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 deepintheheart2009@gmail.com.  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.

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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.

8 responses

  1. Ken Coffee says:

    Having been in a position to see how committes have functioned and how lay people have served, I cannot and will not support these proposals. They seem to me to be based on certain perceptions that may or may not be true. These proposals will not serve to make things better and very well could make things worse. I don’t know who these people are who have been “rewarded” with executive positions because of their work in the political trenches. If the reference is to the Associate Executive Director, whoever thought this up is misinformed. Steve was selected for his job because he had been a servant to the convention and its institutions for many years. As a pastor he led his church toward strong support of the traditional Cooperative Program. If that is deemed to be wrong by some, then so be it. I choose to believe he was chosen because he was the best man for the job at this particular time. I find it somewhat disconcerting that such bold suggestions for changing our convention come from one who readily admits that his church continues to reduce its support to the convention. What is wrong with this picture?

  2. Lee says:

    Our church hasn’t reduced its Cooperative Program giving by a dime. The BGCT opened the door to allow churches to count everything they give, and determine their own split, along with who they wanted to split it with several years ago. The reason behind that was to allow churches to give either to CBF, or to give it all to the BGCT and still count it as CP giving, but if they are going to allow churches to do that, then to complain about it when churches exercise the option is hypocritical. There is nothing wrong with that picture. As far as the BGCT is concerned, my church is still uniquely affiliated, still gives financial support and as such, is as entitled as any other church in the convention to elect messengers, or have one of its messengers move for reforming the constitution and bylaws. The only reason there would be a problem with that would be if money is the bottom line. The BGCT continues to insist that is not the case, at least, that’s what its leaders say. Ken seems to be suggesting something else.

    I did not name any individual in alluding to the many emails I have received on this subject since I first blogged about the proposed constitutional and bylaw amendments. Most people who are active in convention life are smart enough, and have enough information, to draw their own conclusions without being told. If you want to put Steve Vernon’s name in that category, it might be fair to point out that he is a TBC insider, one of its long time and loyal board members and supporters, one of the individuals they named for office, and his parliamentary maneuvering in Amarillo to squelch a motion from the floor calling for a vote of no-confidence in the executive board is on the record. To be fair, all of that should be considered part of the package. “Leading his church toward strong support of the traditional Cooperative Program” is a synonym for “he got his church to give a lot of money to the BGCT.” It seems that would prove my point as much as anything else. Is there a level of financial support for the BGCT which becomes an automatic qualification for an executive level position? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

    BTW, my church gives 12% of its undesignated receipts through the “traditional” Cooperative Program. Does that not qualify us to have a voice in the convention?

    The BGCT has already instituted term limits on trustee seats, board seats and committee memberships. In addition, it has amended the constitution to require a certain number of positions be occupied by laypersons. Limiting the number of individuals from any given church who can serve at a time, and limiting the number of terms of service in a lifetime is simply an extended interpretation of limits that the convention has already seen fit to apply. I do not see what purpose is served by having individuals who move from one committee to another, or from one board to another, or why, with a claimed box score of 5,700 affiliated churches, that a dozen members of a select few need to be serving at the same time unless there is a political agenda involved. As a church staff member, I cannot figure out how pastors and church leaders have the time to serve multiple terms on multiple boards, and still get their work done.

    The only thing that should matter to the BGCT, in measuring the loyalty of its affiliated churches, is their support for the BGCT. Other affiliations are irrelevant in an organization made up of independent, autonomous churches. The BGCT leadership arguments in favor of their CBF and BWA alliances are hot and heavy. Why do they not want to accord the same privilege to churches that are SBC affiliated, or dually affiliated with the SBTC? They want to gripe and harp at churches for not giving enough, yet they do not want to correct the problems that have led to churches reducing their giving, or to finding another way to give altogether. If the BGCT wants a future, it needs to start listening. The “love it or leave it attitude” is only going to encourage more churches to leave it. They’ve lost over 2,000 in a decade, and the picture in which something is wrong is the one in which the only thing the BGCT has to celebrate is the fact that they only lost 100 churches last quarter.

  3. Ken Coffee says:

    Lee, you are parsing ideas here. You yourself have said that your lay people looked at the BGCT budget and made the decision to send less money for the BGCT and more to the SBC. And, yes, it is true that you did not mention Steve Vernon by name, but what other executive has been hired other than Randel Everett, who came from out of state. While I am not a supporter or member of TBC, the fact that Vernon was a board member there does not bother me. I guarantee you he is not promoting their agenda, whatever that may be. I served with him on the board of one of our universities. I know him to be an individual capable of making up his own mind.

  4. Colby Evans says:

    If the goal here is to help the convention involve younger people, so that it has some kind of future, then a lot more will have to be done than simply revising the bylaws for leadership selection and participation. When churches and church organizations like conventions become institutionalized, they tend to do things for the purpose of preserving themselves. I’d say that the reason young people avoid the BGCT (and if you look around at who fills the seats at the annual meeting, you’ll see that there are few people left under 55 years of age) is not just because some good ole boys are hogging the leadership positions, although that is a symptom of institutionalization. It’s an organization layered with tradition, burning up energy and resources just to maintain the organizational structure itself, and it lacks purpose-driven motivation. In short, it’s a time consuming, expensive bore. Put a few efficiency experts to work and you could streamline the operation, do three times the work with less than half of the organization and structure, and save two thirds of the expenses. Of course, you might have to cut Bubba’s job, and sell the fancy executive office suite on Washington Ave. and you’d have to network rather than headquarter the various ministries, but that’s what it would take. Instead of saying things can’t be done, or we’ve never done it that way, or criticizing every new idea that comes along, or trying to punish people who don’t fit the old ideas of “loyalty,” getting out of the traditional box will be a necessity, that is, if you want the organization to be around in 2030 and to be effective.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for doing this. It is desperately needed. You’ve pointed out the number of individuals from certain churches on boards and committees, and some individuals on more than one committee at a time. That can be verified. But there will be resistance. David Lowrie will be the moderator, but they are already looking for a way to make sure this doesn’t happen. I’ll be praying. And I will be there.

  6. Lee says:

    I fail to see how opening up the committees of the BGCT to a wider variety of its constituents will “make things worse.” The way things are now, a heirarchy has been created with a few people always serving, and fewer churches represented in the convention’s leadership, which has led to a narrow perspective with regard to progress. If the intention is to leave the impression that money equals loyalty in Baptist convention life, then the BGCT has done a great job with that. Otherwise, I see no purpose in having multiple members of the same church serving in convention leadership.

    More than any other state Baptist convention, the BGCT has suffered massive losses of cooperating churches because it wouldn’t listen and respond to the needs of its constituents. In its zeal to “protect” its institutions and agencies from “the fundamentalists,” it excluded many others and limited the ability of churches to engage in cooperative ministry, at least as much as some of its leaders criticized the fundamentalists and accused them of doing. What will the future of the convention and its agencies and institutions look like if it continues to lose churches and Cooperative Program giving as it has over the past decade? They’ve been saved from “fundamentalism” at what cost? Their existence? Keep up the exclusion, the rotating, recycled board members and committee members, and see what happens.

  7. Possum says:

    Nice try, Lee. But the Texas Baptist Committed Sycophant brigade will join with the We’ve-never-done-it-that-way-before geezers and defeat your proposals.

  8. Rock says:

    It’s too late to propose these things for the BGCT. The momentum among Texas Baptists will swing to the SBTC, and the BGCT will continue to lose its churches. It is inevitable.