According to Marv Knox, editor of the Baptist Standard, TBC’s chapter as a denominational political entity is closed, and the organization must now “reinvent” itself as an educational agency.
“Texas Baptists Committed must reinvent itself, as some observers hoped it would do a couple of years ago. The BGCT does not need TBC to endorse its officers or rally folks to attend meetings. But our convention and all freedom-loving Baptists need TBC to help them become all they can be. TBC—or something much like it—must become a first-rate educational organization. Baptists need to know our heritage. We need creative methods for instilling our principles in the lives of our people. And even though the heat of battle has chilled, we need wise and winsome warnings about the clear—if not imminently present—danger of fundamentalism. We also need advocacy for our mission and ministry, for our institutions, and for all the “least of these” who will not receive the gospel and experience wholeness if we do not reach them.”
I can’t disagree with the need for advocacy of our mission and ministry, for our institutions, for educating Baptists in their history and heritage, or for creative methods for instilling principles in the lives of our people. All of that sounds great, though somewhat vague and undefined, and similar to the political cliches of the past couple of decades in Baptist life. But a Baptist convention, unlike most other denominational structures, only facilitates cooperation between independent, autonomous, though “like minded” churches. That’s something that both sides have forgotten in the great Baptist controversy.
“Criticism aside, we owe a debt of gratitude to Texas Baptists Committed. Thanks to TBC, our state convention has not endured the upheaval and redirection that afflicted the national convention and many other states. Our state convention stands as a bastion for historic Baptist principles, such as soul competency, the priesthood of all believers, local church autonomy, the primacy of Jesus, and the separation of church and state. We have had Hispanic, African-American and female presidents. Thank God and TBC, our strong and vital institutions have neither fallen to fundamentalism nor forsaken our convention.”
In light of what Texas Baptists look like today, the veracity of this statement is certainly up for debate. Certainly, when TBC began its work, it did not envision a fragmented, splintered, much-reduced BGCT with an executive staff that spends much of its time pondering how it will pay the bills out of a steadily shrinking stream of Cooperative Program contributions from a slowly declining number of cooperating churches. And while those who are supportive of its efforts throw admiring glances its way, lauding its preservation of “historic Baptist principles” and the ethnic diversity of some of its officers, there are real, and unanswered questions about its commitment to historic, traditional Baptist beliefs and theology. On the other side of the line in the sand that TBC drew are Baptists whose doctrine and theology is firmly rooted in a belief that the Bible is a “perfect treasure of divine inspiration.” There are some teachings and practices in institutions and agencies of the BGCT that, in spite of protests to the contrary, have created real doubts in the minds of a significant number of Texas Baptists regarding the BGCT’s commitment to that.
“It also endorsed slates of BGCT presidents and vice presidents, who won victories every year. Their elections controlled the process for nominating board members of about 27 agencies and institutions affiliated with the state convention, plus the BGCT Executive Board. These steps rebuffed efforts to steer the BGCT in the direction of the national convention, an endeavor that succeeded in most other state conventions.”
Controlled. There is the key word in that portion of the paragraph cited above from the Standard. The end result is a BGCT which is now perceived as elitist and exclusive. The fact of the matter is that most Baptist organizations drift into the prominence and prestige game, and have some sort of tendency to become cliquish and exclusive, but the BGCT, through TBC, has made a system of Baptist royal privilege an art form. Those on the inside laud that as an accomplishment. Those who have been excluded, either through theological disagreement, or because they are not involved in prominent churches with pro-active TBC leadership, are leaving in droves and taking their CP dollars with them.
There are some critics of TBC who have said all along that they fear an eventual “merger” of some sort between TBC and the BGCT. This particular editorial, calling for the “reinvention” of TBC, linking it to the Baptist General Convention of Texas as an “educational” organization promoting the convention’s missions and ministry, and its institutions and agency, appears to be laying the groundwork for such a move to occur.