The main item of business on today’s agenda at the BGCT annual meeting was a motion made by the Future Focus Committee to change the name of the Baptist General Convention of Texas to the Texas Baptist Convention. The committee on convention business recommended that this motion be referred to the executive board. Steven Hatfield, co-chair of the FFC, made the comment that the committee was willing to go along with this recommendation. The executive board will then communicate with the FFC as it continues to make progress, particularly with regard to this issue.
Referral is normally a parliamentary tactic used to keep a body from voting on a particular motion for some reason or another. I left somewhat baffled by this particular move, since the motion came from a special committee authorized by the convention to bring motions related to the subject matter of their work, which in this case is a “future focus.” The committee decided to bring this motion and had a reasonable rationale for doing so. And it’s not like there wasn’t plenty of time for a discussion, since we were dismissed in prayer an hour before the program called for it. I thought Andy Pittman did an excellent job of laying out the committee’s reasoning, not only for the name change, but in explaining the reason for their existence and some of the problems that prompted the motion to create the committee in the first place. If that is the direction the committee is going, then they are right on track. So the sudden disappearance of the motion into the foggy depths of the executive board is a mystery. I can’t even venture a second guess as to why. The committee seemed agreeable, so the recommendation passed.
During the many Baptist conventions I’ve attended over the years, the referral of motions to the executive board is a common practice. Even in the SBC, a large number of motions from the floor are referred, reported back at the next convention, and never seen or heard of again. The BGCT just approved the second reading of an executive board motion designed to undo the parliamentary disaster that occurred just two conventions back when Michael Bell overruled David Montoya by claiming that the executive board reserved certain matters for itself and could act independently of the convention. Perhaps there are others who know the people involved and the situation better than I do who can explain it.
I believe the BGCT is making a course adjustment that is vital to its survival. So much of the convention’s action over the past decade and a half has been reactionary to what has been happening in the SBC that its identity has taken the shape of being the “non-SBC” or the “anti-SBC.” Assumptions have been made that the BGCT and the SBC are so far apart as to be almost the opposite of each other. The two groups did move off in different directions and got far apart. The overwhelming number of theological conservatives and SBC supporting churches in the BGCT eventually helped grab on to the tabs that started pulling the two conventions back toward each other. The BGCT could well show its fellow Baptists that conservatives and moderates can still dwell in the same house, and live by each other’s rules, when the ministry of evangelism and discipleship is a priority over denominational political issues and control.
This year’s elections clearly show a move toward repairing the damage in the BGCT’s relationship with the SBC, and strengthening those ties. This can be done without threatening the niche that moderates have carved out for themselves in the BGCT. There are skeptics, but I think that Christians have something going for them that no one else has, and that is the indwelling Spirit of God. There seems to be a melting of the selfishness on both sides that is allowing for the relationship between them to improve, and people are catching sight of the vision. Not all theological conservatives are fundamentalists, and there are those who can be in leadership, recognize the independence and autonomy of Baptist churches and institutions, as well as individual soul freedom, and maintain ties with people who support CBF, the SBC, or the Texas Initiatives.
The convention itself is still stuck in a model that is inefficient and old fashioned. To bring it up to date will require a lot of out of the box thinking and a lot of energy, but more important, it will require reliance on the Spirit of God for leadership. Sometimes, it seems that the Holy Spirit is the element that is missing from our worship, our church work, and our conventions and institutions. We don’t have the ability, within our own strength, to accomplish this and as a result, we will always have naysayers. I believe the votes of these past two days underscore what I heard said in one of the listening sessions when the ExDir search committee was travelling around the state, and that is that the “spitting contest” with the SBC needs to end, and it doesn’t matter who quits first. The BGCT is saying that it wants the spitting contest to end, and for Baptist cooperation, once the bedrock of our relationship, to be restored. That will require the Holy Spirit to come down and dwell among us. It’s a God sized job.