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Leaders say Hispanic fellowship on board with SBC faith statement

ST. LOUIS (BP)–Mindful of the “theological implications and ramifications” regarding support of various editions of the Baptist Faith and Message, a Texas pastor said the National Hispanic Fellowship of Southern Baptist Churches acted properly in its business session June 9-10 when addressing the Southern Baptist statement of faith.

In a June 17 interview with the Southern Baptist Texan, David Galvan, pastor of First New Life Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, said he understood the intent of a motion to support the current BF&M, but defended his opposition to an amendment which ultimately changed the motion to leave out the date of specific BF&M versions.

Galvan said the “posture of our fellowship was still to endorse the present BF&M.” He said he believes the Hispanic fellowship is in full support of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The changes were proposed during the business session on the second day of the fellowship’s June 8-9 meeting at Fee Fee Baptist Church in St. Louis just prior to the June 11-12 SBC annual meeting.

Choosing to sidestep a modification which would have changed the wording of their constitution to “2000” instead of “1963” in describing adherence to the BF&M, the fellowship opted instead, for practical reasons, to make a statement of support embracing the current BF&M, in any year, as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention.

Herberto Becerra, the fellowship’s outgoing president who presided as moderator, explained the committee’s intent on including the BF&M motion. “[The constitution] says we are in agreement with the 1963 BF&M; now we need to update it,” said Becerra, pastor of First Hispanic Baptist Church, Plantation, Fla. “If we vote on the new one, then we are up to date with the SBC.”

Galvan, who is also a trustee at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and a former second vice president of the SBC, told participants that missionaries of the SBC International Mission Board and North American Mission Board had been asked to support the document, as had personnel at all six Southern Baptist seminaries. Galvan spoke in favor of the motion to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

Offering an amendment to the motion, Raul Vasquez, director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s language missions department, said he was in favor of streamlining the process to leave out any reference to any year.

In an interview later, Vasquez clarified his remarks at the fellowship meeting and said the Hispanic fellowship, as a “subsidiary” of the Southern Baptist Convention, should support the SBC.

“Let’s remove the year and just support whatever version [is passed] so if there is a future amendment we don’t have to come back and amend our document,” Vasquez recalled telling fellowship participants.

In the interview, Vasquez said the reason he suggested not naming the year was for practical purposes, adding that he personally affirms the 2000 BF&M.

The fellowship’s vote “was not seen a lack of support,” Vasquez said in putting the meeting in its context. “It was seen as making our support of the SBC even stronger.”

During discussion of the motion, John Silva, a regional director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said any move to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message might exclude Texas and other state conventions from the fellowship. The BGCT rejected the updated 2000 BF&M in favor of retaining the 1963 BF&M.

The motion to amend the original motion passed handily with only a few dissenting votes from the nearly 80 participants.

“What has been approved is that we submit to the Baptist Faith and Message that is approved by the Southern Baptist Convention regardless [of any year],” Becerra said in an attempt to explain the proceedings.

Another question prompting some discussion concerned the constitution’s wording about who may serve as an elected officer of the fellowship. The fellowship’s executive secretary, Julio Fuentes, minister of education at Northside Baptist Church in Hialeah, Fla., said the wording already exists, but its intent may not be widely understood. He said the constitution already specifies that an SBC official, which he says means any SBC entity or state convention employee, may not serve as an elected official.

“We don’t want to reproduce the SBC,” Fuentes said in an interview. “We need the liberty and the opportunity to do something different from the denomination.”

Rudy Hernandez, past present of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and now an SBTC consultant for Hispanic ministry in the state, said in June 17 interview he does not see the fellowship’s action on the BF&M as a “threat” to it’s strong commitment to the SBC.

Though he would have preferred direct reference to the 2000 BF&M, Hernandez, one of the 12-member committee to draft the 2000 document presented to the SBC in Orlando, Fla., and also the first president of the Hispanic fellowship, said the action taken by the fellowship was “in order and in spirit” to continue to support the SBC and all its ministries.”

In all, 25 modifications described as “minor” were suggested by Fuentes, who said the changes would ensure the organization’s constitution and bylaws clearly reflect their vision, purpose and process. Several of the constitutional changes will be voted on again next year after further review by the fellowship’s legal committee.

Most of the modifications are necessary because of differences in expression and words throughout the varied Hispanic communities represented by 23 distinct cultures, Fuentes said.

Recognizing that the new slate of officers presented by the nominations committee included a state convention employee, Fuentes said more careful adherence to the policy would be applied to future elections.

Officers elected for 2002-2003 are: president, Augusto Valverde, pastor of Resurrection Baptist Church, Miami; first vice president, Moises Rodriguez, pastor of Primera Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas; second vice president, Richard Vara, pastor of Emmanuel Church, Edgewater, Colo.; secretary, Samuel Gonzales, NAMB church planter in Missouri; treasurer, Andres Panasiuk, a member of Blackshear Place Baptist Church, Gainesville, Ga.; and executive secretary, Fuentes.
Joni B. Hannigan worked with translators Eliseo Aldape and Julio Fuentes, with additional language and contextual clarification from Raul Vasquez and David Galvan.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan