David Lowrie was elected president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, receiving 53% of the vote. Lowrie’s election signals a change in the direction of the BGCT, not in a “fundamentalist” direction, but in a direction that promises to broaden the leadership on the committees and boards, and tone down the rhetoric between the BGCT and the SBC. David is the first candidate elected in several years without the endorsement of Texas Baptists Committed, the group organized by David Currie to prevent a fundamentalist takeover of the BGCT in the 1990’s.
This is David’s second bid for the same office. His church, First Baptist Church in Canyon, (for you out of staters, Canyon is a county seat college town about 15 minutes south of Amarillo in the panhandle) supports the BGCT, and is unquely aligned with the SBC. His election, as you read his own comments, signals an end to the kind of denominational political organizing that has characterized both the BGCT and the SBC over the past three decades.
Something like 4,000 of the BGCT’s 5,700 congregations are uniquely aligned with the SBC. What that means, in terms of the way the BGCT handles Cooperative Program giving, is that they choose the SBC as their world missions rather than a combination of other plans, including splitting that portion with CBF or the Texas Missions Initiatives. Many of them have expressed their feelings of disenfranchisement in recent years. Eventually, those feelings led many churches to affiliate with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. But many churches did not want to take that path, largely because they were loyal to the institutions of the BGCT. Without any kind of formal organization, those churches now have a friend in the newly elected BGCT president.
But so does everyone else. David Lowrie isn’t the product of denominational politics. His love for the BGCT, for its work, and his desire to see it make every turn it needs to make to follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership into a relevant future in which it continues to assist churches in this state accomplish their mission and purpose. He wants to see everyone working together, excited about the convention and its work, and enthusiastic about supporting it. He’s everyone’s president, and the fear that some moderates have about being kicked to the curb when conservatives are in control are unfounded in this case. David isn’t going to kick anyone to the curb, in fact, I don’t believe he would stand for anyone being kicked to the curb.
A rather interesting development in this convention meeting took place in the race for First VP. Carolyn Strickland and Ken Coffee were nominated. Carolyn is the widow of former Texas CLC director Phil Strickland, and Ken served as an executive in the Baptist Building in Dallas for many years. If there were any political overtones in this election, it was that Strickland represented the status quo and Coffee, a blogger, is an advocate for change. Strickland won by just 60 votes out of 1,400 cast, with almost 100 more ballots cast in this election than in the race for president. If this race says anything, it says that the days of organized political campaigns for convention office may be over. Strickland’s nomination was announced months ago, Coffee’s just a couple of weeks ago. The other convention officers were elected without opposition.
Dr. Randel Everett set the tone for the convention with his address this afternoon. His challenge is for the churches of the BGCT to reach every person in the state with the gospel of Jesus Christ was exactly what we need to hear. I’ve been convinced, by events of recent months, that Dr. Everett is exactly the right person for the BGCT at this time, and the changes that will be neccessary for the BGCT to turn the corner back toward being a body able to meet the challenges of remaining relevant in the future will come about largely as the result of his leadership. He has exhibited both the ability to have that kind of vision and to lead the convention to carry it out.
God has been looking out for the BGCT. Clearly, he is not finished with us yet.