October is just around the corner. So far, by my count, four people have been announced as candidates for various offices in the BGCT, which will not meet until November.
Advance announcements of candidates have become commonplace. I am old enough to remember a time when nominations for these positions generally came from the floor of the convention just prior to the election being held. The politics of the past thirty years have certainly changed that. Generally, there is not much in the way of campaigning. The announcement is made, an article appears in the Standard, the nominee’s friends make some phone calls and pass around some emails. They may take some folks out for coffee or do some surreptitious campaigning once the convention starts. In recent years, with Texas Baptists Committed endorsing a slate of candidates that usually ran unopposed, the outcome, and the perspective of those elected, was known in advance.
Even now, the outcome will be determined by the vote that shows up at the convention. Since most messengers are either pastors and their wives, or older adult members of churches who don’t have to worry about taking vacation time to attend the convention, those who represent a traditional perspective in the convention have an advantage. In a BGCT reduced in size by controversy, with declining Cooperative Program support and a declining number of messengers registering to do convention business each year, facing a future in a post-denominational world, that is probably not an ideal situation.
Without naming any names at this point, there are some who have been nominated for BGCT office whom I believe are too representative of the past to carry the BGCT into the future in the direction it needs to go. A Baptist pedigree, a prominent name, being well connected to influential people, are all things that weighed heavily in the past in determining Baptist leadership. But the place where the convention sits today, diminished by the theological battles of past years, seeing Cooperative Program resources decline, and facing a post-denominational paradigm shift, requires cutting edge leaders who have been educated in the kind of ministry that groups such as the BGCT will need to do to be successful in the future, and who have had some experience in that kind of ministry.
We also seem to have difficulty accepting new people into leadership roles. Check a BGCT annual, or look at news reports covering several years and you will discover that there is a very small core of leaders, many of whom rotate from board to board, committee to committee, office to office. These leaders come from a relatively small group of churches, some of which have six or seven of their members serving on boards and committees simultaneously. It is hard to admit that there is an elite, exclusive core of individuals who have their hands on the steering wheel of the convention, but that is the case. It is one reason, cited frequently, for many, many churches to simply stay away and as they do, their financial support declines as well.
It is not likely that this pattern will change in the near future. What is more likely is that the drain of cooperating churches to the rival state convention, and the decline of Cooperative Program giving among the remaining churches, will continue. There’s been talk of needed change, and even a committee formed to make it seem like something is being done, but in the long run, the status quo prevails.