“Texas, Our Texas” is the official state song, and it is the theme of the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting November 10-11 in Ft. Worth. “Texas Hope 2010,” an initiative to encourage Baptists to share the gospel with every lost person in Texas by Easter, 2010, will also be rolled out at this convention meeting.
Joy Fenner, the first woman elected president of the BGCT, will preside at this convention. Fenner was the TBC-endorsed candidate who narrowly defeated David Lowrie of Canyon at last year’s Amarillo meeting. She has decided not to seek a second term.
At the moment, the only contested office is that of president. David Lowrie, pastor of FBC Canyon, is running once again, along with Stephen Hatfield, pastor of FBC Lewisville. There is no officially endorsed TBC candidate this year. David has a heart for the convention and the cooperative ministry that it represents, and seems committed to helping new names and faces get included in the leadership core. For that reason, he will get my vote. I think it would be a good thing if there were other individuals willing to be nominated for the other two offices, just so there is a choice.
The convention will be voting on a reduced budget of approximately $45 million. This reduction has been made necessary by a clear decline in Cooperative Program giving from the churches. Gifts have annually dropped about 3% below the previous year’s giving levels for six or seven years now. That is a greater decline than can be explained by the typical responses, and is related to a level of disatisfaction with the direction the BGCT leadership has taken with regard to its relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention. I’ve heard this expressed by church leaders in many different forums. I posted this comment on another blog recently, and I will quote it here:
“The BGCT lays out plans to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $45 million next year, and asks its cooperating churches to provide that for them. There should be a high level of accountability for that. Leadership in the BGCT has been controlled by a small group of people for years, under the banner of “protecting” the convention from “fundamentalism.” The result of that has been decreasing accountability. We are seeing the same people rotated from board to board, committee to committee, and they are from the same small group of churches. Some people are either blind to this reality, or spend a lot of time reasoning why it is either necessary, or that there is really nothing wrong with it. If that’s going to be the M.O., then don’t expect me to go to my church finance committee and ask them to continue funding your enterprise. We are not sharing a portion of our sacrificially-given offerings to help someone use their influence to get their friend a high dollar executive position in the building, or to feather their own nest for the possibility of convention employment.”
There is a future focus committee that is scheduled to report back to the convention this year. I would suggest that term limiting trustees and committee members, and limiting the number of people from any single church who can serve concurrently would be the place to start. Fresh ideas, especially the kind that lead to future vision and continued relevance for outdated convention bodies, come with new people. In a Baptist body like the BGCT, where the leadership of the Spirit and following the scripture are of the utmost importance, bringing in a horde of new people from churches that have never been represented in convention leadership can only be a good thing.
It is also time for the BGCT to give serious consideration to conducting a convention via webcast. Surely, among the 2.25 million members of our churches, there are tech gurus who have simple, cost effective answers to questions related to approaching this matter. It might improve messenger participation, which also would not be a bad thing. Executive Board meetings are already conducted electronically, so it should be relatively easy to make technology work for the convention as well.
I’m not sure how effective live blogging would be from the convention center. If you are not there, you can read comments after each day’s session here at Deep in the Heart.