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Chapman addresses ‘anti-SBC spirit’ among some Texas Baptist leaders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Addressing an “anti-SBC spirit” among some Texas Baptist leaders, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s president issued a statement Aug. 3 calling for “Southern Baptists in Texas to turn away from those who would diminish the spirit of cooperation.”

The Executive Committee’s Morris H. Chapman, who was elected SBC president in 1990 while pastor of First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, referenced without names “some anti-SBC voices in Texas” seeking “to discourage support for the SBC.”

Such an effort “is unwarranted and threatens the long-standing partnership between the SBC and the BGCT [Baptist General Convention of Texas],” Chapman said in a statement released to the Baptist Standard, the Texas convention’s newsjournal, and to Baptist Press.

Chapman recapped in his statement:

“From its inception, the Cooperative Program has been a partnership between the state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention for eliciting support from their common constituents, the churches. Of course, the churches are always free to give as they wish but the states and Southern Baptist Convention have a covenant with each other in the Cooperative Program. The agreement is that the state convention will not only promote and receive contributions for its own ministries but also will promote and receive contributions for the Southern Baptist Convention ministries.

“There has been an historic and healthy division of labor between the Southern Baptist Convention and the state conventions that basically gives the lead to the state convention for ministry within the state and to the Southern Baptist Convention for ministry outside the state. This arrangement has allowed for efficiency and minimized duplication of effort. It also has allowed plenty of opportunity for working together on a myriad of ministries and projects without the feeling that there was a violation of ‘turf.’ The Southern Baptist Convention hopes that these divisions of labor will continue to be honored.

“No one can tell individual Southern Baptist churches how to give their money. That is the reason we have always made provision for designated gifts. But we can encourage the churches in a particular direction. The Executive Committee’s position is that all churches are encouraged to give receipts undesignated to the Cooperative Program through the state convention. We have resisted creating any other track for giving because we believe it harms the idea of the Cooperative Program and breaks faith with our state convention partners. We believe it is also breaking faith for state conventions to encourage or permit churches to identify contributions as Cooperative Program when those contributions are not to be distributed exclusively to the SBC and state convention budgets.

“The Southern Baptist Convention has never suggested that Southern Baptist churches in Texas should not support both the SBC and their state convention. I am aware that some anti-SBC voices in Texas are being raised to discourage support for the SBC. I think this is unwarranted and threatens the long-standing partnership between the SBC and the BGCT.

“It would be sad indeed if Southern Baptist churches in Texas were dissuaded from supporting the SBC portion of the Cooperative Program or denied a vehicle through the state convention for forwarding their gifts to Southern Baptist Convention mission causes. I hope neither of these practices becomes a reality. However, the Southern Baptist Convention is committed to relating to Southern Baptist congregations in Texas and will be forced to find ways to partner together in the event the traditional methods are unavailable.

“We are compelled to ask the question why many of those most passionately advocating keeping more money in Texas are the same ones who have demonstrated the most fervent and bitter anti-SBC spirit.

“The Lord Jesus said, ‘from everyone who has been given much shall much be required.’ Southern Baptists in general, and those in Texas in particular, have been given a great deal. The most current World Almanac makes that abundantly clear. It shows that the total receipts of BGCT churches are greater than thirty-one of the nations of the world.

“Certainly Texas has a growing population, projected by the Census Bureau to reach 21 million by 2005. But beyond the borders of Texas is a nation of more than 270 million and a world whose population is more than 6 billion souls, and increasing by about 80 million people every year. It is crucial that all Southern Baptists do all we can, together, to reach that world. I believe that mission-minded Southern Baptists in Texas and all the states want to do that, together with their larger Southern Baptist family.

“Our time appears to be short. The task to ‘go into all the world’ is larger than ever before. Satan is not resting and neither can we. The harvest is plentiful. We must strive for an even higher level of cooperation and work together as partners to bring in the harvest for the glory of God.

“We urge Southern Baptists in Texas to turn away from those who would diminish the spirit of cooperation and block the view of the whole world. We implore them to give themselves to the worldwide agenda of God, and strengthen their bonds with the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Statements by the current BGCT president, Clyde Glazener, pastor of Gambrell Street Baptist Church, Fort Worth, and Russell Dilday, the immediate past president of the state convention, in recent weeks have indicated the distinct possibility of BGCT defunding actions against the SBC or specific SBC entities at the Texas convention’s annual meeting in October.

“The truth is that, for some time now, a true Baptist could not support some of the agencies in SBC life,” Glazener told the Dallas Morning News in late June.

Dilday, during a late-July speaking tour in Missouri in behalf of the anti-SBC “Mainstream Missouri Baptists” group, said Texas Baptists’ level of cooperation with — and the “amount of money forwarded” to — the SBC may be reduced, though acknowledging that many Texas Baptists support the SBC and will continue to cooperate with it in a variety of ways. Dilday was dismissed as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth in a 1994 dispute with trustees.

Both Glazener and Dilday regularly use the pejorative term “fundamentalist” when referring to SBC leaders — whose stances on family and moral issues in the nation have been lauded by many of the nation’s leading evangelical leaders.

Last year, at the BGCT annual meeting, two study committees were created — similar to the type of study that, in 1997, led the BGCT to begin a number of denomination-like functions, such as producing its own Sunday school literature.

One of the committees formed last year is examining the BGCT’s relationship with the SBC’s International Mission Board and North American Mission Board, as well as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship formed in protest of the SBC’s leadership, while the other is examining the BGCT’s relationship with the SBC’s six seminaries.

“The results of these in-depth studies,” wrote Marv Knox, editor of the Baptist Standard, last November, “could have far-reaching consequences for how Texas Baptists choose to fund, participate in and relate to these national organizations … .”

And, at the 1995 BGCT annual meeting, the convention cut the primary Cooperative Program option to 33 percent of church receipts allocated to SBC national and international missions and ministries to 33 percent, from the previous 35.5 percent.

And, as described by a committee on denominational relationships of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas: “Under the [five] options system adopted by the BGCT, churches may elect the proportion to go to the state convention, with up to 100% going to purposes determined by the state convention. In other words, the latest option adopted permits nothing to be given to the Southern Baptist Convention! This action clearly undermines the original and historic intent of the Cooperative Program and makes it possible to give to non-SBC ministries while still calling it the ‘Cooperative Program.'”