FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Messengers to the 2008 Baptist General Convention of Texas, meeting Nov. 10-11 at the Fort Worth Convention Center, decided a proposal to change the group’s name to “Texas Baptist Convention” needs further study before being accepted.
Messengers also adopted a down-sized $45.7 million budget for 2009, elected David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church Canyon, to a one-year term as president and heard an appeal to boldly address the spiritual and physical needs of every person in the state.
The co-chairs of the BGCT’s Future Focus Committee recommended changing the convention’s name as part of a larger reorganization strategy. “The rest of the world entered the 21st century in 2001,” co-chair Andy Pittman said. “We’ll get there in 2009 in the BGCT, and it is time that we get there.”
Messengers, however, referred the name change to the convention’s executive board to study the legal ramifications and cost of the move
“We have a denominational structure that was well-suited to the needs of the 20th century, but over time it has become large, unwieldy and very bureaucratic,” Pittman told the group. “We’re in the midst of 10 years of declining Cooperative Program giving. Did anybody else notice that we only had 1,700 messengers here today?”
By the end of the meeting, 1,891 messengers and 713 guests had registered — the lowest turnout for an annual meeting since 1949, according to convention officials. The messengers represented 550 churches, less than 10 percent of the total number of congregations affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
BUDGET AND OFFICERS
Messengers approved a $45.7 million budget for 2009, a decrease of about 8 percent from the original 2008 budget. The budget anticipates Cooperative Program receipts remaining the same as 2008. Churches decide what portion of their receipts stay in Texas and what portion is forwarded to national and international ministries, but those that choose the BGCT’s “adopted budget” will have their gifts divided 79 percent for the BGCT and 21 percent for other causes.
The messengers approved a $45.7 million budget for 2009, a decrease of about 8 percent from 2008. Cooperative Program receipts will continue to be divided 79 percent for the BGCT and 21 percent for other national and international Baptist causes as designated by BGCT churches.
Messengers received a budget report indicating the convention will take in 2.3 percent less in Cooperative Program funds in 2008 than they did the previous year. In early 2008, a budget shortfall forced the convention to reduce its $50.1 million 2008 budget by about $4 million.
“It looked like we were going to take in about 99 percent of last year’s receipts until September,” said Jill Larsen, the BGCT’s treasurer and CFO. “But Hurricane Ivan and the national economic crisis have certainly had an effect on us.”
The 2009 budget included increases for intercultural and international missions and for the Texas Baptist Men disaster relief organization. A total of $18.2 million, or 39.9 percent, of the budget will go to the convention’s institutional ministries.
The convention elected David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church Canyon, as president for 2009-10. Lowrie’s father, D.L. Lowrie, was president of the convention from 1981-83, making the two Lowries the first father-son tandem to serve as president in the group’s 122-year history. David Lowrie defeated Stephen Hatfield, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lewisville, by a 735-644 vote (53 percent to 46 percent).
Carolyn Strickland, an educator and deacon at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, was elected first vice president. Her late husband David served as director of the BGCT’s Christian Life Commission for almost a quarter century.
TEXAS HOPE 2010
New BGCT Executive Director Randel Everett used his first address to emphasize the importance of evangelism and the value of institutional ministry.
“Forty eight percent of the people in Texas have no church affiliation whatsoever,” Everett said. “You can walk down the street and know that every other person you see doesn’t know Jesus and may have never heard the Gospel in his or her own language.”
To address that issue, Everett exhorted messengers to support Texas Hope 2010, an initiative to share the Gospel with every person in Texas by Easter Sunday 2010. As part of that effort, Everett said the BGCT was planning to buy DVDs with Gospel presentations in 300 languages and downloadable New Testaments in 311 languages to distribute to the lost.
“We already have all the money we need for this project,” he said. “It’s still in your pockets, but we have all the money we need.”
Everett outlined a strategy with the tagline “Prayer. Care. Share” that encourages daily noontime prayer for people who are suffering and lost and calls for churches to cooperate in providing for people’s physical needs and sharing verbal witness to the Gospel. He highlighted the great physical needs among Texans, especially along the state’s southern border with Mexico, where poverty is rampant.
“One million Texans don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” Everett said. “Can’t we at least make sure every person in Texas has a nutritious meal every day?”
Everett also noted the success of western heritage or “cowboy” churches that have been started in Texas. He noted that those 135 congregations accounted for 10 percent of the baptisms in the 5,600-church convention last year.
Samuel Smith is a writer based in Fort Worth, Texas.