The effort to broaden and expand the leadership of the Baptist General Convention of Texas is moving forward. This will require two constitutional amendments and two bylaw changes, both of which will be made in the form of motions at the 2009 annual meeting in Houston.
Essentially, the constitutional amendments will come in Article VIII under Affiliated and Related Ministries, and in the Bylaws under Article VI, Nomination and Term of Service. As a result of feedback received from a number of different sources, the amendment to the constitution will be written in such a way as to not have an effect on trustee seats of related institutions, specifically the colleges and universities, whose occupants are nominated directly by the institution. This will continue to allow the schools to use those spots to include major contributors on their trustee boards. The seats nominated and elected by the convention will remain subject to the provisions of the amendment, should it pass.
Likewise, the bylaw changes are necessary to include the convention’s standing and special committees and the executive board in these provisions. There has been some discussion as to the need for a provision which prevents individuals who have served as officers of the convention, or on boards or committees, from being employed by the convention at a date subsequent to their service. Several individuals have expressed concern that executive positions at the state convention level are being used in some cases as a political reward for “service in the trenches” related to denominational politics. Several people have volunteered to look at the wording and the provisions being proposed, and how to go about including a provision to prevent this from occurring without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. At the moment, however, it would seem that the key to even getting the convention to give this consideration would be to keep the proposals simple.
The most difficult task is not writing the proposals, or even figuring out how to make sure that they are not derailed by parliamentary tactics. The most difficult task is going to be getting people to the convention to support them should they gain a hearing. It is encouraging to know that many Texas Baptists share the same concerns, and are supportive of a plan to intentionally spread the leadership around and open the convention’s leadership up to its whole constituency, instead of simply serving the concerns of a group organized around denominational politics. If you would like to help in this effort, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whatever you can do, from helping to stuff envelopes to being the contact person in your association, will be helpful.
Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of this whole thing is not the size of the task, but the expressions of futility that have come from many pastors and church leaders who have simply given up on the BGCT. They, too, will vote, though not at the convention on proposed constitutional amendments. They are already voting with their Cooperative Program dollars, and will continue to do so. There are many who are convinced that the bottom line in Baptist convention work is money, and that the only message that convention leadership will hear is the loss of financial support. That is certainly understandable, in light of the circumstances. Think about it, pray about it and if you want to give it one more try, join us.
I’ve been asked, fairly frequently, why I care. Though I was raised in a Southern Baptist church, and the Cooperative Program helped pay for my college and seminary education, it has very little to do with that now. The bottom line is that we are well past the time when, as Baptists and as Christians, we should be drawing together under the Spirit’s leadership to face the evangelistic crisis of the postmodern age. The convention structures we have created once had the making of disciples, teaching them, and sending them out to answer the Spirit’s call as their primary reason for existing. God can use them as a means to revive his church, if he so chooses, but only if all of the human ambition and manipulating get out of the way. We are well down the road to losing a second generation. Do we care about them? I hope so.