The search committee is indicating that it will probably not have a candidate to name as executive director by January 1. They are, apparently, taking their time, which is good. It may well be that an interim will need to be named following Dr. Wade’s retirement, an idea which surfaced at the listening session I attended in Waco several months back, and which I believe was looked upon favorably.
I heard some good things at that listening session from the small group of Baptists who showed up. Those who came were virtually unanimous in their desire to see someone hired who would be able to move the BGCT back to a better relationship with the SBC. Letting the politics fade, renewing the focus on ministry, and recovering from the lack of trust created by Valleygate were high on the agenda. From the reports of the members of the search committee who were there, that was pretty much the same thing they heard all over the state.
There are other voices that are speaking in a different way. The messenger count at the convention meeting is down, as is the Cooperative Program giving support from the churches. The selection of a new executive director will be something many in the BGCT are watching. If it looks like things are headed for business as usual, churches will leave. Not many will move to the rival convention this time. They have made their own identity, and in so doing, have limited their attraction to most of those left in the BGCT, though perhaps those who are dually affiliated will rethink their position. But at a time when denominational structures are facing the challenge of remaining relevant, choosing an executive director who represents the system as it currently exists will be slow death. It’s already started.
The regular questions about who is qualified to be an “executive director” of a Baptist state convention are no longer relevant. If it remains a position to reward a denominational politician for his service, or a prominent pastor for his prominence, then it represents the status quo, and will result in slow death. The candidate needs to be a visionary, a missionary in the true sense of the word and not just by virtue of past experience, an individual who has the spiritual gift of administration, and a clean slate in terms of the old Baptist tangle of influence peddling and cliquishness. It needs to be someone who falls outside of the Baptist political spectrum. Trust me, those people exist, in droves, and among them are potential leaders by the hundreds.
As was pointed out so aptly at the BGCT in Amarillo, the day is coming when the “giving generation” of Baptists will pass away. We are already feeling the effects. Another decade will find us in dire straits, in terms of business as usual. The next executive director must be someone who not only understands what is coming down the road, but has some insight and vision regarding how to keep ministry support coming in, and ministries relevant and viable.
I would guess that probably eliminates most of the names on everyone’s list of possibilities. Whether those who have the power to choose are paying attention to that is anyone’s guess. For the sake of the future of the BGCT, I hope they are.