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‘Disclaimer’ by BGCT adds snag to NAMB cooperative agreement

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Another setback has hit negotiations toward a cooperative agreement for missions work in Texas involving the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

The 225-member BGCT executive board, in a March 4 Dallas meeting, added a doctrinal “disclaimer” to a draft of a NAMB/BGCT working agreement to replace a 1991 document.

Although agreement had been reached between representatives of the entities on a new document, the BGCT executive board added a disclaimer that its vote to accept the document indicates neither affirmation nor endorsement of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

Cooperative agreements, which NAMB has with numerous state conventions, set forth such responsibilities as funding for personnel. The NAMB/state convention agreements can range from a large portion of NAMB funding for some personnel in pioneer missions settings to smaller percentages in states with established Baptist work such as Texas.

The BF&M 2000, adopted by a wide margin during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando nearly three years ago, has been opposed by various BGCT leaders who have called it a “creedal” statement. The BGCT leaders’ criticism of the BF&M has been among a number of manifestations of efforts to distance the state convention from the SBC.

NAMB trustee chairman Terry Fox, in a statement issued to Baptist Press March 7, noted:

“I’m very disappointed that the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Executive Board has again failed to affirm the proposed cooperative agreement approved by trustees of the North American Mission Board. Last year, the BGCT rejected an agreement which our two staffs spent more than a year developing. Now, they’ve rejected the agreement NAMB’s trustees amended to specifically address their concerns.

“I can’t help but see this action by the BGCT as yet another step away from the Southern Baptist Convention and our historic partnership to reach Texas and all of North America, and toward their new missions network and denominational independence,” Fox said.

“I anticipate the trustees of the North American Mission Board will address this issue at our next regular board meeting on May 7th.”

NAMB President Robert E. Reccord, also in a statement March 7 to Baptist Press, noted:

“This second failure of the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas to affirm a proposed cooperative agreement between our two agencies is regretful and frustrating, and places at risk the possibility that we could once again work cooperatively to reach Texas and North America for Christ.

“Even more disturbing are comments to the board by BGCT missions coordinator E.B. Brooks. According to a BGCT press release, Brooks told the board that funds which the BGCT is withholding from the North American Mission Board on the pretense of efficiency will, in actuality, be used to fund missionaries who ‘cannot affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.’

“Since the BGCT unilaterally defunded NAMB two years ago, their staff has maintained that the ‘retained’ funds were being used for the cooperative work of the two agencies. Even the proposed cooperative agreement stipulates that those funds would be used according to a mission plan developed and approved by both agencies. Now, we learn the BGCT intends to use them for personnel who cannot affirm NAMB’s doctrinal guidelines. For an agreement that is supposed to be cooperative, it’s strange that this is the first we’ve heard of this. Is that cooperation?”

As phrased in the BGCT news release, Brooks “reiterated to the board that the BGCT will use funds retained in Texas to provide missions opportunities for those who cannot, in good conscience, affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message.” The news release then quoted Brook as affirming, “We will only present for NAMB approval only those persons who wish to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message.”

Brooks was unavailable for comment to Baptist Press March 7.

The BGCT executive board passed the cooperative agreement with the disclaimer but with eight dissenting votes.

The BGCT news release quoted only Wesley Shotwell, pastor of Ash Creek Baptist Church in Azle, from the BGCT executive board’s discussion, saying he voiced “reluctant support” for the revised document.

As stated by the news release, “Shotwell said the difficulty experienced by the BGCT and NAMB in drafting a mutually acceptable working agreement illustrates that Texas Baptists and Southern Baptists hold conflicting visions of what it means to be Baptists, according to the BGCT news release.

“He characterized these incompatible visions as being trust in contrast with distrust, the priesthood of the believer as compared to the priesthood of the convention, and joyful cooperation as opposed to coercion.”

“I’m ready to vote for this,” Shotwell was quoted as saying, “but I want to make sure we remember what our vision is.”