There has been a lot of talk in Baptist circles in the past two or three years about the blog and the eventual potential effect bloggers may have on the way Baptists conduct their business. One of the things that blogging can do is provide some form of immediate feedback on what people might be thinking about the issues or recent events that the media simply doesn’t have the resources to cover.
In the most recent Baptist Standard, Editor Marv Knox comments on the atmosphere of the recent Baptist General Convention of Texas meeting in Amarillo. Knox says the convention messengers “behaved,” disagreed agreeably, and that the presidential contenders David Lowrie and Joy Fenner “set new standards of grace.” I certainly agree with all of that.
Knox goes on to say that there is speculation that churches will leave the convention because a woman was elected president, because they are “fed up with spoon-fed diversity” and that this is “the last straw of liberalism” and the weight that broke the backs of participation. He cites predictions that the convention will lose between $2 million and $5 million in contributions as a result.
My own short candidacy for First Vice President of the BGCT, and the fact that I am a blogger, put me in a position to see and hear reactions to the convention that I would not have had I just been there as a messenger, or even a messenger who was blogging. From the day that the announcement of my nomination appeared in the Standard, the number of hits and comments on my blog increased exponentially, as did emails from people who did not want to post a comment, but offered advice and information. I heard and read a lot.
I’ll disagree that the primary reason for the potential loss in BGCT Cooperative Program gifts is related to the election of a female president. Among a rather large number of emails and comments, that’s not really even on the radar screen. And I think the reason for that is exactly what Marv said about why electing a woman as president is not the same thing as calling a woman as a pastor. There may be a few who think that, but I don’t think it will be the reason for BGCT churches cutting their CP gifts or leaving the BGCT. There will be churches that cut their giving, and leave the BGCT, but electing a woman president will be one of the least cited reasons.
If I were to rank the top two or three reasons for the discontent that I observed, I would say that the top reason is the lack of trust associated with the Valleygate fiasco, and the unwillingness of the Executive Board to bring the discussion to the floor of the convention. The failure to do so in Amarillo, in my estimation, will not only result in churches designating CP gifts away from the BGCT, but will result in a change of direction in the election of officers beginning in Ft. Worth in 2008.
The number two reason for the discontent is what I heard aptly described as the “spitting contest with the SBC,” at one of the search committee listening sessions. David Lowrie’s candidacy was completely focused on pulling the BGCT back to the center, and to a more amiable, friendly relationship with the SBC, mainly because a huge majority of BGCT churches are uniquely aligned with the SBC and that’s what they want to do. The difference of 60 votes was remarkable, considering that Joy was backed by TBC, the BGCT administration, and that there was a large WMU rally in Amarillo the night before the convention.
The perception that the BGCT is drifting to the theological left would rank third. There are a lot of people who think that the number of CBF supporters in the BGCT administration and on the executive board is disproportionate to their numbers in the convention, and that increasing partnerships with CBF are the result of that. The enthusiastic participation of many BGCT executive board and administration members in the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant is not winning friends or influencing people.
I am not an advocate of using Cooperative Program giving as a tool to make a political point, or to express discontent with the way a Baptist convention has been operated. However, even in my own church, when budget time comes around, I will have a hard time convincing our stewardship committee not to cut their giving to the BGCT any further, simply because of the $1.5 million loss in the Valley, or because of the perception that the BGCT is drifting to the left in spite of the desire of its churches not to go in that direction. We already split our CP check with 66% going to SBC causes, and 33% going to the BGCT. And there isn’t anyone on our committee who objects to a woman serving as President of the BGCT.
Here’s the link to Marv Knox’s editorial: http://www.baptiststandard.com/postnuke/index.php?module=htmlpages&func=display&pid=7034