The announcement that Dr. Randel Everett, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Newport News, Virginia, will be nominated to succeed Dr. Charles Wade as executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas comes about a month before the trustee meeting where he is scheduled to be elected takes place.  It leaves about a three week interim period for Dr. Daehnert to get the convention ready for his arrival. 

I’ve avoided reading the comments of other bloggers prior to writing this post.  For what it’s worth, I want this to be a “gut” reaction.

Dr. Everett is a native Texan with a lot of ministerial experience outside the state.  That’s a good combination.  There have been those, myself included, who have suggested that the search committee might look outside the boundaries of the state for a new exec, simply because being distanced from the Baptist battles in Texas would help with a fresh perspective and some genuine objectivity.  It also helps by appealing to those who feel that Texas institutions are only worthy of the native born with some kind of connection to the soil. 

I’m sure the reactions to this nomination will be varied.  Whether this choice represents a significant change from the previous administration, or that the committee was actually listening to Texas Baptists, is something that remains to be seen after Dr. Everett is elected and has had a chance to settle in and move forward.  In terms of the qualifications the committee apparently considered, the choice does not represent change at all, but incorporates virtually all of the traditional elements of previous selections.  Dr. Everett is a pastor with tenure in a number of prominent churches in several states, along with a pedigree of denominational service that includes executive board membership in three state conventions including the BGCT, membership on institutional trustee boards, convention committees, along with a stint as a guest chaplain for both houses of Congress.  His resume is comparable to that of past executive directors Dr. James Landes, Dr. William Pinson and Dr. Charles Wade.  He does have some administrative experience in an educational institution, which will be an asset. 

The emphasis on his BWA connections, along with his service in the moderate Baptist General Association of Virginia, and his current congregation’s strong ties to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, combined with the absence of virtually any mention of the Southern Baptist Convention, does send a signal.  Dr. Everett himself has an opportunity to rise above the bickering and turf protecting that has become so characteristic of Baptist denominational life, and I hope, and pray, that is the direction he decides to go.  But I am disappointed that the search committee, after hearing Texas Baptists repeatedly state their desire for selection of a leader who was not politically aligned or strongly identified with one side or the other in the Baptist battles, chose someone who is almost exclusively identified with moderate Baptist elements like the CBF, the BWA and the BGAV, while his identification with Southwestern Seminary and First Baptist Church of Dallas are far in the past, and predate the conservative resurgence.  I believe that the search committee missed a golden opportunity to restore the trust of Texas Baptists and work to restore unity in the BGCT.  I pray that Dr. Everett does not miss that same opportunity.  I hope he steps forward, puts some distance between himself and the solidly moderate organizations he has been involved in, and reaches out to those in the BGCT who feel disenfranchised and ignored.  We do not need to lose more churches.

In spite of that, I believe that all BGCT Baptists need to give Dr. Everett a chance to work toward healing and unity.  And we also need to give him a chance to try his hand at moving the BGCT toward the kind of changes it will need to make in order to stay relevant and have a future.  He will inherit an organization that is smaller than it was when he left it, and which has experienced a loss of $2 million in income in just one year, falling 7% short of a budget that had been cut back 5% from the previous year, and which is still losing churches to a rival state convention.  He will not have an easy job.  So we need to pray for him, support him, and work toward rebuilding the trust that has been lost.  He cannot be expected to go it alone, and do it all by himself. 

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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.

13 responses

  1. Kaylor says:

    Lee: This is a thoughtful post and I won’t claim to know what is best for Texas Baptists as I am so far removed. However, I will point out that it is inaccurate to claim that the BWA is moderate. Although within Southern Baptists it is the more moderates who are still willing to be part of the BWA, there are many BWA members who are very conservative (even more so than most Southern Baptists). Although this does not change your argument as far as the downplaying of SBC ties, it is an important point to note.

  2. Lee says:

    Your point is well taken, though in Texas, “moderate” Baptists are, by definition, theological conservatives who are willing to cooperate in missions and ministry over the extremes from fundamentalists to flaming liberals. Dr. Everett is not just a pastor of a church that supports belonging to the BWA, he has himself served on its commissions and committees, and his willingness to do so, for an organization that includes a significant number of “flaming liberal” Baptists, would mark him as a Moderate Baptist.

    From the early observations, at least, it appears that, while the search committee stuck with “one of their own kind,” they did not give the post as a reward for service in the Baptist War, and they chose someone who has the ability to think for himself and make his own decisions without consulting the political party line.

  3. “Dr. Everett is not just a pastor of a church that supports belonging to the BWA, he has himself served on its commissions and committees, and his willingness to do so, for an organization that includes a significant number of “flaming liberal” Baptists, would mark him as a Moderate Baptist.”

    Lee,

    I’ve got two words for you: Timothy George.

    Timothy George is neck deep in the BWA with Beeson hosting all of these Baptist-Catholic dialogues.

    And Lee, Timothy George is no Mr. Moderate. Being involved with the BWA does not make one a diehard anti-SBC kinda guy.

    I saw where someone else at another blog was concerned by Everett’s involvement with the BWA. Again, why did the BGCT join up several years back? It seems kinda silly to point to the BWA as a negative while the BGCT is still a member in good standing.

    And what exactly counts as “strong ties” to the CBF? Everett has only been at Newport News for two years. He was at Columbia in Falls Church for a LONG time. However, you didn’t mention that Columbia remains affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Having been to Columbia once before, I’d say Columbia members likely tithe a good deal of their money to the SBC. But Columbia is like many churches in the northern Virginia area; they just are not political. You’re more likely to see some of these northern Virginia guys at a Willow Creek conference than the annual meeting of the CBF or SBC.

    Don’t you think that it’s possible for a person to transcend the typical moderate-conservative labels? From what I know about Everett, he’s more of an evangelical Baptist (the David Gushee type).

  4. Lee says:

    I believe it is indeed possible for a person to transcend the typical moderate-conservative labels. I hope Dr. Everett is one of those who does, and I hope those who have been waiting to see the direction the search committee and executive board went with this choice will be patient enough to give him a chance to make his course clear.

    Columbia Baptist Church has remained affiliated with the SBC, though it is much more involved in CBF, and it is also affiliated with the BWA. The BGCT’s move to join the BWA was quite controversial, and was one of those moves that prompted the exit of several hundred churches to the SBTC. Even today, with the budget plan that the BGCT has put in place, only a couple hundred of the more than 4,500 churches uniquely affiliated with the BGCT choose the budget option that includes support for the BWA. I don’t see the BWA as being particularly identified with any theological/political perspective, since it has members across all of them, but there are many in the BGCT who see involvement with the BWA as compromise. If the BGCT’s membership came to a vote at the convention now, I wouldn’t bet on its survival.

    I’m all for giving Dr. Everett every opportunity he needs to do his job.

  5. Lee,
    We don’t know each other, but I have spent a significant amount of time with Randel Everett and in my opinion he will build bridges. More than anything else he wants to reach people and meet their needs in the name of Christ. He is endorsed by many SBC supporting leaders. Make an effort to meet him personally when you can. The executive board must act on the recommendation. Let’s all pray for them. As to myself, I am eager to bring him to Crestview Baptist in Georgetown and help people become acquainted with him if the Board approves.
    Dan Wooldridge

  6. Chuck says:

    Lee,

    I think your assessment is accurate, as our your desires and hopes for the Everett era.

    He will definitely satisfy the women-in-ordained ministry, and most other CBF, constituencies.

    I would venture to guess that Truett Seminary faculty members, who were formerly at SWBTS and University BC, Fort Worth members under Everett’s pastorate, had a major influence in this choice.

  7. Steve Dominy says:

    Chuck,

    Your guess is wrongly ventured. The only person who fits the description you offered is my dad, who retired from Truett in May. I will guarantee that he did not have a dog in this fight.

  8. rick davis says:

    Give the man a chance. I have a three month moratorium planned on commenting. That clock does not start to tick until he takes office.

  9. Chuck says:

    Steve,

    And a great Systematic Theology prof your dad was, way back when I took it.

    I was thinking of guys like Jeter Basden, administrative types as well as classroom guys.

    Maybe not just Truett, but Logsdon as well.

    I may still be all wet.

    Thanks for straightening me out.

  10. Hey Chuck,

    Get a clue. Jeter Basden has never been on the Truett faculty. There, I straightened you out too.

  11. Chuck says:

    Aaron,

    Why be testy? I think I said it might be Logsdon.

    However, it is good to see a response from you to one of my comments–even if not on your blog, where many have gone unanswered.

    Congrats on the Bears’ gigantic victory over my Aggies.

    🙂

  12. Lee says:

    Chuck,
    You’ve raised a legitimate question regarding the choice of Dr. Everett as E.D. of the BGCT. I believe it is possible for cooperation to take place on the convention, and even associational level between churches that ordain women and churches that do not. That’s an issue of local church autonomy, and a matter of interpretation. But I do not believe those who do ordain women should use the convention as a means to promote the idea, which is also an issue of local church autonomy. The fact that Everett has pastored several churches that are favorable to the practice raises the question of whether or not he will become part of an effort to continue to push it in the BGCT.

    The fact that Charles Wade was connected to CBF was one of the key issues that unleashed the firestorm of controversy eventually leading to the exit of more than 1,500 churches from the BGCT. Everett is far more “connected” in that regard than Wade was. Bringing in someone who is strongly connected to a small constituency within the BGCT is going to raise some legitimate questions. I don’t know much about him, so there are some things that will need to be answered before I commit to supporting his election.

    And no, I don’t believe that my perspective is so important that he needs to check with me, or that the executive board needs to cup their hands to their ears in E.F. Hutton fashion before I speak on the matter. There are many others in the BGCT, however, particularly among that rather silent but overwhelming majority who still support the SBC, who share similar concerns. It might be a good idea for the executive board to test the water a little bit more before proceeding.

    BTW, thought the 5 overtime win by the Bears over the Aggies was college basketball at its finest. But I was personally more impressed by Arizona’s earlier win over the Aggies, when they were ranked higher.

  13. John Doe says:

    This comment was deleted by the blog owner on January 15, 2009 at 1:28 p.m. The accusatory tone of the comment was not appropriate for the discussion, was negative in its tone, and did not offer anything constructive to the discussion. If the commentor would like to rephrase his statement, and put his name on the comment, it will be reconsidered.