AUSTIN, Texas (BP)–The foundation has been laid for a new convention of Baptists — to be based in Texas — to encompass churches in North, Central and South America, according to articles of incorporation filed in the Texas Secretary of State’s office by a group of individuals who have been critical of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Articles of incorporation for “The Baptist Convention of the Americas” were filed Oct. 16, 1998, by Herbert H. Reynolds, identified in state documents as the new convention’s registered agent. No media reports appeared about the filing at the time; Baptist Press received a copy Feb. 29 of this year from the Texas Secretary of State’s office.
Reynolds is the former president of Baylor University who orchestrated the secession of Baylor from the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He has also been critical of the leadership of the SBC. Reynolds, a layman, is also listed as a member of the new convention’s board of directors.
Conservative Texas Baptists have, in the past, expressed concern that moderates were planning to create a new national Baptist convention. A proposed amendment to the BGCT’s constitution to allow out-of-state churches to join the BGCT, requiring a two-thirds majority to pass, will be voted on during the November BGCT annual meeting.
Also listed as members of the Baptist Convention of the Americas board of directors are John F. Baugh of Houston; W. Winfred Moore of Waco; and Paul W. Powell of Tyler.
Baugh is a Houston businessman who is active in Texas Baptist life. Highly critical of the SBC, he has reportedly helped finance moderate organizations in other states.
Moore, the former longtime pastor of First Baptist Church, Amarillo, Texas, also is a vocal critic of the SBC. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the 1980s for the SBC presidency. He currently teaches at Baylor in the department of religion.
Powell is the immediate past president of the SBC Annuity Board and a former Texas pastor who was a trustee at Baylor when it seceded from the BGCT.
Baugh told Baptist Press March 1 the Baptist Convention of the Americas isn’t a convention. “It was suggested as a possible alternative to that which we are involved in now,” Baugh said. “Dr. Reynolds made a public comment on more than one occasion that suggested the possibility of the ultimate formation of something like the Baptist Convention of the Americas. There has been no move whatsoever to implement that possibility into reality.”
Powell said the articles of incorporation were filed to “simply preserve a name. That’s all it was,” Powell told Baptist Press. “Nothing has ever gone beyond that initial step. No plans, no schemes, just that the name has been preserved.”
However, the articles of incorporation go far beyond just preserving the name. Article Four states: “The enduring purposes for which the Convention is created are purely eleemosynary [charitable], including, but not limited to religious, missionary, educational and beneficent work.”
Specifically, the new convention will “carry on missionary work, support public worship, and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world; provide education and training to, and enlistment of, people; minister to the needs of the sick, helpless, aged or infirmed; be a medium through which Baptist churches in the Americas [North, Central and South America] may work harmoniously in cooperation with each other to promote evangelism, missions, Christian education, benevolent work and enterprise; cultivate a closer cooperation among the churches in the Americas and around the world, and promote harmony of feeling and concert of action in advancing all the interests of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.”
The Baptist Convention of the Americas also would have the power to “acquire, have, erect, control, operate and conduct homes for orphans or dependent children … schools, colleges and universities, seminaries, or other similar institutions … church buildings, meeting houses, assembly grounds, camp meeting grounds, and other similar places of worship.”
The first public discussion about a new convention came during a speech delivered by Reynolds on Nov. 10, 1998, one month after he filed the articles of incorporation.
While both Baugh and Powell stressed that no further action has been taken on the new convention, Baugh said “something will happen eventually.”
“Some organization will arise from this incredibly distressing and publicly embarrassing struggle between fundamentalism and the practices of Baptist principles and the attempts to minister and engage in missions as Jesus led us to do,” Baugh said.