News Articles

BGCT tightens budget, rejects 2000 BFM, elects Bob Campbell

DALLAS (BP)–Despite cutting its annual budget, declining to affirm the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs and registering nearly half the usual number of messengers and churches at their annual meeting, the Baptist General Convention of Texas blessed the other Baptist convention meeting across river and vowed to “Be the Presence of Christ” in the state.

Meeting on day one of Oct. 29-30 sessions at the Dallas Convention Center, BGCT messengers adopted a $47,503,920 budget for 2002, an 8.8 percent decrease from the 2001 budget adopted last year in Corpus Christi, where 6,713 messengers registered representing 1,423 churches.

In Dallas, a total of 3,313 messengers were registered as of the morning of Oct. 30 representing 865 BGCT churches.

Newly elected BGCT President Robert G. “Bob”Campbell, who ran unopposed and was elected by acclamation, said in a news conference he wished the newer Southern Baptists of Texas Convention well and acknowledged the need for “all Christians” to do what God wants them to.

“I do not want to get into a dispute with them,” Campbell said. “I even prayed that God would bless them.”

Lynn Teague, a BGCT messenger from First Baptist Church, Mount Vernon, also referred to the SBTC meeting when he brought a motion asking the body to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, a statement of beliefs adopted by Southern Baptists at their 2000 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Teague said the failure of the body to affirm the 2000 BFM might persuade his church to dually align with what he said were nearly 1,000 SBTC churches already affiliated with the three-year-old Texas convention meeting “just across the river.”

“I’m not really coming in a spirit of division, but rather to reach out for unity among BGCT and our Southern Baptist heritage,” Teague said.

Teague said the 1963 version of the Baptist Faith and Message does not necessarily reflect the changes that have taken place in the world, as does the 2000 BFM, which he said addresses racism, the sanctity of life and the importance of the family.

Anthony Sisemore, pastor of First Baptist Church, Floydada, spoke against the motion. He said the 2000 BFM article on Scripture is “complete heresy.” “The Bible becomes the revelation of God, instead of the record,” he said, whereas “Jesus Christ is the full revelation of God.”

Warning messengers “not to cave to pressures of what may happen across the river,” Sisemore said, “This is the time like never before that Jesus Christ is the revelation of God, not the Bible.”

In support of Teague’s motion, Phil Barton, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pottsboro, said to pass the motion might alleviate a “lot of problems” in working with SBC missions agencies — the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board.

“The revelation of God seems to be the Bible,” said Barton, who is also a graduate of Criswell College. “Sola Scriptura.”

The motion failed with little support after Jim Fuller, pastor of Calder Baptist Church, Beaumont, called for a vote on the question. He said the 1963 statement of faith “has served us well for 40 years” and that Teague’s motion “seeks not to unify, but to divide.”

In other business, Stephen Hatfield, pastor of First Baptist Church, Lewisville, and chairman of the BGCT’s administrative committee, noted that the 8.8 percent budget decrease reflects a restructure of the BGCT executive board to reduce staffing at the Baptist Building, a change in the economy and a loss of participating churches.

“Our stands may have cost us something, but I have no doubt but what is represented in this budget is worthy, it’s God-given and it is right,” Hatfield said in presenting the budget.

Budget line items, with a few exceptions, show no significant changes in percentage distributions from the past year’s budget. The budget did not signify any changes in giving to the SBC International Mission Board or depart from the current BGCT funding mechanism for the North American Mission Board.

The budget passed “overwhelmingly” after one question. Bill Ballou, a staff member at First Baptist Church, Abilene, asked for clarification of a line item titled “Theological Education System” listed under the institutional ministries section of the proposed budget.

CFO/Treasurer Roger Hall said $283,500 is slated for Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University in Waco, $73,800 for Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and the remainder is to be disbursed for ministerial education at the eight universities affiliated with the BGCT.

In later miscellaneous business, Ballou asked for the information on that line item to be printed in the Oct. 30 bulletin for clarification. The chair moved without a vote and said it would be done by common consent.

In another budget-related item, messengers debated the gift remittance form used by Texas Baptist churches to direct their Cooperative Program funds for state convention and worldwide missions and ministries.

L.A. Murr, a messenger from Sunnyvale Baptist Church in suburban Dallas, made a motion that the same form used last year be used this year. That form had three options, as opposed to the one presented for church use this year. Murr said he was grateful for the three options — one of which provided the traditional funding mechanism for the Cooperative Program, 67 percent to state convention causes and 33 percent for SBC causes.

Citing an increase in the number of “defecting” churches and an “already shrinking budget,” Murr said the motion would head off talk that the new form might have been introduced to “avoid addressing the issue of decreasing total gifts to the SBC.”

Bill Turner, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, also a member of the administrative committee, said the new form is “simpler.”

Also favoring the motion, Steve McMeans, a messenger from Coggin Avenue Baptist Church, Brownwood, said it would be unwise to change the form after noting the traditional option to be left off was used by 47 percent of the churches this year.

Before rejecting Murr’s effort to include the 2001 option in the 2002 form, messengers also heard a plea by Ed Hogan, pastor of Jersey Village Baptist Church of Houston, who said “no other Baptist agency has a divided budget. Everyone has a unified budget.”

Later responding to a reporter’s question about a decrease in receipts, newly elected BGCT President Campbell said in a news conference the lack might be “a matter of education.”

“I think the average church member doesn’t even know there is a giving form. I think they just make a donation and whatever their church has adopted in their budget — that’s the way they distribute it,” Campbell said. “Maybe the pastors were trying to avoid controversy in their churches, I appreciate that. I’m not sure they were ever told that. But I can’t prove that. But I suspect they weren’t told. There’s no point in stirring up people over a piece of paper sometimes.”

Elsewhere, more than 600 people made first-time professions of faith in Christ during the first few days of “Light Up Dallas,” an evangelistic effort held in conjunction with the BGCT annual meeting.

The effort began Oct. 26 prior to the convention and will continue through midnight on Halloween, Oct. 31. As of 2 p.m. Monday, 620 people had professed faith in Christ and 184 had made other directions, said Rick Davis, director of BGCT’s Center for Strategic Evangelism, and the gospel had been presented to 6,625 people.

Leaders from Dallas Baptist Association, the BGCT and the North American Mission Board planned the Light Up Dallas initiative.

    About the Author

  • Joni B. Hannigan