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.

Joe Worley

Groves

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.
 

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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.

4 responses

  1. Ken Coffee says:

    “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.”

    Lee, that is on target. That is exactly how we will effect change in our convention.

  2. Sam Swart says:

    The list of search committee members was published in the Standard back in May of 2007. The pastor from Groves is just now getting around to raising a fuss – a few days before the Executive Board is expected to approve their choice? This isn’t constructive criticism, as it might have been 10 months ago. At this point it’s just whining about how the game turned out and sowing unnecessary seeds of discontent – as if Baptists can’t generate enough of that through natural means.

    TBC didn’t get as much influence as they did through slight of hand or a midnight coup. It happened out in the open through democratic means. Enough folks were concerned about what the SBC was up to and stepped up and did the hard work of building a coalition. If the number of disgruntled churches who want to tack a little more right is as high as you say, then a course correction should be fairly easy to manage. But until they step up, it’s just a bunch of griping Baptists stirring the pot.

    And finally, before we start looking for Jezebel at the State offices, let’s give Dr. Everett a chance to do his job. Give him your prayers and support. Here’s betting he does a first class job for all Texas Baptists.

  3. Lee says:

    No argument there. Although I wouldn’t quite say that everything TBC has done has been completely “out in the open,” most of it was.

    The list of search committee members was published in the Standard in May of 2007. It wasn’t the Standard, however, that pointed out that five of the committee members were also TBC board members, or that the majority attended CBF affiliated congregations. If you wanted to know that, you had to ask the questions and do the research back then. I did. But I wonder how many other people would have? It is only natural to ask those kinds of questions now, when the publicity is out on the individual who has been selected by the search committee.

    I’m not surprised there are questions now, after it has been announced that Dr. Everett is the nominee. There has been a delayed reaction. His CBF connections were not part of the publicity package. Now that those connections are known, there are going to be legitimate questions about the direction he will be taking the BGCT. Personally, I don’t think there is a whole lot to be worried about. I don’t think TBC people or CBF people have sinister motives. But in the wake of the scandals of the previous BGCT administration, and the way things were handled during that period of time, most of which has only recently been revealed, I think there will be questions about who makes these kinds of choices.

    TBC did indeed organize a coalition to keep the BGCT from being taken over by fundamentalists, and that was a good thing. But their continued domination of the BGCT will not be seen that way by most Texas Baptists, and if they are not careful, they will inspire the formation of an opposing organization to make changes. I hope Dr. Everett’s leadership makes that unnecessary.

  4. Dylan says:

    I don’t think bringing up questions about the choice of the search committee at this point is “sowing seeds of discontent.” First of all, even though the names of the search committee were released months ago, that doesn’t mean everyone in the BGCT knew who they were, or suspected that they were mostly CBF. Second, I also attended one of those listening sessions and like the one Lee attended, the overwhelming majority of those who came were from churches whose Cooperative Program money supports the BGCT and the SBC, and I heard them say, loud and clear, that they desired to see the committee choose someone who was not clearly identified with a particular theological/political interest group, and who had a record of support for the SBC. I heard two of the four committee members say that what they had heard from people in other listening sessions was similar, and they would take that into consideration. The other two were fairly silent, and non-committal, particularly when the SBC was mentioned, and made only vague, perfunctory remarks when directly addressed.

    It isn’t unreasonable to expect that there will be questions now, particularly after the choice of Randel Everett has been made. The few statements he has made, and that have been made about him are very general, typical of the things Baptist leaders always say when headed into a job like this–“We’re gonna do a better job with out mission vision, we’re gonna boost our evangelism efforts, we’re gonna try to work together better and get along, etc. etc.”

    What I want to know, and Lee has expressed it on this blog, along with a couple of other bloggers, is what Randel Everett believes, and what he is going to do to bring the BGCT back together in the wake of Valleygate and of the divisiveness that has followed those revelations, and whether or not he is going to be pro-active in positive steps to address the concerns of those who still cooperate with the SBC while rebuilding at least some of what has been lost with them in the past decade or so. I don’t know anything about the guy, and the doled-out bytes of information that have been sparsely distributed since the announcement of his selection tell me nothing. Other than obvious attempts to play down his CBF connections, I haven’t heard anything that tells me this search committee was listening to what all those Texas Baptists said in those meetings.