Yeah, I know I said this blog was making a change in direction, but after reading the referenced editorial from Marv Knox, editor of the BGCT’s Baptist Standard, I determined to write this.

They both bury their head in the sand and think they are hiding from a real problem.

This is the opening line from the Marv Knox editorial in the Baptist Standard this week:

“Will messengers to the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting talk about the elephant in McAllen Convention Center this week?”

I have to give Marv credit for recognizing that there is an elephant in the room.  There has been one for over ten years now, and the almost 30% drop in Cooperative Program giving by the churches of the BGCT and massive drop off in messenger participation are symptoms of it.  But the official line that comes from the BGCT, including from the usually up front and brutally honest Marv Knox, misses the point and doesn’t recognize the elephant for what it really is. 

Knox says, “A decade ago, Texas Baptists engaged in a ferocious fight for Baptist principles. The BGCT was one of few state conventions to resist the ultraconservative movement that swept the Southern Baptist Convention. But now the state convention is afflicted with a malady far more pernicious than politics—acute apathy.

“That’s right. Increasingly, churches are disengaging from the convention because they just don’t care about it anymore. Many reasons exist: Some grew weary in the fight with the SBC. Some were appalled by that fight. Some have found other avenues for doing missions and ministry and equipping their churches, so they don’t need the convention the way they once did. Some are so concerned with local issues they don’t think much about partnering with others, particularly at the state level. Some don’t see the convention as supporting them, so they won’t support the convention.”

I’m writing from the perspective of having been a staff member in a church that transitioned from being uniquely affiliated with the BGCT to a unique affiliation with the SBTC during my tenure there.  This church was as mainstream and typical of the congregations in the BGCT as any other church would be, except from those “inner circle” congregations from which multiple members are drawn for convention leadership.  It was, until the early 1990’s, strongly financially supporting the BGCT.  I’m going to answer the question that is the real elephant in the room.  Why does it seem that the churches in the BGCT are apathetic, and that they don’t care anymore? 

I’ll tell you.  You can listen, or you can do what the BGCT leadership has been doing to everyone who’s mentioned it in the last decade, and beyond, you can ignore it and talk about everything else.

I’ll give you a couple of related reasons.  One is that the BGCT’s resistance and opposition to the leadership of the SBC and the direction it has gone as crossed boundaries that most churches aren’t comfortable crossing.  They’ve used their Cooperative Program allocation as a weapon in the fight, and that is probably the main reason for the freefall in giving to the BGCT.  Though many BGCT church leaders resisted the SBC dictating denominational policy to them and to the state convention, they never wanted a full separation, and they didn’t want to use missions giving for leverage to get their way. 

Texas Baptists Committed was formed, and contributed to a narrowing of the already narrow leadership in the BGCT.  Many churches felt that they had lost their voice within a convention whose leadership consolidated its power and limited the appointments to the executive board, convention committees and trustee boards to the membership of a few inner circle churches.  The BGCT is notorious for being an oligarchy, with some “prominent” churches having upwards of eight or nine members involved in convention leadership.  Some directors of missions and associational leaders, many of whom are not necessarily sympathetic to the SBC’s conservative resurgence, have complained that the broad cross section of names they have been asked to give for consideration for leadership positions has been ignored in favor of names given by a few privileged pastors of some exclusive churches.  Among the current list of nominees to be presented in McAllen this week, I found three names of individuals that are nominated for more than one place of service.  If apathy in the BGCT is the problem, it is a self-created one resulting from the exclusivity and selfishness exhibited by the TBC and the way they have controlled this aspect of convention life.  It’s hard to fight against a group of people who compromise the trust that is required in a Baptist convention system of leadership by raising money and marshalling resources to make sure that a small, elite, exclusive group of like minded individuals from a narrow group of mostly left-wing churches control everything. 

Knox says there are 5,600 churches left in the BGCT, though only about 4,000 of those have financially supported the convention during the past two years, and fewer than that have sent their annual church letter.  The vast majority of those churches, probably 95% of them, have no connection to one of the moderate Baptist groups, and have no desire to be affiliated nationally with anyone but the SBC.  But more than half of the BGCT’s executive board, committees and trustee boards come from the fewer than 300 BGCT churches which have ties to CBF.  And there are several churches which have as many as eight members serving on boards and committees.

If you want to know why so many Texas Baptists are apathetic about the BGCT, are cutting their in-state giving, and not showing up for the annual meeting, that’s why.


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.

6 responses

  1. It’s amazing how stupid and short sighted many well-educated people can act, isn’t it?

  2. SCUBA Man says:

    Hey Lee. Guess what? As I type this post I am actually sitting in a McAllen, Texas, Hotel room. It is Monday night, Nov. 8, and I am here for the 2010 BGCT annual meeting you refer to being held here this week (or is it officially called Texas Baptists now?) And guess what? As of late this afternoon, there were LESS than 800 messengers registered… and a little over 800 Guests registered. Why more guests than official BGCT church representing messengers is mysterious to me?!?

    After the debacle and low attendance in the largest city in Texas (HOUSTON) last year, peeople felt the attendnace would be low in McAllen and they are correct. It is hard to get here from other places in Texas, around the apathy of the crowd here shows very little excitement to move forward with any great ideas. It is hard for me to believe that with over 5000 BGCT churches we have only (almost) 800 messengers…. that is less than 1/7 of a person per church average. To put it another way, for every 7 churches, approx. ONE messenger is here… WOW!

    I love the BGCT, so this apathy breaks my heart. We must seek the face of God and find out what He wants us to do, because we must reach Texas for Christ as lost souls depend upon it. We must seek God’s will and the will of the TBC or any other group…. it must be God’s plan we implement. It is time for the Dog and Pony shows to cease and desist… it is time for Texas Baptists to get it together and reach our lost state for Jesus Christ. Well, I hope the next day (Tuesday) goes well for the 2010 BGCT Annual Meeting. Until then…

  3. Lee says:

    The recommendation related to finding ways to improve the attendance at the annual meeting demonstrates that either the BGCT leadership doesn’t get it, or they don’t want to admit what the real problem is. One in seven churches eligible to send messengers bothered to send one. There are probably fewer churches than that represented in the leadership. Until the leadership core expands beyond the tiny circle of churches that control it, with some congregations having as many as eight or nine of their members on boards and committees, the churches just aren’t going to be interested.

    If the entire current executive board stepped down, and a new board with new members, none of whom had ever been asked to serve in convention life was elected, that would be a good start. Trimming the executive salary portion of the budget by 50% would be another good move.

    This is an age of technology. Aside from that, many of the messengers are coming at their own expense, or the church is making a financial contribution out of tithes and offerings to get them there. There’s no excuse now not to have some kind of on-line or video teleconference kind of meeting, so that a trip to El Paso, Amarillo or McAllen doesn’t determine whether a church participates or not.

  4. anonymous says:

    Looking at the proposals they voted on to help generate more attendance at the annual meeting, one great suggestion would relate to the choice of speakers. The convention president gets a slot, and the exec director gets one. Maybe that’s enough. The “annual sermon” slot always goes to some liberal, left winger. The convention hall empties out pretty quick in the five minutes or so before the speaker gets up there. Bring in someone who is going to preach from a Biblical text instead of some academic who is going to cite references to other academics and go around in circles instead of deliver a prophetic word of Biblical truth. The world’s wisdom is empty, but there are too many annual sermons preached to Texas Baptists that are full of it, so to speak.

  5. Tim Dahl says:


    What is living in Pittsburgh like?