DALLAS (BP)–The congregation of the historic First Baptist Church Dallas voted overwhelmingly Nov. 20 to give all their Cooperative Program money through the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention rather than their traditional method of giving through the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
The motion stated: “In order to support our pastor as he assumes an important leadership position as a member of the Executive Board of the SBTC, that our church once again return to participating in the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention as it has been historically defined, by sending undesignated, all of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Cooperative Program gifts, including state and national missions offerings, to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.”
The congregation’s vote moves the church one step closer to uniquely aligning with the SBTC, a state convention that is in full cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.
“This is a significant step,” said Mac Brunson, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas. “The inevitable is coming simply because of the direction the BGCT is moving in. The BGCT is making it increasingly impossible for churches who want to be with the Southern Baptist Convention to remain a part of the state convention. The BGCT is a denomination of their own in everything but title.”
Brunson said the decision to send their Cooperative Program gifts through the SBTC should not be construed as “axe grinding.”
“The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has its eyes focused clearly on missions, new church starts, evangelism and cooperation with the SBC,” Brunson said.
In 1999 the church loosened its nearly century-long relationship with the BGCT and dually aligned with the more theologically conservative SBTC. The church also voted to continue to monitor activities of a BGCT leadership. The vote came after a church committee produced an 18-page report that contained 100 documented sources linking nearly 100 BGCT leaders to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Texas Baptists Committed, two organizations of Baptist moderates opposed to the SBC, and a host of theologically and politically liberal organizations also critical of the SBC’s conservative stances on biblical and moral concerns.
“I think … that the BGCT is really involved in a great deal of building a new denomination, a different denomination,” Brunson said.
Jim Richards, executive director of the SBTC, praised the church’s move.
“We’re just delighted that First Baptist Dallas is leading the way to a traditional Cooperative Program giving method,” Richards told Baptist Press. “For some time now, churches have been sent mixed messages about how to send their Cooperative Program funds. This shows a trend that Texas churches want to return to a positive relationship with a state convention that is in full cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, welcomed news of First Baptist Dallas’ decision. “Throughout her history the First Baptist Church of Dallas has strongly supported Southern Baptist missions through the Cooperative Program and missions offerings,” Chapman said. “God has greatly blessed the church. Her members have given unselfishly in supporting missions at home and around the world. Historically First Baptist Church has stood as a citadel of faith, and in so doing has encouraged many other churches to hold fast to biblical authority and evangelistic fervor.”
“Once again, the church has made a convictional decision to increase its support of world missions,” Chapman added. “In giving through the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, not only will spiritual needs be met in Texas, but 52 percent of the church’s undesignated gifts will be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention for reaching to the ends of the earth with the gospel.”
Chapman also commended Brunson for his leadership at First Baptist Church.
“Mac Brunson has a strong commitment to giving through the Cooperative Program as it is traditionally defined,” Chapman said. “The recent action taken by First Baptist Church will help expand our convention’s witness around the globe. I pray God will richly bless the ministry of First Baptist. Certainly she has been found faithful.”
“For many years, First Baptist Church has stood tall and strong as a powerful example of making Jesus the priority in preaching and practice,” Chapman said. “Today the pastor and members are saying again, ‘Our love for Jesus, conviction about the authority of God’s Word, and loyalty to Southern Baptist missions and ministries lives on in our hearts.'”