FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The war between moderates and fundamentalists in Texas is over, according David Currie.
Currie, the executive director of Texas Baptists Committed and consultant for the Mainstream Baptist Network, told a gathering of Texas participants at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s annual meeting June 27 that they should maintain their numbers and financial giving in the state now that moderates “have defeated the fundamentalists.”
Currie also said that CBF participants should make a strong show of support for the Baptist General Convention of Texas at its annual convention.
“We really need to have a strong turnout at the BGCT. Last year there weren’t 100 fundamentalists there. We need a big turnout. It really doesn’t speak well of us when our numbers decline now that we’ve defeated the fundamentalists,” he said.
While warning that membership cannot plateau, Currie said that the survival of the Mainstream Baptist Network depends on the success of the CBF, and that the survival of the CBF depends on the success of the MBN.
“We have to continue to fight fundamentalists. We have to continue to educate,” he said.
Another part of the fight, according to Currie, is the redirection of financial resources away from the conservative Southern Baptist Convention. He encouraged the action.
“Richard Land has said that ‘the people are voting with their pocketbooks.’ He thinks people love their stupidity because we keep sending them money.” Land serves as the chair of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Currie’s comments came in a meeting in which Judy Battles, administrative coordinator for the CBF in Texas, announced with San Antonio attorney Randy Fields that the CBF in Texas will incorporate within the next few weeks. The move, Fields said, was facilitated because the fellowship needed to follow federal and state guidelines regarding non-profit religious organizations.
Membership in the incorporated Texas CBF, Fields said, will be determined by the voluntary affiliation of churches. “That in no way denigrates our emphasis on the individual,” he said.
The move might well encourage more Texas Baptists to associate with the CBF as a national alternative to the SBC, according to David Courtade, a long-time member of Texas Baptists Committed. The move, he said, may also help forge a sense of national identity and unity between Texas Baptists and other moderates.
“The general consensus of most who identify with the CBF is that they are very concerned about the prevailing situation within the SBC at the national level. …We were able to maintain a more moderate state convention. So those who disagreed with the SBC still fit comfortably in the BGCT. Now, more Texas Baptists will identify with the CBF on a national level,” Courtade said.
Battles, however, said that no official affiliation between the BGCT and the CBF in Texas is planned.
“We have formed many partnerships with many churches in Texas, but churches are free to affiliate with whomever they wish,” she said.
Charles Wade, executive director of the BGCT, also said that the CBF will not depart from its roots as a “loose-knit fellowship.”
“In Texas Baptists life we respect the autonomy of churches. Some churches want to support the SBC and some churches want to support the CBF ministries and missions. Some want to support both, and we’re cooperative with all of them. We respect that, and as long as the gospel is being preached and missionaries are getting out there we cheer it on,” Wade said.
The CBF, however, will continue to partner closely with the BGCT. Battles referenced numerous projects in which the two groups of Baptists are participating jointly. Support for the rural poverty initiative in the Rio Grand Valley and the CBF’s contribution of $10,000 to Buckner Baptist Benevolences are two examples.
In a June 3 letter posted on the CBF’s Internet site, national coordinator Dan Vestal said that he “counted 10 different partnerships that CBF has with the Baptist General Convention of Texas” in a recent meeting in Dallas. He also referenced CBF support for moderate theology schools, several of which are in Texas.
The 2002-03 CBF budget indicates an increase in financial support for Logsdon School of Theology in Abilene, Texas, and the Baptist Studies Program at Brite Divinity School (one of four seminaries of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ) on the campus of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Support for George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, will remain the same as 2001-02. The school received nearly one-quarter million dollars from the CBF last year.
Battles said the CBF in Texas is operating on a shoestring budget, but that the fellowship “is alive and well and active in Texas” and supports the BGCT.
“We have an exciting role to support and undergird our state convention,” she said.