NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A Baptist General Convention of Texas study committee that recommended the redirection of more than $5 million from several Southern Baptist Convention institutions included three members of the Texas Cooperative Baptist Fellowship steering committee and pastors from nine churches that support the CBF, a shadow denomination of anti-SBC members.
Bill Shiell, pastor of First Baptist Church, McGregor, along with Dean Dickens, pastor of North Cities Fellowship in Garland, and Kyle Henderson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Athens, were among the 16 committee members who recommended defunding the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and dramatically reducing funding to the SBC’s six seminaries and the Executive Committee.
The three pastors also are members of the Texas CBF steering committee. The committee’s purpose is to “create a CBF Texas network and to explore the possibility of CBF mission work here in Texas,” according to its website. “The steering committee produces a newsletter and encourages National Cooperative Baptist Fellowship participation at the local church level.”
It was Shiell who originally proposed a seminary study committee, according to Charles Wade, executive director of the BGCT.
“Bill Shiell is the one who made the recommendation that the study be made and the officers appointed him to the committee,” Wade told Baptist Press. “They have a right to do that.”
In another development, the Atlanta-based CBF recently moved its national networking coordinator to Dallas. Inquiries about CBF churches in Texas are being handled through Texas Baptists Committed, an organization headed by David Currie, according to a CBF employee in Atlanta.
Among the concerns listed by the BGCT’s seminary study committee was what they perceived as a lack of diversity at the six Southern Baptist seminaries. However, according to the affiliation of committee members, there was also a lack of diversity on the BGCT’s committee.
Baptist Press has learned that of the 16 members, nine either pastor or are members of churches that support or give money to the CBF, and at least one of the churches has ended its support of the SBC’s Cooperative Program. Only two members solely support the SBC and the Cooperative Program. Four other members could not be reached for comment.
Wade told Baptist Press he felt the committee was diverse, despite the large number of pro-CBF members. Was it simply a coincidence?
“It may have been providential,” Wade said. “The Lord guides these things. I know they prayed about it [selecting committee members].”
Among the pro-CBF members was Bob Campbell, chairman of the committee and pastor of Westbury Baptist Church in Houston. Campbell was not available for comment.
Mike Chancellor, pastor of Crescent Heights Baptist Church in Abilene and vice chairman of the committee, told Baptist Press the committee was not diverse.
“According to Dr. Campbell, this was the first time in his memory that there was a committee lacking diversity,” Chancellor said. “I have served on three BGCT committees and I would agree that this was the least diverse committee. However, that doesn’t mean it was not an objective committee.”
Chancellor said he knew there were some individuals on the committee who strongly supported the CBF. However, he was not one of them. “Our church has no CBF affiliation. We never have and we have no plans,” he said. “My roots are very deep in SBC life. We operate a missionary residence that has IMB [International Mission Board] folks come in and out, and folks out of our church are currently on their way to IMB assignments.”
Still, Chancellor said to believe that the CBF influenced the committee’s recommendation is wrong. “This was not a covert attempt to drive us into the arms of the CBF,” Chancellor said. “I will tell you as vice chair of the committee that I was in every single meeting and at no time in my memory was the CBF ever discussed.
“I am adamantly opposed to leading my church into the CBF and I resent the implication that I am somehow a part of a conspiracy to move the BGCT into the CBF,” Chancellor added.
Wade said the enemy for Texas Baptists is not the CBF. “I told the Southern Baptist leadership that if they focused on the CBF as the enemy and didn’t pay attention to concerns of mainline Southern Baptists they would push people away,” Wade said.
Rick Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church, Midlothian, and a committee member, said he was surprised by the number of CBF supporters on the committee. “I am not hard-wired into the CBF and our church really doesn’t want to move in that direction,” Davis said. “Personally, I do have some questions about the way the seminaries are being run, but our church is SBC all the way.”
Texas CBF leader Bill Shiell told Baptist Press he didn’t see any conflict serving on the committee that would take funds away from the Cooperative Program while at the same time serving on a committee that recruits churches to join the CBF.
“This committee wasn’t stacked,” Shiell said. “Being a member of the CBF was not a criteria for the committee.”
While his church gives to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions, Shiell said it no longer financially supports the Cooperative Program of the SBC. Even though Shiell’s church gives money to the CBF, “I wouldn’t consider us a CBF church.”
Jim Fuller, pastor of Calder Baptist Church in Beaumont, said his CBF leanings did not influence his decision on the committee. Calder is a pro-CBF congregation. “There weren’t any decisions made other than giving a credible report,” Fuller said. “I guess from my participation in the process, I would say we dealt with objective material as much as possible.”
Joe Trull, another committee member, is pastor of Driftwood Baptist Church, a congregation that is Methodist on one Sunday and Baptist the next. When asked whether Trull was a Methodist minister or Baptist minister, the church secretary replied, “I’m not sure.”