http://tree4lifetx.blogspot.com/2007/12/goodbye-bgct.html

How many of these have there been since Amarillo?  And how many more will there be?

These are good folks, and God will bless them.  It is certainly the BGCT’s loss, and while many people will pay little attention, or simply accept it as life in the convention, if a church such as this one feels it can no longer cooperate with the BGCT in missions ministry, it is an indication, and a symptom of problems in the convention.

I’m not convinced that the other convention offers a better alternative.  Frankly, I think that Baptist conventions, regardless of their perceived theological perspective, are not equipped for dealing with the inevitable changes in culture, and the changes in methods and approach required to remain relevant.  I don’t see either convention being on the cutting edge of that, and as far as doctrine goes, the 63 BFM which is the guide for the BGCT is just as conservative as the BFM 2000.  However, this particular church is sending a message that needs to be heard.  They are one church among how many?  And how many more will there be before the leadership gets the message and starts listening?

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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.

18 responses

  1. Sam says:

    Sorry Lee, after reading the preacher’s list of grievances, this just looks like one more little church who doesn’t want to cooperate with anyone that doesn’t hold to their narrow view of scripture. It’s a sorry road to start traveling down and the destination is isolation and ineffectiveness.

    44 people voted? Hardly an earth shaking moment in BGCT history.

    And to your other point concerning the state of church conventions and denominations – agreed, it appears they are all struggling to find or rediscover their relevance in this new century.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Sam,

    As a friend to the pastor and one who has heard his heart you need to stop and listen before you speak about such issues. The real statement is one of being a Baptist. It was an issue of not being heard and when he was heard, he was told his voice was not important. That is the real issue right now. When will the local church become the leader of the state and national convention rather than the conventions seeking to lead the churches. What happened to the Priesthood of the Believer?

  3. Sam says:

    I can read and that’s not what the pastor of this church wrote and said in leading his congregation out. It was about theological differences between his church and the BGCT and CBF. Mostly about women in leadership positions and other hot button issues. If it was about structural issues in the BGCT and the lack of accountability to local churches, he should have stated as much.

  4. Lee says:

    So, a church in which 44 people show up on a Sunday night isn’t important to the BGCT? Then I guess it wouldn’t be an “earth shaking” event in BGCT history if most of the churches with 44 people in the pews on a Sunday night left, huh?

    It is that attitude right there, Sam, that has caused the exodus of over 1,000 churches from the BGCT, in the last 7 years or so, and the reduction in financial support from an additional 800 who are “dually affiliated.” This church raised some concerns related to some things being taught in classrooms that their Cooperative Program money was helping to support. In my opinion, from a doctrinal perspective, they were legitimate concerns. And just because the church that raised them is a rural congregation of about 100 active members does not mean they were not worth addressing.

    I could write several lengthy articles on the SBC’s conservative resurgence, including what’s wrong with its hard line approach to reform, and finish up with a lot of good reasons why joining the SBTC will create more difficulties related to polity and control than leaving the BGCT will solve. But there are some things related to doctrinal issues and cooperation that Baptists, particularly moderate Baptists, need to deal with. Frankly, there are some non-negotiables, and moderate Baptist organizations, including the two state conventions where they still hold on to control of the leadership, tend to be soft on some issues like the authority of the Bible and the exclusivity of Christ in salvation simply to distinguish themselves from hard line fundamentalists. But it is not hard liners who make up the majority of members and pastors of churches, it is Biblical conservatives who are increasingly feeling alienated by both perspectives.

    This is one church that we know about. How many others are there that have done the same that we don’t know about? Something like 70% of the churches in the BGCT are congregations of 120 people or less. The November Cooperative Program report showed BGCT receipts down 8% from the previous month. The church counter on the SBTC website is approaching the 2,000 mark, up from about 1,800 in October. One church with 44 people in a Sunday night meeting might not be earth shaking. But two thirds of the churches in the BGCT are congregations of less than 120 on Sunday morning, which would be consistent with about 40 people on a Sunday night. Two thirds.

  5. Aaron says:

    I would like to reply here, not arrogantly or facetiously, but honestly and with humility.

    I appreciate Lee’s insight and would agree that the vast majority of churches in the BGCT are small churches. Unfortunatly those small churches are unable or inelligible, depending on your view of the good-ol’-boys-club, to be part of the direction of the convention.

    While the SBTC isn’t perfect, just like there isn’t a perfect church, the secondary question that we faced is which sends the bigger percetage of $1 to missions. In our view of seeing both pie shape budgets, the SBTC sends a much larger percentage of money to home and foriegn missions, as well as, seminaries that train missionaries, pastors, youth ministers, and educators in the SBC cooperative program (of which I’m a Southwestern student and benefit from). The BGCT budget, which cut state missions, is beginning to look more like a missions society of old than a co-op.

    This is all secondary to the doctrinal issues, which I’ve posted earlier.

    Yes, we only had 44 voting members there. But they are representative of the other 100 average that attend on Sunday morning. We aren’t the only church that feels this way. I know of a couple of pastors of churches that have over 500 in attendance that are looking to make the move.

    I pray that we could all work together again one day. But for now, it is better to live at peace, and peacefully agree to disagree.

    (I don’t write this at all vindictivly, just to further clarify and offer more info that affected what was decided.)
    In Him,
    Aaron L.

  6. Sam says:

    Perhaps I made my point too sloppily or I’m stepping into a sensitive subject (probably both). You’re reading condescension in my post where none is intended. But the leaving of one small church does not make a trend. The exodus of many small churches would be. Perhaps there are others as you say that have departed. That’s a shame because it weakens the effectiveness of both the church and convention.

    But I don’t see a softening of the ‘non-negotiables’ on the part of the BGCT. My church (and your former church) pushes the envelope on a lot of issues, but has never gotten close to crossing that line you draw in the sand. I’m skeptical of anyone of who waves the red meat of creeping liberalism because it’s tactic used unscrupulously in the past. I know you wouldn’t do that Lee; but some would and continue to do so.

    I think we would agree the list of non-negotiable items is fairly short – you list two of them and we could agree on a few more. It appears the pastor in Amarillo wants to add to that list (the role of women in the church, insisting God be seen as exclusively male, etc) and isn’t happy with a convention that doesn’t agree with his list even though the convention makes no effort to keep them from following that path, unlike other Baptist conventions. No doubt there is more to the story than his itemized breakdown posted on the internet, but that’s all I have to go by.

    The people I see involved in the state convention are honorable and Godly folks (and yes, conservative). The BGCT no doubt has plenty of issues to address and correct, but I suppose you and I will just have to disagree on the justification for churches – large or small – to separate themselves from it.

  7. Lee says:

    Regardless of what someone thinks about the validity or weight of the doctrinal concerns mentioned, and I think they were all legitimate, and worth taking the time to work out for the sake of cooperation, the BGCT leadership chose instead to preserve their own status quo rather than address the concerns raised by one small church.

    That is a clear illustration of the need for change in the BGCT that some of us have been advocating. If a change is not forthcoming, there won’t be enough left to bother about fighting for control of it.

  8. Chuck says:

    My church left the BGCT two months ago. We were a top-10 giver to the BGCT less than 10 years ago. We went dual in 2002 after the messenger-qualifying change and the defunding of SBC seminaries.

    We’ve gone straight SBTC now, with the BGCT’s New Baptist Covenant sponsorship, anti-SBC stance of elected leadership, and liberal CLC being the chief straws breaking the camel’s back.

  9. Lee says:

    I don’t mean to imply that you were being personally condescending. I care about the BGCT, and in fact, that’s why I blog about it. It seems that the tightness and exclusivity in the leadership has become involved in defensive self-preservation, and that is beginning to show in their responses and attitude. The BGCT is not a “moderate” Baptist convention, it is made up of a group of diverse churches, mostly theologically conservative, but with a disproportionate number of moderate leaders. In the first wave of departure as a result of the moderates holding onto leadership, those who left were mostly fundamentalist. Those who remained loyal to the SBC stayed in, mainly because moderate leadership, unlike their fundamentalist counterparts, doesn’t run a convention from the top down, and at least at first, included everyone.

    That has changed. The leadership core has become exclusive. And it has started acting as if only other moderates, and their interests, are important. It got sloppy, and Valleygate was the result. And it wasn’t so much that Valleygate was the problem, as it is the two years of making excuses and covering rear ends that followed. The energy of the BGCT leadership appeared to be more interested in preserving its own power than in resolving the difficulty, and as a result, made some serious public relations blunders as a result.

    With SBC supporting churches numbering 3,500 out of the 4,500 remaining BGCT congregations, and CBF churches numbering fewer than 300, it would seem the BGCT, in order to avoid further losses, perhaps significant ones, in terms of supporting churches and finances, needs to listen to its entire constituency, and not just the moderate part of it.

    Perhaps Aaron can shed some light on what their doctrinal concerns were, beyond just inerrancy or women in ministry.

  10. David Lowrie says:

    Lee,

    As you are aware I have challenge us (the BGCT) to be more inclusive in terms of our highest levels of leadership. I am not sure this message is being received. I am hoping to see some evidence from events on our horizon.

    The story of this church leaving our convention can be told 1000 times over. Dr. Wade wrote recently that the church is a “body not a bunch”. This being true points out the painful reality of our plight. Over the last seven years it appears we have cut off one of our arms. Granted some of the churches we lost were inevitable, but I suspect that the majority of the churches we lost could have been saved with more sensitivity from our top levels of leadership.

    How many churches did we lose when we expelled Southwestern from having a booth at our annual meetings? Was it worth it? How many churches did we lose when we changed the giving form? How many churches did we lose when we raised the approved budget percentages to 79/21?

    It seems from my perspective that we have fought and died on hills not worth fighting over. Our fear of fundamentalism has caused us to willingly cut away health parts of our body in an effort to cure the “cancer”.

    This does not have to be our future but we must wake up to the reality that the churches that paid the bills SBC churches. Would it be out of the realm of possibility to have a Executive Director who has a good working relationship with our loyal SBC churches, and has a broad enough Kingdom vision to embrace CBF/TBC churches. I believe this is possible. In fact I believe this will be critical if we are going to claim our future. The moderates have been quick to cast a vision, but they want churches without a voice to pay for it and to go along quietly.

    I believe it is time to speak up. We can do this together, but we need our leaders to reach out to churches who are weighing their options for the future. I personally believe our greatest threat is not our churches going to the SBTC. Our greatest threat rests with churches doing their own thing–spending their money on their own mission trips/projects, picking and choosing what institutions to support, etc…In some ways this might be healthy, but it could undermine what I believe is the greatest missionary force in Texas the BGCT.

    In my opinion it is time for us to stop accepting that we are going to lose churches and start listening to what they are trying to tell us.

    David Lowrie

  11. Aaron says:

    Lee,
    I can shed some more light on the doctrinal concerns.
    However, I have a family get together today (Sat) all day. So I may have to wait till later on, perhaps tomorrow afternoon. 😉

  12. Dylan says:

    To characterize this as a disgruntled bunch of fundies leaving because everyone else in the BGCT doesn’t accept their narrow theology is inaccurate. They were not asking the BGCT to adopt their own theological views, nor were they saying that they could not cooperate with the other churches in the BGCT because some held different views. They were simply asking that the BGCT stop attempting to push those views on the whole convention, particularly promoting the idea of women serving as pastors. And I would have to agree, if the convention’s position is “neutral” on that point, it certainly doesn’t seem like it. They also raised the issue of the convention’s continued defunding of the SBC. My own church has tackled the confusing and diffucult task of filling out the “form” to designate a 50/50 split, and then, as the BGCT kept lowering what was forwarded to the SBC, we settled on a 70/30 split, with 70 going to global missions through the SBC. The ability to do that through the BGCT, combined with the somewhat militant attitude of the SBTC, are the only two things which have kept the leaders of our church from recommending a switch. I think the BGCT leaders better wake up and smell the coffee, because I don’t think they realize how many of their churches feel the same way, and are headed toward the exit.

  13. David Lowrie says:

    Dylan,

    Thank you for sharing your church’s perspective. Our church has continued to give through the approved budget allocation of 79 BGCT/21 SBC even though it does not represent well our values. I have lead us to do this because of the dire situation the BGCT is in financially. We give a great deal to the Lottie Moon offering. In fact, it is part of our annual budget.

    What concerns me is the fact we continue to slide financially yet no significant change in attitude can be detected. It appears that some in leadership have little or no concerned about the gradual decline of our membership.

    We need a “sea change” in terms of attitude and actions. Our leadership needs to listen to our churches and take meaningful strides back toward the main body. This is not nuclear science. It is basic leadership principles. You cannot lead people who will not follow you, and you can only get them to follow you when they trust you, and trust the direction you are heading. Often being “right” does not necessitate that people follow if they do not trust you.

    David Lowrie

  14. wpburleson says:

    David,

    Forgive one from another State where there is not a dual convention situation for speaking.. but.. I do minister in Texas a lot and with churches in both Conventions and many that are dually aligned.

    I really do appreciate your thoughts here. Lee has been a blogging friend for a while now and is appreciated for his wisdom about prevailing issues. But you are new to my ears and I REALLY like what I’m hearing. I hope others hear it as well.

    I have no dog in this hunt except a desire that ANY Convention, state or national, understand it doesn’t create the held theology of the churches that make it up but is to hear and reflect the diversity of the non-salvific beliefs that will always be present in autonomous Baptist churches, regardless of size, that have mutually joined in a mission effort as a Convention. This is a lesson ANY Convention must learn and never lose IMHO.

  15. Ken Coffee says:

    “…it is only because we would rather live in peace with the brethren, than to have to constantly say “no” all the time and correct what they (BGCT)are teaching and doing.”

    It would have been helpful to hear exactly what the BGCT is teaching and doing that caused this church to have to correct it and to feel it should leave us. A whole lot of those churches that left ten years ago were accusing the BGCT of all kinds of stuff which was not true, including teaching that homosexuality is O.K., which it never did. They also claimed the BGCT allowed homosexual deacons to be ordained, which it never did. (BGCT does not ordain deacons.) The only church I know of that ordained a homosexual deacon was not allowed to come to the convention with messengers and the BGCT refused to take their money. I am just pointing out that there has been a lot of misinformation utilized in some of these churches. I know of at least one church that terminated its pastor after they invited Roger Hall (former CFO) to come to their church to tell the BGCT side and found out the pastor had lied to them to get them to leave the BGCT. That church came back to the BGCT. That being said, I agree we need to take the position that EVERY church is important. They certainly are to God.

  16. Aaron says:

    I’ve posted a more thorough answer to the question of concerns that the pastor and I have and presented to the church here at his blog that I linked in mine.
    This is what we presented the church in full. It’s easier this way than for me to attempt to post it. 🙂

    http://pastorpaul.wordpress.com/2007/11/03/the-current-state-of-the-baptist-general-convention-of-texas/

    Aaron L.
    Waves of Truth

  17. David Lowrie says:

    Aaron and Pastor Paul,

    Thank you for letting us see the concerns behind your actions. It is clear you have thought long and hard about this matter. It is far from a knee jerk reaction.

    I can identify with many of your concerns. I am leading my church to stay the course at this point. I am still hopeful for positive change in the near future. Our next Executive Director could make a significant change for good if the committee will be willing to call what Russell Dilday called “a constructive conservative”.

    I believe the main emphasis our convention needs to be on those matters that united us not those that divide us. In our effort to represent a minority position we have lost touch with the main thing that holds us together–missions, evangelism, ministry to those in need, and Christian higher eduction.

    I pray the Lord will guide you and your church as you begin this adventure of faith, but please don’t burn the bridge there could be a day when returning will be your best option.

    David Lowrie

  18. Lee says:

    Thanks, Aaron, for posting that link. I think it is important for people to see the process you went though, and that your concerns were certainly legitimate.

    Moderate Baptists have long complained over the winner take all mentality and attitude of the SBC’s conservative resurgence in using the convention to advance its own agenda, and the result has been that they have lost the cooperation and support of thousands of churches. I’ve heard the works “alienated” and “disenfranchised” tossed around now for more than 25 years. And yet, in the two state conventions where moderates retained control of the convention leadership, they seem to be following the same path of pushing their own agenda, while disenfranchising, what is in the case of the BGCT at any rate, the majority of its constituency. And it seems that, in many cases, the attitude is the same.

    I am opposed to the use of Cooperative Program money to “send a message” to an entrenched and bureaucratic body of convention leaders. However, I think it might be good for the BGCT, facing a time when they are selecting a new executive director, to remember what happened when the choice of the last one was perceived as a political slap in the face to conservatives. This particular church is not the only one that has left the BGCT since the Amarillo convention because it sensed that the leadership wasn’t listening. The way the vote comes out at convention meetings isn’t always an indication of how the churches feel, and it isn’t the only way for them to vote. That should be kept in mind as this decision, and other ones, are made.