Baptist conventions have a built in system of self-preservation when it comes to making any kind of change.  The procedures for making changes in their constitutions and bylaws require advance notification at convention meetings and in most cases, two thirds votes at consecutive annual meetings in order to be implemented.  Within the process of presentation itself, there are places where those who desire to resist the changes, for whatever reason, can do so.  Generally, those who serve on the committees through which such recommendations must go are in a position to derail changes.  With that in mind, there are a couple of changes I would like to propose for the BGCT’s consideration beginning in November. 

There have been times when the constitution and bylaws of the BGCT have been altered to change the makeup of the convention’s leadership in response to criticism related to influence peddling, and entrenched, bureaucratic leadership that represents only a narrow perspective in the convention, controlled by a small group of people through personal relationships.  At some point, the executive board and trustee boards were opened up to broader representation of lay people, with a percentage of seats allocated for those who were not in vocational ministry, because of the perception that pastors were dominating the show.  I believe there is now a perception, and it can be demonstrated to be accurate with evidence, that a narrow group of individuals calls the shots in the BGCT.  In November, some proposals will be made to change bylaws and the constitution to end the ability of a small interest group to control the convention’s boards and committees and put a stop to the ability of certain people to rotate from board to board, committee to committee.  In addition, these proposals will open up the opportunity to serve the BGCT in leadership to individuals in churches all across the state. 

Amendments to the constitution will be proposed which will aim at doing the following:

1.  An amendment will be proposed which limits the number of members of any particular BGCT church serving on the boards and committees of the BGCT to one at a time.  For example, if your church has a member serving on the UMHB board of trustees, it cannot have any additional members on any other boards of any affiliated institutions, or any BGCT board. 

2.  An amendment will be proposed which limits the number of terms that any individual can serve as a member of a BGCT board or committee, or member of the board of an affiliated institution to two.  Once someone has served two terms on any BGCT related board, they are no longer eligible for service on any other board.

3.  An amendment will be proposed which prevents spouses of individuals who have served or are serving on boards from being nominated to serve on any board or committee of the BGCT or its related institutions.  This means that if your husband or wife has served their customary terms on any board, you are not eligible to serve. 

There are those who will say this won’t work, or it is not fair, or it is too restrictive, or it cannot be done.  They will likely be those who do not see a problem with a single agenda controlling the convention, or with the influence peddling and the good ole boy system that is currently in place and which, IMHO, is at least partly responsible for the perceptions which have helped create a divide in Texas Baptist life, and a drop off in financial support for the cooperative ministries that the BGCT operates.  Generally, I expect that opposition to the proposals will come from those who are in a position to benefit the most from being involved in the good ole boy system as it currently exists. 

The fact of the matter is that even though our membership figure of more than 2 million is probably not representative of our actual participation or active membership, limiting churches to one member at a time on boards and limiting individuals to two terms on any board, as well as excluding spouses of those who have served, will only broaden the leadership tent.  It would take a long, long time to exhaust the available human resources.  And it is conceivable that many of those who would be brought into leadership service couldn’t care less about being politically correct, and would actually serve the best interests of Texas Baptists and their institutions, rather than considering themselves representatives of a particular agenda. 

The benefits of such proposals to the BGCT would be immediately felt.  What better way for churches to feel connected to the state convention, and thus more willing to be supportive of it, than to have one of their members involved in its leadership.  With more than a hundred churches represented during each term of service, and new churches being added with each new nominee, the programs and emphases of the BGCT would be increasingly communicated and people wouldn’t feel, as many do now, that the state convention is out of touch with their church, or that things the BGCT does are either kept secret or sprung as surprises. 

If these kinds of constitutional changes are brought to the floor of the BGCT, and are fairly communicated to messengers, I believe the majority of Texas Baptists would welcome them.  The problem would appear to be getting the amendments through committees to the floor for a vote.  I’m hoping that there will be others who will join in to make sure that everyone has a chance to give them a fair consideration.

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About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

17 responses

  1. Ken Coffee says:

    When rules eliminate the service of your best people, you usually end up with less than the best serving on your boards. I think there are some issues that somehow must be dealt with, but these proposals are much too restrictive, in my opinion. Just suppose you used these rules in your church. What would you have? Likely less than adequate leadership.

  2. Tim Dahl says:

    I would broaden the term limits a little bit. I would also allow a spouse to be on a separate board from their husband/wife. My actions shouldn’t penalize my spouse.

    However, I would add one restriction. Only churches that solely support the BGCT as their state convention are allowed members on the BGCT Executive Board. If these people are going to be in charge, then I want their 100% support. I would hate to have a member of the EB coming from a church that has a pastor regularly denouncing the BGCT in favor of the SBTC. Notice, this restriction would only apply to the BGCT EB, not our myriad of other institutions.

    Tim

  3. Lee says:

    I don’t see this as “penalizing” anyone. I’ve seen husband/wife teams contribute to a narrowing of influence and viewpoints in the SBC. The tent needs to be broadened, and while husbands and wives do not necessarily always represent the exact same viewpoint, a wife can be an extension of a husbands influence, and vice versa.

    The BGCT is not a church. In a church, restrictions such as these might cause you to run out of individuals able to serve, but when you consider how long the terms of service are, and how many people are available in 5,700 churches affiliated with the BGCT, the fact of the matter is that these guidelines would force the committee to make a much more thorough search, rather than relying on the list of friends of a few prominent people. If you figure that there are 700,000 active church members of cooperating congregations, and with staggered terms for committee and board members generally spanning 8 years, in 100 years you would need to nominate and elect fewer than 1,400 people.

    The current system, with its favor granting, influence peddling and rotating trustees and committee members is the biggest obstacle to getting the best people for the job that we have. The effect of the “good ole boy” system in place now is a sort of “inbreeding,” where only individuals who share the ideology and perspective of those who hold the power are allowed in, and thus, you don’t get people who serve because of their abilities or talents, but because of who they know with the influence to put them on a board. The quality of those in service would only improve with a broadening of the tent.

    The BGCT leadership has loudly proclaimed that a church is independent and autonomous, and that affiliations with other Baptist bodies, no matter who they are, do not affect a church’s cooperative status with the BGCT. This was obviously done to protect churches who are CBF affiliated, but not connected to the SBC, but sauce for the goose, etc., demands that dually affiliated SBTC churches not be relegated to second class status, either.

  4. Colby Evans says:

    From my observation, the “best” people are not serving on denominational boards and committees precisely for the reason that Lee indicates here. The people who populate those boards and committees are there not because they’ve demonstrated any kind of outstanding ability or expertise in their field, but because they know someone who has the power to put them there. And generally, what they have shown is support for a particular individual or a particular agenda, and they’ve been willing to suck up to whomever necessary in order to get the appointment. Very few of the “best” people have either the time or the patience for that kind of garbage. The power brokers generally don’t want the brightest and best people on those committees and boards because they think for themselves, have a high level of creativity and energy, don’t take well to predetermined agendas and they also have the ability to outshine and outperform the power brokers. Convention boards are full of “yes” men. Those of us in Texas know the name of the power broker and his influence peddlers who controls the executive board and thus the trustee and committee appointments. The “best” are blocked from service. But then, IMHO, they are probably more effective serving where they are than wasting their time on a dying organization that is rapidly becoming irrelevant.

  5. Todd Pylant says:

    I like the proposals, and while they are restrictive, I still agree with them. To say that the best Texas baptists have to offer all come from the same few churches is fairly offensive to the thousands of unrepresented churches.

    I, too, think that to limit the membership of any board to baptists from baptist churches who lay aside the historical baptist principle of freedom of association is to fill the board with people who are unbaptist.

    So, what is the process to get these ideas to the floor of the annual meeting? Or, will they simply be referred to the EB like the name change motion last year? Any more referring and refusing to let the people who took the time to gather together to make a decision, and the gathering will just get smaller and smaller.

  6. Tim Dahl says:

    Common fallacy often spoken:

    That the SBTC is in some way comparable to the CBF. To say that is mistaken is an understatement. Often, it is an outright lie to do damage to the BGCT and CBF. If there is any comparison, it could be between the SBC and CBF, since both are national in scope. However, there are significant differences to give that little credence as well. The SBTC is in direct opposition to the BGCT, not even remotely willing to partner in Kingdom business. However, the CBF is truly willing to be a partner with any Kingdom oriented, Christ centered group willing to partner with them.
    Lee, I love you, but you are wrong in your comparison, and thus your argument against an EB free of SBTC influence peddling.

    Tim

  7. Lee says:

    Tim,
    It has been the BGCT leadership which has made the argument that they are not concerned with the affiliations of any of their churches except their BGCT affiliation and that any other affiliations are the business of independent, autonomous churches and not the BGCT. Though that is far from what is now put in practice, the BGCT has no say in what decisions a local church makes with regard to its business. If the BGCT restricts the members of dually affiliated SBCT churches from any of its boards or committees, then it should also have the integrity to return their Cooperative Program gifts and refuse to accept any additional money from them.

    As to your statement that CBF is “truly willing” to be a partner with any Kingdom oriented, Christ centered group willing to partner with them, we might make that part of another discussion at another time, but my observation of CBF has been that it is more exclusive, restrictive and protective with regard to both its partnerships and its leadership than either the SBC or the SBTC. I can share some personal experiences as examples of that.

    Todd,
    In attempting to bring a motion in Amarillo a couple of years ago, related to the BGCT’s participation in the Jimmy Carter initiative, I encountered a run-around that would make the federal government’s bureaucratic head spin. From the committee on order of business to the resolutions committee, as soon as it was determined that I intended to bring a motion that the establishment would not favor, I began to run into cotton padded stone walls. I expect that will be the case this time around. So I have put it here on the blog where I know there are some convention-active BGCT pastors and church leaders who are regular readers. Since the convention will be in Houston, I intend to write it up in a letter and send it to local pastors and church leaders and see if that generates some support, and perhaps, gets some messengers to the convention.

  8. Todd Pylant says:

    Tim,
    I think your “CBF Rose Colored Glasses” might need a little adjustment…
    Todd

  9. wackypreacher says:

    I agree with the idea of not allowing anyone serving on the EB whose church is dually aligned.

    It is some of those within the SBTC who have “collected” new churches by “slamming” the BGCT. Not once have I seen any “slamming” as it were from those within the BGCT leadership.

    Even recently I heard some “lies” spread about the BGCT in order to “collect”new churches.

    So limiting the EB to only BGCT affiliated churches is a good idea.

  10. Observer says:

    Lee:
    There are only two state baptist conventions that have managed to maintain the historic principles of Southern Baptists which include the autonomy of churches, soul competence and freedom from creeds. These two states are Texas and Virginia. The other southern state conventions have capitulated to the top down control of the SBC. This has resulted in totally inappropriate intrusions into churches autonomous decisions as illustrated by the expulsion of a church from a state convention because the church had the temerity to call a woman to be its pastor.

    To equate the BGCT with the competing convention is ludicrous. The competing convention insists on doctrinal conformity for fellowship. The BGCT requires no allegiance to a creed and welcomes faithful baptist churches who have different approaches to ministry.

    The appointment of members to the various Boards and Committees of the BGCT is of great concern because it is recognized that these historic freedoms would be jeopardized if these boards were influenced by those who do not share a love of these freedoms. The BGCT can only ensure that Texas baptist churches remain free of top down control by maintaining Boards and Committees devoted to the preservation of church autonomy.

  11. Lee says:

    Oh, my friend Observer, if only that were so. I’d settle for that. I really would. I actually bought that argument for a long time. Reality, unfortunately, has a way of rearing its ugly head.

    You will not get much of an argument from me regarding the loss of historic Baptist principles in convention operations. If you read through this blog, you can clearly see that. We’ve not done a good job of educating our people in their Baptist heritage and we are, unfortunately, paying a price for that. The problem, though, is that in “defending” or advocating for historic Baptist principles, we cannot abandon them and utilize the methodology of those we feel have abandoned them. It is hypocritical to attempt to defend our beliefs with the same strategies we have criticized others for using because they are inconsistent with historic Baptist principles and freedoms. The freedom we are defending is lost to those who, by their own free will, have chosen not to take up our cause, or support those who lead it.

    Ultimately, however, while we may still have some who see themselves as defenders of historic Baptist principles, the fact of the matter is that our interpretation of them, and our defense of our perspective, has separated us from others who are, in fact, our brothers and sisters in Christ in the kingdom, and I will give the cause of Christ and the advance of His kingdom a much higher priority than defense of human principles related to the organization and structure of church denominations and their organizations and institutions. Those are temporal, the kingdom is eternal. Big difference there.

    I have discovered, among my Baptist brethren who lay claim to the principles of tolerance and inclusion, that there is no tolerance or inclusion if you do not share the same beliefs as they do. I guess I was a bit slow in realizing this, but for some reason, you get classified as a fundamentalist, even if you do not act on your beliefs in that way. In this regard, I have discovered that Baptist life now seems to be much more segmented and group oriented, and if you bring any kind of individual expression to the table, you are lumped with the “other side,” whomever they may be.

    I am not familiar with the BGAV, but in the BGCT, what is passed off as protection of basic, historic Baptist principles is not much more than turf protecting.

  12. […] Associate pastor of Garden Oaks Baptist Church (Houston) former 1st-VP candidate of BGCT, has proposed three major constitutional and bylaw changes for the BGCT.  Saunders plans to put forth his […]

  13. Tony says:

    Just to let you know, you will have more support for this than you might realize. From where I sit (S.E. Texas), I can see a number of pastors and church leaders who will get on board. I’ll send you a list.

  14. Observer says:

    Lee:
    It is understandable that you, and others, are frustrated because you don’t feel that your concerns have been given adequate consideration by the leadership of the BGCT. It may be that you are frustrated because you have not been asked to serve on the EB or on another board for which you have a passion. It may be that you know someone who you think would make a significant contribution to the work of the BGCT, but that person has not been asked to serve. But don’t let frustration goad you into making a very big mistake. You write that you have been reading Wade Burleson’s book about his experiences with the leadership of the SBC. Don’t discount his account. The reason that the BGCT is so protective of its boards and committees is precisely because the leadership of the SBC has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it will brook no dissent. I will guarantee you that if individuals who are supportive of the SBTC approach to convention polity ever gain a majority position on the Executive Board of the BGCT, they will open the door to the same attitudes and procedures that Burleson found to be so antithetical to historic baptist freedom.

    There really is a difference between protection and destruction even if the methods used appear, to some, to be similar.

  15. Lee says:

    There is a fine line between being protective of boards and committees, and becoming the thing from which you are controlling the boards and committees to protect against. Increasingly, in recent years, personal agendas have found their way into the Baptist building, and have contributed to erosion of the very delicate balance between the majority of BGCT churches which still remain uniquely aligned with the SBC, and the more moderate leadership of the convention. When the leader of TBC states that “we could have” gained enough votes several years ago to sever the BGCT’s ties with the SBC altogether, that is a signal that it is time for a change. So was Valleygate. So are the disturbing reports now emerging from Dallas about the interference of state convention employees and DOM’s in a church’s calling of a pastor.

    If you think about it, what I am proposing would, in fact, keep the BGCT from ever falling into the hands of any special interest or takeover group. The continuous turnover of board and committee members on an annual basis, the requirement that individuals from a whole different set of churches be enlisted to replace those who were rotating off at the end of that year, would require an intense effort on the part of the nominating committee which would itself consist of a segment of new members each year. Though there are weaknesses in any system, one set up this way would be much more difficult to commandeer.

    The messengers at the past two BGCT annual meetings have moved the convention slightly away from the position of most of its current leadership. But there is no longer a real threat from “fundamentalism” to “take over” the BGCT. Our current president was elected last year essentially because he was non-aligned, an SBC supporter, and someone who would not compromise either the cause of Christ or historic Baptist principles. In changing the rules to expand and open up the current restrictive, elitist, exclusive system, the door to a takeover will not be opened.

    BTW, just so this is clear. I have no, repeat NO personal aspirations regarding service on a BGCT board or committee. None. Nada. I would not make such proposals and then sit back and expect to be nominated. And I want to make sure that is on the record.

    Here’s a previous blog post with further explanation: https://deepintheheart.wordpress.com/2008/08/30/new-names-and-faces-needed-for-bgcts-future/

  16. spiritualsamurai says:

    Lee,

    You are scaring the daylights out of them. If what you propose passes, they will lose much of their power.

    Bless you brother and get ready for the bashing. You are threatening their privileged status.

    I was not going to Houston, but I may if you can get this on the agenda for a vote. I have been told they are already trying to figure out how to prevent that.

  17. Greg Alford says:

    Lee,

    I have been on a blog sabbatical for the last four or five months…

    But when I read your proposed amendments I just had to drop you a note and say that; Regardless of how your ideas are received by the Career Bureaucrats, and Convention Elitist, your proposal to extend the opportunity to participate in the leadership of the BGCT to “ALL” member churches of the BGCT is both wise and noble…

    However, it must be said that Southern Baptist are not always known for their wisdom or nobility… as seen when many Southern Baptist opposed the Civil-Rights movement which won Black Americans the right to vote, or those who opposed the Woman’s Suffrage movement that won Women the right to vote… Not all Southern Baptist are very interested in granting every Southern Baptist church the right to vote.

    With that said, I like your proposals… Actually, I would go as far as to say that every member church should be guarantied a seat on the various Boards as a privilege/right of membership. Let’s say there are a total of 250 board seats in the convention… The first year simply select 250 churches at random and let each church send it’s representative to one of the Boards… Next year take the first 250 churches out of the pool of churches that are eligible and select another 250… repeat the process until every church in the Convention has had the opportunity to participate. It may take 20 years for every church to have its opportunity, but I see nothing wrong with that at all… it’s a lot better than never getting a seat at the table, which is what most churches now have.

    Anyway, I hope your proposals pass… and I hope more State Conventions follow your example… Perhaps this is something the SBC will seriously consider… it just might help stem the flow of young Southern Baptist who are abandoning the Convention in droves? It sure can’t hurt in that respect.

    Grace Always,