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. 

Convention Locations

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. 

The Future

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. 

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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.

3 responses

  1. David Lowrie says:

    Lee,

    Thank you for your keen observations about the convention in Amarillo. I agree with you on many points. I can assure you that those who I networked with voted for me because of a desire to move us back toward the center. I honestly don’t know of one person who spoke to me that said that a woman president was the issue for them.

    I worked hard to keep my message on target. I made a few missteps along the way because I am not much of a politician.

    I did not want to hurt Joy she had done too much for our convention for her to be a victim. I know some in high places felt my actions would be divisive, but I believed deeply that this was the best way to get a healthy impression of where we stood at this crossroads in our history. The ED search committee needed to see a real live example of where we stand and I believe the message was sent loud and clear. Remember I did not spent one cent on this election. I did not have on organization behind me. I did not have newsletters promoting my message. I was a byline in most of the secular newspapers, and I feel only 60 votes short of history.

    Now it is time to pray for Executive Director Search Committee to have discernment and wisdom. It is time for us to continue to move toward each other. There may be rough water ahead, but I believe our best days are ahead for us. The new BGCT will not be what it once was, but I believe it will be a powerful force for good. I believe we will learn to lay aside the need for political strategies, and will replace them with evangelistic strategies for how to reach our state and the world.

    Lee, keep using your gift of discernment to help us keep our eyes on the ball.

    Your Friend,
    David Lowrie

  2. Lee says:

    David, I think you did a great job at keeping this focused on the issues. I’m sure there were some people who did make their decision because of Joy’s gender, but I would also bet that just as many, if not more, voted for her for that reason. That was one of the major points of her campaign.

    I was not aware until recently that you could have stepped into the limelight anyway, and that you were offered the endorsement for First V.P. The fact that you did not take that path, but had the courage to stay the course, says a lot about who you are, and adds to the weight of the credibility you already have.

    I’m already back at work. Our church is rebuilding a small groups ministry, and focusing on training our people in relational evangelism, the “walk across the room” approach. I’ll be blogging some about that as well as about World Changers, my other passion. This summer will mark the 15th year for me to participate in leading young people into this missions experience that trains them by involving them directly in hands-on missions work. From time to time, I will also blog on SBC and BGCT related issues.

    Please keep in touch. I appreciate your friendship.

  3. Tim Dahl says:

    Lee,

    I really look forward to your essays on relational evangelism and World Changers.

    Tim