Joe Worley, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Groves, Texas, wrote a letter to the Baptist Standard noting that a majority of the members of the executive director search committee were members of churches that support CBF. It has been the subject of several blogs in recent days. For the sake of the discussion, here is the letter:
I have been a pastor of a Baptist General Convention of Texas church since 1988. Recently, I was impressed to know the names of the executive director search committee. I was curious as to the convention associations of the members. With limited but accurate research, I discovered that the majority of the members of the committee are affiliated by church or personal association with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Understandably a person or church can affiliate with whomever they wish. I do not know the search committee personally but do find it puzzling that the majority of the members who are looking for a BGCT executive director are connected to the CBF. It is apparent that their CBF affiliation was important in order for them to be on the committee. This is very disheartening to the majority of us in Texas who still understand the need to be in partnership with the fallible Southern Baptist Convention.
Did we forget that the overwhelming majority of BGCT churches are affiliated with the SBC? Have we become so out of touch with our churches in Texas to think that this does not matter anymore? Maybe I am the one who is out of touch with the “new” BGCT?
My sense is that many of us who remained with the BGCT believed that things could be turned around. Unfortunately, the continued actions of our leaders convey a much different outlook.
Well said, Joe.
I believe this was probably due more to the influence of Texas Baptists Committed than it was to the CBF churches in the BGCT. There is a lot of overlap between those two groups, which resulted in the high percentage of search committee members being CBF-connected. TBC’s network, which has developed as a result of their endorsed candidates being elected to BGCT office, is the reason why they had influence over the selection of the committee. Five of TBC’s board members were on this search committee as well. The makeup of this committee was, at least in part, due to a decade of TBC’s endorsements of BGCT officers with appointive powers. Those who chose the search committee used their TBC connections to appoint people they knew.
Was there a calculated move to limit the number of Texas Baptists who are still uniquely aligned with the SBC from serving on this committee? Certainly. TBC exists to keep the BGCT safe from “fundamentalism,” a threat they believe exists in the SBC. With their people in position to influence the selection of the committee members, they avoided choosing anyone they felt would open the door to fundamentalists. It was a typical denominational political move, and I think it is as simple as that. Pastor Worley observed that the CBF affiliation of the committee members was important enough for them to be selected, and I agree. Someone spent some time doing the math.
There were listening sessions. I attended one of them. In all fairness, the committee spent as much time as necessary hearing everyone. They took recommendations. At the meeting I attended, although it was a small crowd, the vast majority were from uniquely affiliated SBC churches, and most spoke up to express their view that the next executive director needed to be someone who would be willing to work with everyone, and who would not have so much denominational political baggage that he would not be disadvantaged from the start. One of the committee members insisted that turnabout was fair play, in light of what the “other side” had done, but the other three made it pretty clear that their job was far more about listening to, and acting on what they heard from Texas Baptists, which I appreciated and respected.
What Joe Worley’s letter represents here is a growing awareness on the part of that overwhelming majority of BGCT churches which remain affiliated with the “fallible” Southern Baptist Convention, that they need to become more aware of what the leadership of the BGCT is doing, and more involved in the convention itself, if it is to head in the direction they believe it needs to go. Messengers from FBC Groves, and the hundreds of other BGCT/SBC congregations will have to show up at the convention and stick around for everything between the opening and closing gavel in order to effect change. I think that’s a better way to go than to reduce your Cooperative Program giving, or join the “rival” state convention.
Texas Baptists Committed organized to keep the BGCT free from the domination of fundamentalists. It needs to remain so, and become free from the domination of any minority theological or denominational/political view. That’s not easy to do in a Baptist organization, but the point is for churches and people to find common ground on which to cooperate, not to use a convention to push their own agenda. I hope that it will not take an organization to motivate BGCT churches to participate in a movement to balance the convention’s leadership to be representative of all of its churches proportionately, and I hope that any such movement will respect the wishes of the churches that are aligned with CBF, or the SBTC, in finding ways to work together.