DALLAS (BP)–Charles Wade, immediate past president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, was elected as BGCT executive director by the 200-plus-member BGCT executive board at its Sept. 28 meeting in Dallas.
Wade, 58, has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Arlington for 23 years. He will succeed William M. Pinson Jr., who retires Jan. 31. Wade will serve as executive director-elect during a transitional period of orientation.
Wade’s election came on a show of hands vote following a search committee’s recommendation. BGCT sources said there were about 12 votes against the recommendation although it was not known if all of the nearly 200 members present voted.
“Dr. Wade is known as a servant-leader among Texas Baptists,” said Bill Brian, an Amarillo attorney and chairman of the executive director search committee. Wade told the 18-member search committee that he would “try to build unity among Texas Baptists around our sense of mission and obedience to God’s call,” Brian said.
“All who want to work to achieve the mission will be welcomed at the table,” Wade said.
The search committee believed that Wade’s experience, people skills and vision equipped him well for the role of executive director, Brian explained.
“He is a man of vision” who told the search committee that he would lead Texas Baptists to “dream a bigger dream,” Brian added. “He sees himself as a consensus-builder, noting that people come first and strategy second in fulfilling the mission of the convention.”
Brian praised First Baptist Church of Arlington as “the flagship of mission efforts in Texas by a local congregation.” Last year, the church gave $227,294 to missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program unified budget, and the congregation contributed a total of $338,772 to missions causes.
According to church sources, from September 1998 through August 1999 the church channeled $244,978 through the Cooperative Program, of which $164,135 went to the BGCT and $70,747 went to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Mission Arlington — a pioneering community outreach ministry of Arlington’s First Baptist Church — supports Bible studies involving about 3,000 people each week at 200-plus off-campus locations. About 75 new believers each year are baptized as a result of the Mission Arlington ministries.
Mission Arlington also meets needs in its community by providing food, clothing, rent and utility bill help, medical and dental care, child care, adult day care, job training, transportation and counseling services.
“If a church can create a ministry and demonstrate its viability, others in the community will join in that work,” Wade has said, pointing to a large number of volunteers involved in Mission Arlington. “We’ve given 70 churches and numerous individuals a handle for helping other people.”
First Baptist Church in Arlington also has sponsored an International Friends Ministry for 30 years, providing instruction in conversational English and everyday skills for living in the United States such as grocery shopping and using a gasoline pump. For 20 years, the church has offered an International Sunday School class.
First Baptist Church sponsored Hispanic, Chinese and Korean missions that have become self-supporting churches, and it currently sponsors a Thai mission.
The Texas search committee selected Wade last month from among 30 executive director candidates as one of two finalists for nomination. The committee initially nominated Phil Lineberger, pastor of Williams Trace Baptist Church in Sugar Land. Soon after that announcement, Lineberger withdrew from consideration, saying he could not gain any sense of peace that it was God’s will for him.
Brian noted that the committee previously had affirmed both Wade and Lineberger, saying, “The committee and Dr. Wade both believe that Dr. Wade’s sense of call in the matter was confirmed by this chain of events. One committee member observed, ‘We have discovered God’s choice in Dr. Wade.’”
Wade was among the organizers of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a denomination-like organization formed in 1991 in protest of the Southern Baptist Convention’s leadership, and was co-chairman of the steering committee for the CBF’s 1992 general assembly, a member of the CBF’s Coordinating Council from 1991-94 and a program leader at the 1999 CBF general assembly in Birmingham, Ala.
In 1998, the year after he concluded his BGCT presidency, Wade was among the speakers in a series of CBF rallies across Texas led by CBF coordinator Daniel Vestal and joined by a number of CBF staff members and Texas Baptist pastors. The 37 rallies from April 20-24 were titled, “Celebrate the Spirit; Learn the Truth.”
Wade also has been an executive committee member of Texas Baptists Committed, an organization that has been strongly critical of the SBC.
In the conservative-moderate campaign for the BGCT presidency in 1995, Wade told a rally at a Dallas church that if he, as the moderate nominee, was not elected, “It’ll be a disaster for Texas,” according to a report in the Dallas Morning News. In 1997, the Dallas Morning News reported that Wade had dismissed rumors that he might run for the SBC presidency. “I don’t feel a part of it anymore. It doesn’t represent what matters to me,” he told the paper. “I can remember when I almost thought the kingdom of God rose and fell on Southern Baptist borders. I’m better that I no longer think that.”
Wade entered the gospel ministry at age 15. Before coming to Arlington, he served several churches in Oklahoma, as well as Italy, Texas, and Baumholder, Germany.
An Oklahoma Baptist University graduate, he later earned master’s and doctor’s degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. His longtime concern for cross-cultural understanding and race relations was reflected in the topic of his doctoral dissertation, “An Inquiry into Black Theology — An Attempt at White Understanding.”
In addition to serving as president of the BGCT from 1995-97, he also has been a trustee of Hispanic Baptist Theological Seminary, Dallas Baptist University and Oklahoma Baptist University. He has been on the board of directors for the Baptist Standard newsjournal and a member of the State Missions Commission.
He had been moderator of Tarrant Baptist Association and involved in a number of the association’s ministries. He also has been active in local civic, service and ministerial organizations.
Wade is a past president of the Southern Baptist Fellowship of State Convention Presidents and of the Texas Alumni of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission, was a member of the Southern Baptist Foundation and the Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Committees.
Wade and his wife, Rosemary, have one son, Mark; three daughters, Roshelle, Karee and Mary Robin; and seven grandchildren.
Compiled from a report by the BGCT communications office of the BGCT with additional reporting by Herb Hollinger of Baptist Press.