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BGCT president cautions against ‘vitriolic language’ about others

SAN ANTONIO (BP)–Outgoing BGCT President Kenneth Hall, in his address to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told messengers Nov. 8 to “be good” and avoid divisiveness.

Citing Titus 3, Hall said that his words, like the Apostle Paul’s, were intended as “a warning to those who do harm in our midst.”

“Angry people with vitriolic language abound in our family,” said Hall, also the president of Buckner Baptist Benevolences. “The speech and words they use make Christian fellowship and cooperation difficult. It offends me that Baptists would tell lies about one another. It burdens me that my sisters and brothers in Christ would misrepresent a fellow believer’s position.”

The problem of un-Christian speech “is not just the property of creedal fundamentalists,” Hall said. He charged that the same problem exists among BGCT churches, where too often people speak about “other Baptists as if they are evil.”

“Paul tells Titus that when a believer does good, he or she is using their speech to do good. Evidently, there were members of the church in Crete who had a specific religious bias and were speaking falsehoods and using denigrating remarks against fellow believers,” he said.

Hall said that Paul instructed believers to speak good things about one another and to one another, and also to focus on good. “I wonder if we are focusing on good, or whether we are wasting valuable energy on what is unprofitable.”

Asking BGCT messengers to focus on the good that God wants to do through them, Hall said the BGCT has to forget past controversies and change its way of doing things while building on the heritage of Texas Baptists’ forefathers, such as Rufus Burleson, who helped found Baylor University, R.C. Buckner, George W. Truett and Mary Hill Davis, a former leader of the Texas Woman’s Missionary Union.

Some will not listen, Hall said, so they should be warned about seeking to do harm to the church. He recounted Paul’s instructions for dealing with those who would do harm rather than good, taking aim at elements within and without the BGCT. “Paul said to warn divisive people and then warn them again, but after a while, ignore them.

“Here is what I mean. To those who feel we should be ever vigilant to guard against creeping creedal fundamentalism, watch your rhetoric. You don’t have to be mean-spirited as you advocate for Baptist principles.” Hall said.

He also warned messengers to avoid looking for fundamentalists “under every rock,” encouraging them to realize that “not everyone who is strongly conservative is a fundamentalist.”

At the same time, Hall defended David Currie, executive director of Texas Baptists Committed, against those who perceive the organization as “too political.” “Walk a mile in David’s shoes and see creedalism from his perspective before you speak unkind words,” he said. Currie is an outspoken opponent of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Hall also defended Cooperative Baptist Fellowship coordinator Daniel Vestal. “To those that continue to misrepresent the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s position on moral issues, shame on you,” he said. Hall said that Vestal is a dedicated minister and that he endorsed Vestal’s ministry through the CBF.

Hall finally pleaded with his “Baylor friends” to cease arguing and to search for a way to make peace, and for Texas Baptists to avoid tactics and strategies that divide like the “the political mechanism” that he said destroyed the Southern Baptist Convention and the “critical-natured people” who “ripped the heart of the seminary” where he studied.

Apologizing to BGCT messengers, Hall said that he in the past had said things in anger and had been hurtful. “I have jumped to conclusions that I know to be wrong,” he said.

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  • Gregory Tomlin