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Meeting of conservative pastors sparks media in Dallas-Fort Worth

DALLAS (BP)–An undetermined number of Texas conservative pastors met Feb. 28 at Prestonwood Baptist Church, spawning a flurry of news reports in the Dallas-Fort Worth media the preceding weekend.

The convener of the meeting, Jack Graham, Prestonwood’s pastor, said a statement would be issued after the meeting, according to the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Until then, Graham declined comment on the meeting.

The gathering comes three months after First Baptist Church of Dallas voted Nov. 17 to align with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, a conservative convention birthed in November 1998, with the church voting at the same time to maintain a minimal relationship with the older Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson, the son of a former executive director of the moderate BGCT, did offer comment to the Dallas Morning News on the meeting at Prestonwood: “If I were the Baptist General Convention of Texas, I’d want to be carefully considering my future, because if these churches end up representing a group that will say, ‘We are no longer comfortable in a convention dominated by Baylor,’ this is not good news for the BGCT.” Patterson is a former president of Criswell College affiliated with First Baptist, Dallas, and currently is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.

Patterson told the Morning News he would not be attending the meeting at Prestonwood, a 15,000-member church in north Dallas.

Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, told Baptist Press Feb. 28: “The policy of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention toward churches has been one of responding when contacted. We have not, since constituting as a convention, solicited churches into affiliation. When invited, we respond to associations, churches and individuals.

“We provide an opportunity for Southern Baptist churches in Texas to partner with a statewide strategy for missions and ministry while retaining a strong historic relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention,” Richards said.

Beyond the action of First Baptist, Dallas, to affiliate with the new conservative convention, tensions in Texas heightened as a result of actions at last November’s BGCT annual meeting, including a repudiation of the family amendment to the SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message adopted at the SBC annual meeting in Salt Lake City in 1998 and drawn from the New Testament’s words in Ephesians 5.

BGCT messengers voted instead to endorse the SBC’s 1963 Baptist Faith and Message which has no article focusing on the family.

Also in the works is an amendment to the BGCT constitution to allow membership by out-of-state churches. A two-thirds vote of BGCT messengers this November will enact the change.

BGCT President Clyde Glazener, pastor of Gambrell Street Baptist Church across the street from Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was quoted by the Dallas Morning News as repeating a variation of his frequent allegation, “The big thing is the Baptist General Convention of Texas won’t be controlled by the Southern Baptist Convention.”