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Dallas pastor, 2 seminary presidents waiting to speak as BGCT ends debate

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (BP)–Procedural controversy marred a spirited, but limited debate Oct. 30 over the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ move to defund the six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, and two SBC seminary presidents were among those left standing at microphones in Corpus Christi when the half-hour-plus debate was cut off.

First Baptist, Dallas, senior pastor Mac Brunson said he believes he was intentionally blocked by another man from having access to a microphone and that comments made by a member of the BGCT theological education study committee during the debate were “sacrilegious.”

Brunson made the statements after he was unable to speak during the debate that preceded the vote to defund the seminaries by about $4 million.

Brunson wanted to offer a motion to table the defunding vote until all six SBC seminary presidents had the opportunity to address BGCT members. But he never got the chance.

Brunson said he sent copies of his motion well in advance of the debate and that BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade knew he was going to speak. He said he believes the chair intentionally ignored him.

Additionally, Brunson recounted, “Personally, I felt I was blocked by this guy. I asked the man, ‘Are you going to make a motion?’ He never answered, but stepped aside to let William Hendricks speak in behalf of defunding the seminaries.

“People at the podium couldn’t help but see me standing behind Hendricks while he spoke,” Brunson said.

Debate over two amendments took up most of the time allotted. A request to extend the debate another 15 minutes was overwhelmingly defeated, leaving the chair with no choice but go straight to a vote.

Brunson persisted by speaking into the microphone and informing the chair that he had been at the microphone from the beginning and had not been recognized. He was ruled out of order and the chair proceeded with the vote.

“I think there needs to be more than 45 minutes set aside for debate for something of this magnitude. This was so political and it was well planned,” he said.

Only a handful of messengers had the opportunity to speak, with many left standing in line waiting. Among them were SBC seminary presidents Ken Hemphill of Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth and William Crews of Golden Gate Seminary in California who also is president of the SBC’s Council of Seminary Presidents.

Hemphill said he wished he could have addressed the convention. “We were never given the opportunity to respond to any of the accusations and distortions,” he said.

“Many of the points we made [to the study committee in August] were ignored,” in the final report, Hemphill said.

Brunson was also troubled by comments made by Rick Davis, a study committee member from Midlothian.

Debate centered around two proposed amendments. One called for a phased-in, three-year approach to implementing the proposal, offered by Bubba Stahl of First Baptist Church in Boerne. Davis came to the podium to speak against the amendment.

“It’s always better to cut a dog’s tail off an inch at a time,” he said as some messengers laughed and other cringed, “but it’s not that courteous.”

Brunson took exception to Davis’ remark.

“Are we here to talk about dog tails or kingdom business? Comparing dog tails to kingdom business is sacrilegious,” Brunson said.

The other amendment that was defeated called for giving churches the option of continuing to support SBC seminaries. BGCT President Clyde Glazener said such an amendment was not necessary since churches could do that via designated funds.

Only two messengers spoke to the amendment itself.

Bob Dixon, from Midway Road Baptist Church in Dallas and retired director of Texas Baptist Men, spoke against the motion. He noted that 90 percent of 4,900 Southern Baptist missionaries were “equipped” at the six SBC seminaries. “It sounds like God’s hand is still on” the students at Southern Baptist seminaries, Dixon said.

Judy Battles, from First Baptist Church of Arlington, supported the motion. She said, “Now is the time” for Texas Baptists to fund schools that teach that Jesus is the criterion by which Scripture is to be interpreted.

Battle also noted that a publication of Southwestern Seminary listed the annual meetings of 38 state Baptist conventions but omitted the Texas meeting. David Porter, director of public relations for the seminary, was not allowed to respond, but later explained that the omission was due to a production mistake.

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  • Don Hinkle