The BGCT will gather in Ft. Worth November 10 and 11 this year. I know there are a lot of factors associated with where the convention is held, but it seems that there have been a lot of Baptist gatherings in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex in recent years. Amarillo was a nice break last year. In spite of its relative isolation, and the distance out to the high plains, it is a great place for a convention. There’s plenty of close-by parking, no rush hour traffic, a very nice convention center and the weather was perfect. Ft. Worth will be a return to familiar scenes, though I have not been in the downtown area since 1989.
This will be a different BGCT gathering. Texas Baptists Committed has announced that it will not endorse a slate of officer candidates. Past decisions to do so have given the impression that convention business is a cut and dried affair, dominated by a single group. There are those who still have that impression. By backing off, especially in Randel Everett’s first year as executive director, an opportunity for reconciliation has opened up. At the very least, Dr. Everett will have a chance to get re-acquainted with Texas Baptists, and lay out his priorities for the BGCT without the shadow of a group organized as the result of a past political struggle for control.
David Lowrie, pastor of FBC Canyon, and Stephen Hatfield, pastor of FBC Lewisville, have both agreed to be nominated for President of the BGCT. David’s last run for the presidency last year, his gracious manner, his way of addressing issues and speaking out, exemplifies the kind of leadership and unity we need in the BGCT. I believe David is the right man for the job, because he has expressed a clear desire to see the BGCT come together in unity, as well as to resolve its differences with the SBC, which have been strained ever since the conservative resurgence began in 1979. I believe those are things that most churches in the BGCT would like to see as well.
It will be different because, for the first time since 2002, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will have a booth in the exhibit area of the convention. The abrupt removal of the seminary from convention exhibits for some kind of vague explanation that the BGCT “didn’t want to be defined by the controversy any more,” was an embarassment to the BGCT. This may seem like a small thing, but the agreement between the seminary and the BGCT over exhibit space is an indication that things may be warming up a bit. I hope the booth will include the traditional identification ribbons that can be attached to messenger badges, because I intend to visit the booth on the first day, and proudly wear mine.
Also welcome is the news that Ken Coffee may have been able to set up a workshop presentation regarding the relationship between the BGCT and the SBC, and what can be done to improve it. I’ll look forward to hearing more about how that might shape up. This is a relationship that I believe can thrive without anyone feeling that they must hold on to some kind of control over it. Our resources are getting tight, contributed funds and investment income are down, and the good stewardship that is part of the built-in efficiency of a missions and ministry partnership between Texas Baptists and the SBC will be beneficial to both groups. I think there are enough interested people in the churches to see to it that personal kingdom building and battles over control will not continue to cause division in this relationship.
We are God’s people, because he has redeemed us through Christ. That is the only label by which we should seek to be identified. I am hoping, and praying, that the Ft. Worth BGCT meeting will be a long, forward step toward losing the self-identifying labels and discovering that we can love each other in Christ, and work together to advance his kingdom, even though we might disagree on a few of the finer points of Biblical interpretation or social interaction.