Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will have a booth in the exhibit hall at the Baptist General Convention of Texas this year for the first time since 2003.  Along with the SWBTS exhibit, Lifeway will be more prominently featured at this year’s convention.  Both the BGCT’s committee on convention business and Southwestern have agreed to the arrangement.

The move to exclude Southwestern from exhibits at the BGCT coincided with the election of Dr. Paige Patterson as the eighth president of the seminary.  It was the BGCT that notified the seminary it no longer qualified as an exhibitor.  According to a May 28, 2004 story in The Baptist Standard, the adoption of the BFM 2000, and the SBC’s refusal to allow Buckner to exhibit at the 1997 SBC meeting in Dallas were the reasons given for the exclusion.  John Petty (interesting last name), who was the chairman of the committee on convention business at the time said that it was the SBC’s theological statement, the BFM 2000, which was the primary reason for excluding Southwestern.

Ken Hall, who was president of the BGCT at the time, said the BGCT was in the midst of developing a “very clear statement as to who we are as Texas Baptists and how we are going to help churches and our institutions and we don’t want to be defined by the controversy anymore.” 

I applaud the current committee’s decision to reverse this policy and find a way to come to an agreement with Southwestern whereby the seminary can have a presence in the exhibit hall.  Excluding them didn’t accomplish the purpose of helping the BGCT avoid being defined by the controversy, it furthered that definition.  Southwestern is inexorably and permanently linked to the BGCT, not only historically, but in the fact that so many BGCT congregations are served by Southwestern graduates and current students, and that will continue to be the case.  It is a fact of geography.  It is also a fact that the farther down the ladder you go from the inner circles of convention leadership into the communities of people in the churches, the fewer the differences and the less the interest in “the controversy.” 

This is a small step in improving the relationship between the BGCT and the SBC, but it is a significant one.  At the very least, it shows that there are those in BGCT leadership who are listening.  This blog in particular has mentioned this specific step on more than one occasion.  I am glad to see there are those who have responded. 




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. tpylant says:

    I rejoice in this small step, too. I certainly have more concerns about SWBTS (Baptist Identity movement, the role of women in ministry, etc.), but they are part of the SBC family as are the vast majority of the churches in the BGCT. Of course, some will not see this as good news, fearing that the BGCT will become beholden to the SBC, but I think those days are long behind us.

  2. Tim Dahl says:

    Do you think that they will begin to take a more positive stance towards the BGCT on the SWBTS campus? They push the SBTC really hard. I wonder if they are going to allow the Standard back on campus as well, considering that it is the Texas Baptist newspaper of choice, or will it still be banned? They have the SBTC-Texan everywhere.

    If things stay the same on campus, then them signing the BGCT agreement of support seems rather hypocritical. But then again, stuff like this never stopped Patterson before.

    Tim Dahl

  3. Ken Coffee says:

    You know, guys, we have no control over what they do or don’t do. The only thing we can control is what we do, and whatever else happens, it was us trying to be a good neighbor to an institution that is dear to many Texas Baptists, notwithstanding our disagreements.

  4. Lee says:

    Keep in mind, it was the BGCT leadership at the time, and not Southwestern, that determined the seminary no longer met the qualifications to exhibit as a non-BGCT entity, and according to the news stories in the Standard at the time, the reasoning given was the SBC’s adoption of the BFM 2000. The fact that the seminary was allowed three year’s worth of exhibit space following its adoption of the BFM 2000, and the arbitrary manner in which the decision seems to have been made would preclude any hypocrisy on the seminary’s part in agreeing to the qualifications to exhibit in 2008.

    I was officially pronounced a “Southwesterner” by Dr. Robert Naylor at the first chapel service I attended in September of 1987, and I have a Master’s degree on my wall signed by John Newport and Russell Dilday. I am proud of both of those things, and the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that they represent. And while many of the changes that have come about there since that time, along with many of those made in the SBC, are things with which I do not agree, the bottom line is that we are all still part of the same Kingdom of God. But I also do not agree with retaliation in kind as a way of dealing with the situation. It is hard to accuse the “other side” of hypocrisy when the same tactics are employed in reacting to what they do.

    As a “Southwesterner,” I am glad to see this happen.