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.