The BGCT Executive Board will meet Tuesday with the election of Dr. Randel Everett as Executive Director on the agenda, among other things. It is an important event in the life of the BGCT, because of the leadership provided by the executive director, related to the vision and direction of the state convention and how it works with the churches. This particular executive director will have a full plate from the very beginning, with the effects of a downturn in income caused by both low interest on investments and a drop off in giving. There are still leftovers from the church planting funds scandal in the Rio Grande Valley, dubbed as “Valleygate” that will have to be resolved as well. And he will come to the Baptist Building in Dallas at a time when some are questioning the continued role of Texas Baptists Committed in convention politics, and are hoping for a more open attitude toward what appears to be a significant majority of churches in the BGCT that remain uniquely aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Everett will have my prayer support.
Things are certainly much quieter this time around, than they were when Dr. Charles Wade was named by the last executive director search committee. That was one of those “straws” that broke the camel’s back in the wake of the SBC controversy, ultimately leading to the departure of over 1,000 churches from the BGCT, and the dual affiliation of several hundred others with the newly formed SBTC. After several years of moderate Baptist organization succeeded in blocking the efforts of fundamentalists to control the BGCT, the selection of someone who had been so visible in those efforts as executive director was one of several events cited by churches who were exercising their option to leave the convention. In choosing Dr. Everett, the search committee avoided someone with a record of “partisan denominational activism.” That much can be discerned from his record.
There are those who see his involvement with CBF as a red flag of sorts, and those are legitimate questions. I believe it is always healthy to ask questions, especially when these kinds of decisions are being made. Questions like that asked by the pastor from Groves, about the makeup of the committee, deserve to be answered. There isn’t any reason not to be open. I would like to have seen the Standard, or one of the Baptist press organizations ask Dr. Everett about his theological beliefs, his involvement with the CBF and BWA, and how he feels about working with SBC affiliated churches in the BGCT who are expressing a desire for smoother, better cooperation with the national body in the future. I think those are things that we need to know, and knowing them might put a lot of fears to rest.
I’m not sure that Dr. Everett’s CBF connection is going to be a problem for the SBC supporters in the BGCT. There are only a handful of CBF-supporting churches that have left the SBC. In fact, most churches that support the CBF do so as a courtesy to some of their members who wish to have that giving option open to them, but still give most of their missions money and support to the SBC. The “core group” within the organization that has given CBF is image on various issues is small. Dr. Everett has pastored two CBF-supporting churches, both of which also still support the SBC. I understand why this causes concern, and long for the day when the alphabet soup of Baptist life won’t carry those images and perceptions any more, but I don’t think there is anything to worry about here.
This particular search committee broke up into small groups and held listening sessions all over the state of Texas to ask Baptists what they wanted to see in their next executive director. I missed the session that was held in Houston, and drove to Waco to attend one. There were about a dozen people there, the committee stayed as long as there was conversation, and I definitely expressed my views, as did just about everyone else. I would have thought that, with a decision as important as this one, the crowd would have been larger, especially considering how many BGCT churches there are within an easy drive of Waco. Turnouts were similar in other places, including the big cities. That’s a sign of a bigger problem in the BGCT than Valleygate, or the domination of a search committee by CBF, or declining giving.
There is one guaranteed method to have a voice in the BGCT. Get elected as a messenger from your church and go to the convention. Perhaps someday, in a world of modern technology, it will become much more convenient, practical, and economical than it is now, but it is still the way to become involved. Make sure your church sends its full complement of messengers. Apathy is the biggest problem we face. If you use your Cooperative Program money as a means of effecting change, it will wind up hurting people who are involved in a meaningful ministry and who can’t do anything about the politics.