Analyzing the Vote
Did people vote against Joy Fenner because they objected to a woman serving as BGCT president? Bruce Prescott, of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, attributes the high vote total for David Lowrie to the fact that there are “pockets” of people in the BGCT who wouldn’t accept her leadership because she is a woman. Ken Camp, of the Baptist Standard, attributed the closeness of the race to a growing disatisfaction in the BGCT with the current administration, and consequently as a vote against the TBC endorsed candidate because of their association with that administration. So the question is really about how much of a factor would the issue of female leadership be in the vote total.
I think there is too much overlap to really judge the difference. Most of those who would tend to be against a woman serving in that position would also be among those not aligned with TBC and who were disatisfied with the current BGCT administration. I don’t think the issue was significant enough to have produced enough votes to make a difference. On the other hand, the panhandle and West Texas have a lot of TBC congregations, many of whom sent multiple messengers. Influential churches like FBC Amarillo and SBC Lubbock, which are known to be TBC supporters, joined in with other like minded West Texans to help elect Joy, the TBC endorsed candidate. And the more moderate messengers tend to be, the less it would matter that a female candidate might be elected.
I think the bottom line in the 840 votes that David Lowrie got was the result of his candidacy to bring the convention back to the center. Discontent with an administration that has made some financial misjudgements may have raised the stakes just a bit. TBC is seen as being supportive of that administration, and as being highly influential in selecting the current E.D. and ExBoard members. More than 3,000 BGCT congregations, when given a choice regarding their world missions support, choose the Southern Baptist Convention. There is growing discontent among the churches at the coolness of the relationship between the BGCT and the SBC, and they do not see it as being all the fault of the SBC. They are right about that. On the other hand, that gives Joy some opportunities to build some bridges, be her own president, and reach out to a growing group of churches who are leaving the BGCT, either officially, or by simply dropping out in apathy.
It took me 11 1/2 hours to drive to Amarillo, and 11 1/2 hours to drive home. I could have flown, I suppose, but the discount fares were limited. But I didn’t mind. Amarillo turned out to be a great convention city. I did not stay in one of the convention-approved hotels, but I was still less than 5 minutes from the convention hall. There was plenty of free parking, no rush hour traffic, and the convention center in Amarillo is very nice. I was especially surprised to find out we used it without charge. There are plenty of good restaurants, the food is tasty, the service fast, and there was no wait for a table.
The convention will now go to Ft. Worth, then Houston, then McAllen for the first time. McAllen also offered a nice convention facility at no charge. Those decisions are wise stewardship.
There is a search committee charged with the responsibility of finding a new executive director. They have a big job requiring all of us to pray for them. In light of the current condition of the BGCT, this selection will be a crucial choice. Playing politics is out of the question, if the BGCT wants to remain viable and relevant. The search committee needs to see the reality of the situation without the spin. Look at the message of David Lowrie’s campaign and pay careful attention to it, because David’s support likely came from a lot more individual churches than Joy’s did. Consider that when choosing the next executive director.
Heavy handed, orchestrated business sessions like the one Tuesday morning, which are designed to squelch dissent and discussion, will get discussed and voted on later, at home, when the churches whose members felt disenfranchised and cut off or intimidated, are deciding their annual budgets. We have already lost churches as a result, two that I was informed about today. If that doesn’t change, layoffs in the Baptist building will become a regular occurence. We can no longer just talk about how fair we are being to all constituencies in the BGCT, we will now actually have to be fair. We will have to be inclusive. Talking about doing your best in keeping people from rotating from one board to another, and eliminating clusters of members of the same churches on the boards and committees will not be enough. A real effort with evidence will have to be made to be genuinely inclusive. Politics will have to give way to an emphasis on Kingdom work.
Joy Fenner was the endorsed candidate of Texas Baptists Committted. She ran on a platform that appealed to the Baptist affinity for missions. There’s no doubt about her love for that. When she was on the platform, leading the prayer for missions, flanked by the two Venezuelan Baptist leaders, her love for missions was very clear. But she also has the opportunity to be a uniter, and a healer. If she will pay careful attention to the issues that David Lowrie raised, and reach out to those who feel disenfranchised, moving beyond the self imposed denominational political boundaries that we have drawn for ourselves, she can go a long way toward helping Texas Baptists make Kingdom work a priority, instead of worrying about how many more Baptist building staff will be laid off in the next budget.