over that process, and how we felt that it had to be done only as an absolute “last resort” because our church did indeed feel disenfranchised from the convention.

    I just want someone to explain to me how Christians, as committed to the scripture as Baptists are, can become stone deaf to the concerns of their fellow believers.

  2. David Lowrie says:

    Lee,

    Wow! I wish I made as much sense as you do when I am angry. I believe you articulated very well the feelings of many believers and churches trapped in the “middle” of this mess.

    As long as I have been a pastor the Cooperative Program budget item in the church budget was the sacred “tithe” of the church for missions. I realize CP money goes for many other things, and in our case our institutions depend greatly on our support, but CP stood for missions. The churches I served would rather cut my salary than to even consider cutting their gifts to the CP. In some ways I long for those days again.

    I believe you hit a nerve with your observation about why churches cut their giving or diverted to other causes. I believe the average BGCT church which is also probably a SBC church felt lost in the shuffle. As our convention positioned itself against the moving target of radical fundamentalism with a capital “F” it seems we lost our way or better the good things we were doing were overshadowed by our politics.

    Recently I was studying the giving records of our churches. I discovered that 1700 of our churches gave nothing last year through the BGCT. Most of these churches averaged less than 75 in Sunday School, and 61% of these churches were ethnic congregations. Granted many of them probably struggle week to week to make ends meet, but they are also the churches that the CP was designed for. Through the CP they could be part of something bigger than themselves, but for one reason or another they chose not to give.

    Just for fun, let’s visit one of these churches. This church averages 50 people and their people give an average of $10 a week per person. Their weekly income would be $500, and their annual budget would be $26,000. Let’s imagine this little church decided to give 3% to the CP next year because they truly believed our slogan “we can do more together”. So their CP gift would be $780. In the big scheme of things that is not much money at all, but now let’s see the genius of cooperation. Let’s multiply this $780 x 1700 little BGCT churches who are infected with a “big” vision to change the world. You can do the math, but it would amount to $1,326,000. I think the number speaks for itself.

    Another interesting fact, last year over 3000 BGCT churches gave through the BGCT to the SBC to a tune of $13.9 million, while slightly less than 400 BGCT churches gave through the BGCT to the CBF to a tune of $1.1 million. In terms of the dollars given it appears that SBC churches out number CBF churches 10 to 1, yet is this reality reflected in the vision and direction of our convention and its top levels of leadership?

    I was chided for my suggestion early on that I wanted to move the BGCT back toward the SBC as if I was doing something wrong, or that I was trying to let fundamentalism in through the backdoor. As I now realize I actually misspoke. What I want to do is simply to make the face of the BGCT leadership and vision to reflect the reality of who we really are. I believe the key to our future will be to learn to live in the tension between the two extremes and to lead from the “messy middle”. When you lead from the “middle” no doubt our leaders will take pot shots from both extremes, but the vast majority our churches will feel confident about the direction we are taking. I personally do not believe we can risk being too greatly influence by either extreme. I think we need to embrace the best of both worlds and living in the creative tension between them.

    In closing I have to admit I am infatuated with this dream. I don’t really know how to make it work, but I would love to see us try. I think we might amaze ourselves at what we could do together if we were led from the “messy middle”.

    Our churches are speaking in dollars and cents. It is time for us to hear the voices and to speak back to our churches in actions that they can take to the bank.

    Lee, thanks for shooting straight from your heart. Let’s enjoy the journey the next few days are going to be quite a ride. Have a great weekend and a wonderful “holy holiday” on Sunday.

    David Lowrie

  3. Lee says:

    David, I think you are exactly right.

    There are 3,000 Baptist churches in Texas that have remained committed to supporting Texas Baptist causes through the BGCT, while continuing to give their sole support to the SBC. The fact that they have remained in the BGCT, rather than jumping over to the SBTC, says something about their character and committment, and their willingness to be open to working with Baptists in the state who feel differently about their national affiliation.

    Likewise, there are 400 churches in the same organization who have chosen to work with a different national body than the SBC. They have the right to do so without any reprecussions from the state convention. The two are independent, autonomous bodies. Whether Baptist churches choose to cooperate with the SBC, CBF, both, or neither, should have no effect whatsoever on their cooperative relationship in Texas. Nor should the fact that some churches are dually affiliated with the BGCT and SBTC make a difference in their BGCT cooperation.

    The intolerant fundamentalists who couldn’t accept cooperation with churches that didn’t sell their soul to the SBC’s conservative resurgence leadership are gone. The churches left in the BGCT have demonstrated their loyalty and willingness to cooperate. Why not respect that, and instead of forcing participation in the NBC, by making a blanket decision for the whole convention, bring it to a vote. That’s what Baptists do, and that’s who we are.

  4. Greg Alford says:

    Lee,

    I really like it when you are angry…

    AMEN Brother… AMEN!

  5. Ellis Orozco says:

    Lee:

    Thanks for your thoughts on these issues. I don’t agree with everything you’ve said, but I applaud your courage and insights.

    David … Thank you for taking time to think deeply on the issues we are facing as a convention. I appreciate your passion and care for a convention that you obviously love very much. I also want to thank you for having the courage to run for office this year in Amarillo. I probably won’t vote for you (and it’s not because I’m a sycophant but because of how I feel about the substantive issues) – but I give you a standing ovation for running. From everything I have heard and read about you I absolutely believe you are doing this because of heartfelt principles and convictions … and I love that!

    I resonate with your observations on the power of the 1700 smaller churches. They are the heart and soul of our convention. I grew up in one of those small churches that gave 20% of our budget straight to the Cooperative Program. I was the pastor of one of those small churches that gave 10% of our budget straight to the Cooperative Program. So I appreciate your thoughts on that issue, and I couldn’t agree with you more.

    I disagree with your thoughts on the vision and direction of our convention and the 3000 churches that still give the traditional way (through BGCT to SBC). I disagree on two grounds:

    1. How and why churches give is extremely complex. Your analysis is flawed. Just because 3000 churches continue to give the way they have always given tells us very little about what those churches “want” in a convention. My church, for instance, is one of those 3000 churches. But if you think that we want the BGCT to move closer to the SBC you are dead wrong. We continue to give to the SBC (through the BGCT) because of our missionaries. We have two SBC international missionaries who were married in our church, and one who grew up in our church. There is no way my church is going to “abandon” them by discontinuing our giving. We hurt for them … We pray for them … we disagree with much of what has happened in the SBC … but we will continue to support our missionaries. Now … that may be right or wrong … but I’ll tell you this much … it’s not going to change any time soon.

    I have friends who pastor other churches who vehemently disagree with much about the present direction and leadership of the SBC, but continue to give the traditional way for other reasons. Some feel that there just aren’t many other options for doing missionary work in a cooperative way. I know of other churches that are simply uninformed … they have no idea what is happening at the national level (or the state level, for that matter). Others feel that it’s just too hard to change. They are not at all happy with the SBC … but that’s the way we’ve always done it … and it’s too scary to change.

    As an example, I have an elderly lady in my church who can’t stand what has happened with the SBC. She and her husband would be absolutely against the BGCT ever moving closer to the SBC relationally. YET … every Christmas she laments that “we just don’t emphasize Lottie Moon enough … We need to give more to Lottie Moon.” When I tell her “That’s fine, but you understand those monies go to the SBC International Mission Board, don’t you?” She gets this bewildered look on her face. It’s as if there’s this disconnect … she doesn’t see Lottie Moon as the same thing as the SBC. Lottie Moon is in her blood and she wants to give to it … “in spite of the idiots who are running the show.” (her words, not mine)

    I could go on and on with other cases … But I think I’ve made my point. To simply point to 3000 churches that continue to do things the way they’ve always done them and say, “See … that’s a mandate to move back towards the SBC” is flawed rationale and a uniformed, naive reading of the statistics.

    2. Leadership is much more than taking the “temperature” of the churches and going the direction of the “big middle.” (or “messy” middle, in this case).

    You said, “What I want to do is simply to make the face of the BGCT leadership and vision to reflect the reality of who we really are. I believe the key to our future will be to learn to live in the tension between the two extremes and to lead from the “messy middle.”

    I don’t believe that what you have described is leadership at all. First of all, I don’t think that your analysis of “who we really are,” is accurate (as I explained above) … but even if it is … I don’t believe that it is the task of leadership to make an organization “reflect the reality of who (they) really are.” That’s not leadership. Leadership casts a vision of what an organization should and could be and then calls the members of that organization to that compelling vision. If “living in the tension between the two extremes” is our future … then you can have it. It’s just not a compelling vision for our future.

    I don’t believe that what you have described is what a younger generation of pastors longs for. I know it’s not what I long for. There is a younger generation of pastors out there (and its growing every year) that longs for leadership that will bring a compelling vision. Those pastors and their congregations will gravitate towards a compelling vision. SBC, BGCT, SBT, TBM … yada, yada, yada … they don’t care. “Let’s move away from CBF and closer to the SBC so that we’ll be more in the middle and will bring people together” is a terrible vision. There’s absolutely nothing compelling about it. Most of the pastors I know would find it absolutely meaningless and irrelevant.

    Don’t get me wrong … it’s a nice idea … let’s all get together and sing “Kumbaya,” … we’ll feel better and we can do more together (yawn, yawn). We’ve heard it all before. It’s boring. If I’m reading you right, you want something that most young pastors simply don’t care about. Give me some greater vision. Something bigger than all the initials. If you want me to just get along with everyone else … well … that’s just not a compelling vision. It’s nice. Warm fuzzies all around. But it’s not vision.

    I don’t want to get closer to the SBC (and my church gives to the SBC). I don’t want to get closer to the CBF (and I like the CBF). I want to get closer to Jesus and I want a vision that is as big as Jesus is. I want something that is going to beckon me to rise above the “messy middle” and go beyond any convention or any fight. And I want leadership that is going to courageously call churches to go there too … to go places they don’t want to go (because it’s what’s best for them) … to change the way they give to missions (because they should) … and to change the way they think (because they desperately need to) … and to change the way they do things (because they’re dying in their tradition).

    If you want to know what I really think … I think most of those 3000 churches are still giving the way they have always given (in spite of the way they feel about the SBC), because it’s just too hard to change. Most of those 3000 churches, by the way, are plateaued or dying … because it’s just too hard to change. If they were really as madly in love with the SBC as your analysis proposed they would have already moved to the SBT. I can’t prove that … but it’s a very real possibility.

    What do you want the BGCT to be? And don’t define it in terms of SBC or CBF, or anyone else for that matter. I don’t care where the majority of the churches want to give their money or which convention they prefer. I could care less where your church sends its monies. Where does God want us to go? What does God want us to do? What great and compelling vision does God want us to embrace?

    We need leadership that is going to help us find the answers to those questions and then courageously call the churches to follow. We don’t need a leader who is going to be a mediator, trying to bring the churches to some consensus of where we can work together in the “messy middle” (how boring and lifeless is that?). We don’t need some loyalists to either extreme (on that one I agree with you) who is going to suck us back into a fight that is so old and tired and irrelevant it makes me want to scream … but that doesn’t mean we need someone who is going to be right in the middle. The middle is NOT where you find compelling vision – it’s where you find lifeless compromise and boring, colorless direction. Frankly, any leader who has stood by for the last twenty years and has taken no stand whatsoever is not the kind of leader I want to follow.

    I want a leader who is going to go beyond the tired clichés and old loyalties and inspire me to be more than I ever dreamed I could be.

    Maybe it’s too much to ask … but I’m holding my breath …

    Blessings,
    Ellis

  6. David Lowrie says:

    Ellis,

    Thank you for your thoughtful insights. I believe we agree on more about leadership than you might think. I have been a pastoral leader for over 25 years, so I don’t speak out of theory but out of a life lived in the trenches. Secondly, I earned my doctorate in the area of organizational systems, so I have studied and looked deeply at the issues of corporate unity. In fact my thesis was in this area. Most of my assignments as a pastor have been with deeply divided congregations and my job has been to lead them to health and vitality.

    I think you read my comments accurately but I would like to share the rest of my heart with you on this matter.

    Where I disagree with the current leadership is the fact that I have perceived, possibly in error, that we have been too reactionary against the SBC, and there by sending the wrong message to our loyal SBC churches. I totally understand your description of your church because that is my church. The face of the SBC to most of us is not Paige Patterson, but Lottie Moon seen in the faces of our missionaries around the world.

    With that said, look at the last ten BGCT presidents and how many have CBF ties. Look at the make up of our Executive Director Search Committee and how many have CBF ties. Look at the make up of the Executive Board and how many of them have CBF ties and then compare the percentages to how our churches give. The CBF churches represent less than 20% of our churches but have the majority of our key posts of leadership. That is what I mean when I say our leadership needs to reflect the face of our people. The churches I represent have lost their voice in the inner circles where it is obvious the decisions are being made and implemented. I am not arguing with the process. We just need to do a better job of choosing our leaders.

    Take this year as an example; Dr. Wade proposed a heartfelt difficult budget to the EB. The EB approved the budget with a 65% majority. This budget’s implementation called for the elimination of over 20 BGCT staffers. Then in less than a week and less than 30 days before the annual meeting, Dr. Wade implemented the budget by laying off the staff. So in essence the vote of the convention matters little in this matter. It makes it look like we are simply a rubber stamp. I am not in the dark on this matter. I realize he had full authority to do this. Maybe he should have laid off the staff a couple of years ago. I don’t know. The point is this: Our top levels of leadership need to reflect all of our churches if that is how we are going to do business and it does not in my opinion.

    Here is my view of leadership from the “messy middle”. The leader needs to be “a non-anxious” presence as Friedman suggests. What this means is that he or she functions in the system much like a mother or father in a household. The leader has a relationship with everyone in one way or another. So the action of the leader touches the lives of all the people. He or she needs to be able to lead but to not get drawn in emotionally to the results of his or her actions. In other words, if I set out an agenda and run into opposition I don’t take it personally I just realize I either need to do a better job of communicating, or I have those who disagree with me, or there may be a better way. The leader does not force a vision on the people, but keeps the vision in front of the people. The leader is the “steward of the vision” so it is his or her responsibility to keep the vision in front of the people and to embody the vision in his or her personal life.

    The vision is the key. I totally agree with you that a compelling vision is what we need. I can see how you read my comments and thought I was trying to appease two extremes. I don’t believe that is the answer by any stretch of imagine. I am just saying that if we lean too much to either extreme we will get distracted from our main mission.

    So what should be the vision of the BGCT? In my book, “The BGCT exists to help the churches accomplish the Great Commission in Texas and to touch the world.” The Great Commission boils down to “making disciples” of all people. The best way to make disciples in my book is healthy churches. So our task is to fill our state with healthy vibrant churches. (Note: The SBC and the CBF are national conventions so our relationships with them have little if anything to do with accomplishing our vision in Texas).

    You might suggest where do the institutions fit in this vision? Our institutions can play a vital role. Our schools turn out young vibrant Christian leaders to fill our churches. Our hospitals and children’s homes make our faith a practical reality. Buckner’s shows the world the heart of our Master and His compassion for the least of theses.

    I believe we need to be the greatest missionary force in Texas. We need to try to reach Texas like our IMB/CBF missionaries are trying to reach China. I want to see us start more churches especially ethnic churches to reach the changing face of Texas. These churches need to be started by local churches and we need to be there to help the local church do what it does best. BGCT churches start churches and the BGCT is there to help make it happen. I think it would be a realistic goal to try to have 20% of our state’s population attending (not just on the rolls) of a BGCT related church by the year 2020.

    In light of this vision to start churches, we need to put to rest this “Valleygate” scandal. Our next leader needs to take a hard look at what happened and take additional steps to restore the trust of our churches especially in light of the recent Becker scandal.

    On a side note in this area, if we are going to invest our money in a new church plant, we need to do our homework. I believe we need to being willing to say no to some who are not ready to be a church planter. We need to say no if we do background checks and discover concerns about the past of a church, or a church planter. Since we have money, we need to realize money draws people for all kinds of reasons and sometimes for the wrong reasons.

    Church planting in my books comes down to leadership. The leadership of the church planter and the leadership of the sponsor church pastor. These two men are the keys. We need to train our sponsor church pastors to help them be more effective. We need to develop ways of training our church planters. I would liken our church planters to Marines. These men need to be our very best and brightest. I have started a church from scratch and have been a sponsor pastor of a number of new churches. I have learned these hard lessons from experience and I have the scars to show for it.

    If the mission is the Great Commission then we also need to come along side our local churches to help them be their very best. Since the vast majority of our churches are small churches I believe our EB staff needs to be the best consultants money can buy for helping small churches catch a vision that small has nothing to do with neither their significance nor their health. I would encourage our staff to take the best new ideas in the Kingdom and to find ways to share these ideas with the pastors and leaders of our small churches. I would encourage our staff to listen to our small churches and find out what they need that we can provide. I would like to see regional pastor/wives retreats for the pastors of our smaller churches to give them times to fellowship and to learn together. We did this in Minnesota/Wisconsin with the help of the BGCT and it made a huge difference for the pastors and their wives. The more we can do to help our pastors and their families to be healthy the more we help our churches. I would encourage our schools to provide similar events for the pastors in their region. This would give our schools feedback from our pastors and it would help our pastors to see how their CP gifts come back to help the local church.

    I have probably already spoken to this issue, but I believe leadership means making sure that our EB, committees, and boards represent the face of our churches. I know this statement will turn some heads, but I would open the trustee positions to members of all of our churches even the dually aligned churches. In my book a BGCT church should have the opportunity for one of its members to serve our convention. A BGCT church is a church that gives to our convention. So let’s stop looking at what else they do with their money. Let’s face it, it is their money. I believe if a church gives to our convention then they are a member in good standing with our convention. Now I would draw the line on those churches that do not give. We have 1700 churches who do not give a dime.

    There are many good valuable leaders in our dually aligned churches who have been rejected because of fear. Don’t get me wrong we don’t need trouble makers in our midst but we need to stop painting people with a broad brush. Some of these laymen and women had little to do with what happened in their church. They may have fought being dually aligned, but were out flanked by their pastor. Let’s find the best people by doing our homework and put them to work.

    I believe the BGCT needs to begin now trying to get on the cutting edge of the “emerging church”. I agree totally that this next generation is fed up with our politics and pettiness. I had a young man from my church die on a bloody street in Iraq as an IMB missionary. David McDonnell went there knowing he could die there, but he went anyway. His picture stares at me every day in my office, and reminds me how high the stakes are. I believe many of our new Anglo churches need to reach this people group. I doubt many of our established churches could effectively retool themselves to reach this generation without destroying the fabric of the church. We need new “wineskins”. I would encourage that we seek our new vibrant young leaders (tattoos and ear rings and all) to help us formulate these strategic investments. I believe this new wave could be one of the most exciting things we could do.

    I would also like to see us think outside the box in terms of reaching the world. I believe Worldconnex is a great step in that direction, but I believe we can do more. The world is changing rapidly. I like what Bob Roberts is doing in Keller and around the world. I would like to get our most creative minds together and to look at ways to mobilize our people. One creative way to reach the world is through English teachers and corporate business people. I would like to find ways of training young adults on how to gain skills that are needed in “closed” parts of the world. Our colleges could do this. Then I would like to train these business leaders in how to be Kingdom leaders. I would love for the large corporations of the world to deploy our “missionaries” on their payrolls.

    I would also like for us to explore how we could help some business leaders to establish real businesses overseas that would eventually provide their livelihood, as platforms for Kingdom activities. Can you imagine the impact of “Christian” businesses in places like China, Iraq, Niger, or Vietnam?

    I realize this is suppose to be a blog not a book, but I hope you catch my heart.

    Ellis, thank you for challenging me to paint a picture of what leadership means to me. You have done me a favor. I respect the fact you will not vote for me. I know Joy will do a great job if elected.

    Sincerely,
    David Lowrie

  7. Ellis Orozco says:

    David:

    Thank you for clarifying your position and your vision. I feel much better about where you’re coming from. I can see that you have thought deeply about the future of the BGCT and feel passionately about her. Thank you for the courage to reveal your heart on that. It definitely shines through, and is quite refreshing.

    Iron sharpens iron … and you have definitely sharpened my thoughts today.

    Blessings,
    ellis

  8. David Lowrie says:

    Ellis,

    I believe I owe you the thanks. Those thoughts have been stirring in me in recent weeks and it was good to have an opportunity to express them.

    You have blessed me.

    I hope our conversation helps others to think deeply about our future. It is going to take all of us working together.

    Sincerely,
    David Lowrie

  9. Lee says:

    Ellis,
    Thank you for stopping by, reading thoroughly, and leaving your comments. Communication is the best way for us to understand each other, and listening to what others have to say, and then carefully and prayerfully responding is effective communication. Thank you for contributing to that.

    My church, too, is one of those 3,000+ which gives to the SBC’s Cooperative Program through the BGCT. Many of our members are not only well educated in Southern Baptist cooperative ministry, and have a strong desire and commitment to support missions and theological education through the SBC, but they are also aware of the conservative resurgence. The majority of them haven’t been pleased by what they see as a political ploy on the part of megachurch pastors to gain control of the denomination and generally benefit themselves by taking the high salaried denominational jobs, but they still feel that the SBC is the best way to cooperate in world missions and theological education. We’ve had some individual members who have, as a result of some of the IMB’s arbitrary and restrictive rules, chosen to serve in international missions by other means, one with Campus Crusade and one with independent support. Being with the BGCT has allowed us to designate our missions giving proportionately, and take amounts from what we used to give to the IMB to give to our own members in the field.

    The point is, though, that the convention is the churches. If there are 3,000+ BGCT congregations whose world mission giving goes solely to the SBC, and under 400 whose world missions giving goes to CBF, the convention’s leadership and operation should reflect that. The perception, however, is that some non-SBC involvement and partnering is being forced on the BGCT because the leadership isn’t on good terms with the SBC. If individuals and churches choose not to support SBC causes, that’s one thing, but to use the BGCT as a weapon against the conservative resurgence leadership in the SBC is another. I don’t think that’s what we want, and I don’t think it’s a good idea. We’ve kept fundamentalism out of the BGCT. If the SBC has a problem with that, it’s up to them to work it out, not us.

  10. Ellis Orozco says:

    Lee:

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I hear you. I really do. I’m not sure what the answers are, but I can understand why some would feel disenfranchised and under-represented.

    I think you’re right when you say that the perception “is that some non-SBC involvement and partnering is being forced on the BGCT because the leadership isn’t on good terms with the SBC.” I believe that many do feel that way. In my opinion that perception is only half-right, at best, and seriously misinformed, at worst.

    I’ll try to explain why I feel that way.

    First, the way you stated it (and I think you stated it the way most people would) shows the biased that is common among those who still cling to a notalgic love for the SBC. They assume that the problem is that the BGCT leadership is not on good terms with the SBC. Why don’t they assume that the SBC leadership isn’t on good terms with the BGCT? It’s as much that as the other (more so, in my experience). I realize that your statement probably assumed that the feelings were mutual, but it WAS directed unilaterally towards the leadership of the BGCT.

    You said, “We’ve kept fundamentalism out of the BGCT. If the SBC has a problem with that, it’s up to them to work it out, not us.” You’ve hit the core of the problem with this statement. We have kept fundamentalism out of the BGCT … and because of that … the SBC fundamentalist movement that has (by now) awarded all SBC staff positions to loyalists has an almost irrational hatred of the BGCT. I’ve seen it first hand. It may be up to them to work it out … but their NOT working it out. (I do see a glimmer of hope on the horizon with leaders like Wade Burleson and others, but the jury’s still out on how that will go.)

    I have served as the chairman of the BGCT CLC, chairman of the committee that developed the vision of the BGCT in 2000, and on the administrative committee. I have been in “high level” meetings (whatever that means) with the BGCT staff attempting partnerships with SBC staff. Most of these attempts at partnering have been over simple things (things you would think would be a “no brainer” for cooperation … like the World Hunger Offering). I have found the general attitude of the SBC staff to be condescending and arrogant, to say the least. They feel like they are bigger and stronger and more important than anyone else and if we can’t play by their rules they just won’t play with us at all. Not all of them … but most. The few things that we (BGCT) were asking for were rebuffed and there was no reason given … they just didn’t want to do it that way. No reason. I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I’m no dummy … I was given the distinct impression that they never had any intention of “partnering” with us. In most cases I feel the SBC partners with us only when it is absolutely to their advantage to do so, or when they have no other option (because they know they will lose too many churches and too much money if they don’t).

    In all my years working on BGCT committees, leadership teams, and even on staff for a year (as a T.B. Maston itern during my seminary days), under two administrations (Pinson and Wade), I have never been made to feel that way by the BGCT staff. If there is any entity that is putting up major road blocks to cooperation … it’s NOT the BGCT … it’s the SBC. They don’t want to work with us … they do it only when they have no other choice.

    The truth of the matter is that when a state has two conventions (as Texas does), but the minority convention is financially insignificant, the SBC crushes that convention by recognizing only one state convention (and not accepting money from the minor convention). That has happened in numerous states across the country. But not in Texas. In Texas, the SBC still recognizes both conventions … Why this double standard? Because they can’t afford not to recognize the BGCT as well as the SBT … the BGCT churches still give enough money to the SBC to make it unfavorable to dismiss them. But let me give you a prophetic word: The day the BGCT churches giving to the SBC drops below an acceptable limit, the SBC will stop recognizing (i.e. accepting money from) the BGCT as a state convention and will recognize only the SBT. You can count on it.

    So how do we cooperate with a sister organization like that? How do we cooperate with a sister organization that is secretly still at war with us?

    And yet, according to your rationale … we must. And I see the strength of your rationale. I just want you to know how difficult a task it is. And I want you to know that for this Texas Baptist leader … there are days when it seems impossible.

    The answer, of course, is to look to Jesus. We do it with a lot of love and forgiveness and patience and cheek-turning … but it’s not easy.

    And when the SBC refuses to cooperate with us because they don’t want to play by any rules but their own … and because they secretly want the BGCT to become less and the SBT to become more … then the BGCT staff gets blamed for “not being on good terms with the SBC.”

    You can say whatever you want about Charles Wade, but he has put up with more junk from SBC leadership than any Christian should ever have to experience. The same goes for Bill Pinson, Phil Strickland, Russell Dilday, Herb Reynolds (forget it … the list is too long).

    They are all better men than I am. You couldn’t pay me enough to be a part of that mess.

    Lee, finally … I do appreciate you. I appreciate the courage it takes to step out and speak. I also appreciate that you host a sight where I feel free to speak and feel like my ramblings will be respected and my human sinfulness will be forgiven.

    Thanks for that gift.

    Blessings,
    ellis

  11. David Lowrie says:

    Dear Ellis and Lee,

    Thank you so much for your open conversation about the serious complex matters we are facing together. I believe the fact we are having these open conversation is healthy and is a huge step toward the solution.

    Ellis, I deeply appreciate your personal insights and stories about trying to work with the SBC leadership. I believe you are shooting straight with us. I have no doubt the SBC leadership on many occasions created the conflict or poured fuel on the flames. We have lived through 25 years of suspicion, intimidation, and labeling. For the sake of the Kingdom I pray this will soon come to an end.

    I recently read Dr. Dilday’s book on what happened to him at SWBTS. It was sickening to me to see how he was treated, and dismissed. The lies, the plotting, the backroom intimidation sessions, and the cover ups sounded more like the political schemes of the republicans and democrats than Christian leaders following Jesus. Too often those who fought under the banner of protecting the Bible forgot to practice what the Bible preaches.

    However, I agree with you in see some glimmers of hope in people like Wade Burleson, Thom Rainer, and Frank Page. Let’s face it most of us stepping on the stage of leadership these days are the children of the “Baptist Civil War”. We have seen the ugly face of injustice, dissention, and division. We have seen our trust in each other eroded. We have seen the Cooperative Program dismantled by political schemes. We have seen good men and women fired in worldly ways. I believe most of us are tired of it.

    I can promise you the generation following us (I am 47 years old), has absolutely no use for it at all. Currently our church has ten IMB missionaries deployed in different parts of the world. Most of these are young adults below the age of thirty. There is not a political bone in their bodies. The only passion that beats in their hearts is a passion for Jesus that drives them to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. These young adults are the SBC to me and my church.

    As I have gotten closer to the problem in recent weeks and listened to insightful comments from new friends. I have adjusted my thinking in many ways. I want the vision and leadership of the BGCT to move back toward a more centrist position in terms of our relationship with our SBC churches (not so much the SBC convention). I have grown to understand that the important thing for us (the BGCT) is for us to recapture our momentum in terms of reaching our state and touching the world with the gospel. What happens on the national level with the SBC or CBF has little if anything to do with the challenges we face in Texas. I spoke earlier about my vision in these matters.

    I believe much of our problem is perception. This is a simple illustration but don’t stretch it too far, but I think the BGCT is like a work truck that is dented, muddy, and needs to be washed and topped off with a new coat of paint. It is a good truck. It’s engine is good. It has good tread on the tires, but outwardly it has some problems. What I mean is we have some perception problems. Much like the stock market rises and falls on the fears and confidence of our investors, many in our churches make assumptions based on sound bits. When I entered this arena I was compared to Paige Patterson by one. I am sure Paige Patterson would be offended by the comparison.

    I believe we have made some tactical mistakes that have hurt our relationship with our loyal SBC churches. I will give one illustration that concerned me personally. A couple of years ago we promoted our convention in Austin as a “Family Reunion”. That same year we denied booth space to SWBTS. I thought this was a big mistake so I contacted Dr. Wade and Dr. Reyes. I informed them of my concern and the hypocrisy of our theme. How could it be a “Family Reunion” and SWBTS not be invited. I received a call to help me to see that SWBTS was denied space due to non-support of the BGCT. I asked what does that mean. It meant that SWBTS did not allow the Baptist Standard to be freely distributed among the student body, there were no BGCT only pastors invited to speak in chapel, and that Jerry Falwell had recently spoken in chapel and had put down the BGCT publicly.

    I asked “surely there is more than this”. I was told this was the basis. In response I asked Dr. Reyes to reach out to Dr. Patterson to see if we could get this work out. I assume he did, and I am confident the conversation did not go so well. My point is this: A SWBTS booth at the convention is not a threat to us, but what I believe our actions were a threat to our relationship with our SBC churches. If non-support is the basis of booth space then I believe I could find a number of vendors who do less for us that SWBTS does. I wonder how many SWBTS students go to BGCT churches, serve as part time staff in our churches, and will one day be on staffs of our churches. I know I have one on my staff and he could care less about convention politics. Face it, most of these students were born after all this fighting began, so many of them simply don’t get it, but our message said to them in a subtle way “you are not invited to our family reunion”.

    Was that action a big deal in the big scheme of things? Absolutely not, but it fed into the impression that we were moving away from our SBC churches.

    I believe to capture tomorrow we need to repair some dents and give the truck a new paint job, but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I am convinced with the right choice for our new Executive Director and a fresh breeze of the Spirit among us that a bright clear day looms behind the storm clouds on the horizon. I believe conversations like these and lessons learned will pave the road to this new tomorrow.

    As Ellis reminded us “iron sharpens iron” let’s keep the sparks flying because something good is in the works.

    Sincerely,
    David Lowrie

  12. Lee says:

    We need to realize that there are people in the BGCT who want to support the SBC as it is, warts and all. Part of that is because of the missions enterprises. Certainly, the way the BGCT has been treated by the SBC in terms of cooperative relationships leaves something to be desired. But I do not believe that returning bad behavior in retaliation is the right thing to do. Refusing to allow Southwestern exhibit space at a BGCT meeting is petty. I’m a Southwesterner myself, and I grieve at what has happened to a school that was, for me, a personal revival experience. But I think our actions must be governed by Biblical principle, whether theirs are or not.

  13. Ellis Orozco says:

    David:

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I resonate with much of what you say.

    You said, “I can promise you the generation following us (I am 47 years old), has absolutely no use for it at all. Currently our church has ten IMB missionaries deployed in different parts of the world. Most of these are young adults below the age of thirty. There is not a political bone in their bodies. The only passion that beats in their hearts is a passion for Jesus that drives them to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. These young adults are the SBC to me and my church.”

    You are absolutely right that the generation that is under us (I’m 45) has absolutely no use for the fight. They don’t understand it, have not lived it, and could care less. Let’s not explain it to them. I don’t want to mess them up any more than what we already have.

    I’m tentatively glad that those young missionaries “are the SBC to” you and your congregation. I say “tentatively” because you understand that those young missionaries are NOT the SBC. There is a institutional leadership that will fight to protect the power that they have amassed and the fears that fuel that power. They will crush those young missionaries if it serves their purposes to do so.

    There is hope. Keep dreaming and hoping … but understand … those young missionaries you love, at this point and time, are NOT the SBC. Maybe some day they will be … I sure pray so … it will be a better convention.

    You said, “As I have gotten closer to the problem in recent weeks and listened to insightful comments from new friends. I have adjusted my thinking in many ways. I want the vision and leadership of the BGCT to move back toward a more centrist position in terms of our relationship with our SBC churches (not so much the SBC convention). I have grown to understand that the important thing for us (the BGCT) is for us to recapture our momentum in terms of reaching our state and touching the world with the gospel. What happens on the national level with the SBC or CBF has little if anything to do with the challenges we face in Texas. I spoke earlier about my vision in these matters.”

    You have risen immeasurably in my esteem (for whatever that’s worth). I agree with you and am excited about the vision that God has given you for the BGCT. Whether I vote for you or not … if you are elected you are someone I could follow.

    SWBTS at the BGCT … yeah … I never did agree with the way we handled that one. I admit that I was rather surprised when I heard about the decision. It was very much unlike what BGCT has done in the past. It was a bad call in my opinion. I would think that Patterson and others were kind of glad we went that way with it, because it really didn’t hurt them at all, and it gave them fuel to start fires with some of our churches. I wouldn’t be surprised if we lost some good churches because of that move … and what did we gain by it? I can’t think of anything.

    I like your truck analogy. Just remember … the old, beat up ones are the best!

    Lee — thanks for your response. I basically agree with you … we must take the high road.

    You said, “But I think our actions must be governed by Biblical principle, whether theirs are or not.”

    Well said! However … we do have some responsibility to a prophetic role in convention life.

    As we call our BGCT leaders to that “high road,” we must insist that the BGCT churches that are strong SBC supporters consistently and persistently call the leaders of the SBC to that same high road. If a BGCT church is going to support the SBC leadership … I don’t have a problem with that … but they must be faithful to calling BOTH sets of leaders to a godly standard of behavior.

    I may be wrong about this … but it seems like any time the SBC leaders behave badly, there’s a deafening silence from those 3000 BGCT churches that give to the SBC.

    blessings,
    ellis

  14. David Lowrie says:

    Ellis,

    Thank you for your encouragement. You too have become a voice of wisdom to my ear.

    I believe you are right about your observation about our silence on the SBC behaving badly. This is area of growth for all of us, but I am willing to explore this part of my involvement in our mission.

    I look forward to meeting you in Amarillo if we get an opportunity.

    Sincerely,
    David Lowrie

  15. JoAnn (Mrs. Lee) says:

    It grieves my heart to see my denomination in such a state. Doesn’t anybody get that we have as big of a PR problem as Enron ever did?

    I live in a county where all the children of the world reside. I can walk out my door and meet a lady in the full Muslim gear where you only see her eyes, Hispanics of every variety or Asians from China to Pakistan. In my SBC Sunday School when I learned the song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” I thought of those people being out of the US. Let’s get back to telling people about Jesus. Remember Jesus met Zaacheus in the tree right where he was.
    Be a “tree climber” for Jesus! Right now our “ad for the heavenly dad” is awful. Let’s clean things up.