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

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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.

6 responses

  1. Dylan says:

    The election of a female president is not an issue for our church. The issue is that a political group originally organized to keep fundamentalists from gaining control of the BGCT has continued to operate, hanging on to control and assuming the role of protector of the current administration, which has limited the effectiveness of the executive board’s ability to keep them accountable. There is also some concern about the continued drift away from the SBC. We have some people who keep us informed, and we’ve split our CP gift, which is 10% of our total budget, 50/50. There is a lot of talk about making it 60-40 in favor of the SBC. We won’t likely leave the BGCT but we will place a higher priority on international missions. I wonder how many other churches will think about doing the same?

  2. Tmax says:

    I grew up in Texas … accepted Christ, baptized, graduated college and seminary, pastored in SBC churches in Texas.

    Over the years I have pastored in 5 states, presently retired living in NC.

    I did not realize the problems surrounding Texas Baptist. However, pride and ego do not mix in leadership positions. My prayers are with you folks in my home state.

    Just read a statement on another blog, worth reading. The comments were written by a Texas Baptist that has been serving for 70yrs. (http://aintsobad.typepad.com/)

    Sorry, did not mean to give a plug on your turf.

    Tmas

  3. Tim Dahl says:

    I was talking with someone about this issue. How big of a difference did Fenner’s gender make to those that voted against her. Obviously, it was one of the reasons that I voted for her.

    This person responded that she got no votes from the Cowboy Churches that showed up to the convention in Amarillo. He also made a comment about how they tend to be more conservative in their culture. He was assuming that due to their natural conservative tendencies that they wouldn’t want a woman as our president.

    However, I also found out from a comment posted by David Lowrie that his church has planted at least a couple of CCs. It would seem just as reasonable to suppose that people in the CCs voted for him because of his perceived devotion to the CC movement. That seems just as plausible a reason as them not voting for Fenner because she was a woman.

    Of course, we won’t have any real evidence unless there was a survey pulled of everyone on the convention floor that voted to find out the “why” behind their vote. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    Tim Dahl

  4. Lee says:

    I believe if the TBC endorsed candidate had been male, David Lowrie would be the President of the BGCT. I think a lot of people voted for Joy because she was well qualified, and because she was a woman and, like you, they thought it was time to elect one to leadership.

    The biggest statement that the churches of the BGCT have made, especially over the past three or four years, has not been through the convention itself, but through an alarming lack of participation in it. There is a combination of factors, some related to convention leadership, some related to completely unrelated circumstances, that has caused a majority of our churches, at the very least, two thirds of them, not to bother with the expense or effort of sending even one messenger to the convention.

    Frankly, I think what we all need is a good, old fashioned revival, with genuine repentance and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit without restriction, to get us moving toward the great commission again.

  5. David Lowrie says:

    Lee,

    I appreciate your analysis of the current situation facing the churches of the BGCT making decisions about next year’s budgets.

    I believe for some of our remaining “conservative” churches that Joy Fenner’s election may have been the last straw. Not so much because of Fenner herself, but as Knox put it they are tired of being “spoon fed” or educated on diversity by the TBC. I have tried to network with those I know who feel this way and remind them of our greater mission and vision, but for some of these leaders Fenner’s election was the excuse they were looking for to change their giving patterns.

    My hunch is that most of the remaining churches who reduce their CP giving will not leave the BGCT, but will rather designate their gifts to specific missions or institutions, or they will choose to use their missions dollars on their own projects. In many ways we may be moving into a day when our own institutions and missions will compete against the BGCT for CP dollars.

    I agree that the “Valleygate” situation and the more recent situation with Jon Becker has undermined the trust of many. It appears from recent revelations from Dr. Wade and others that a good faith effort has been made in recent months to address this scandal. I suspect in most cases we have done corporately all that can be done, and that we are positioned to do a much better job in the future.

    However, we still struggle with the cloud created by these incidents. Like the proverbial “white elephant” in the living room, our leadership at times has struggled with how to communicate with the greater convention what happened, what is happening, and what we are going to do differently in the future. These are delicate and complicated situations. I suspect the communication needed to be guarded, and discreet because of the nature of the issues, persons involved, and legal liabilities.

    I see positive strides being made, and my prayer is that we will be healthier and stronger in the days ahead. Dr. Wade has taken the bold step of blogging on the issues. I commend him for this step. I doubt this will be the “answer”, but it will help raise the conversation and keep those most interested better informed. We need to remember the BGCT is a living organism. Information, feedback and communication are keys to the health and vitality of our body.

    As churches make decisions about their giving I would encourage them to consider giving the BGCT a bit more time before rash judgments are made. My church will continue to give 79% to the BGCT, and 21% to the SBC this year. I would encourage others to stay the course.

    There are two big signals on the horizon that will help us know better what the future will be like. The first signal will be whom our Executive Director Search committee presents to the Executive Board as our new chosen leader. If God raises up a “centrist” leader who can wrap his arms our big, diverse family and who can call us to bold Kingdom vision for tomorrow I believe good things will be in store. It will not be the BGCT of thirty years ago, but I believe it could be a much more effective and bold expression of the body of Christ for today and tomorrow. We need to embrace new ideas and new wineskins of cooperation and missions.

    The second signal about the future will be the make up of the strategic planning committee the officers will select to look at the future of our work together. If this committee reflects well the face of the BGCT and has a strong representation of strong BGCT leaders who have healthy working relationships with the SBC then I believe our SBC churches will feel like their voices and concerns are being seriously considered. This needs to happen in my estimation.

    On a side note, the SBC took a black eye this week in my opinion because of the bizarre actions of the IMB board in relationship to Wade Burleson. When are we going to realize power and control only corrupt and drive us into corners rather than advancing the cause of the Kingdom.

    I believe the winds of positive change are still blowing. I would encourage us to stay the course and see what God is up to among us.

    David Lowrie

  6. Lee says:

    I am hoping that churches will stick around to see who is hired as executive director, and hoping that the search committee is blessed with the wisdom to see the kind of person they need to hire. There aren’t many Baptist leaders out there who can bridge the gap between Texas Baptists who want to work with the SBC, while at the same time understanding the needs of those in CBF and the Alliance. The perception has been created that the executive board and administration is disproportionately loaded with the latter, even though they represent a minority within the BGCT itself. We need someone who can draw everyone together and focus on Kingdom work, and help set aside the turf protecting.

    I will be extremely happy to see the strategic planning committee include a variety of Texas Baptists, and be made up of names of individuals we have not seen on boards or committees. I think that will go a long, long way toward restoring trust. I want to see the BGCT prosper and move forward, and it would be disheartening to see a committee made up of the same people who have their finger in every pie.