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Phil Lineberger tapped as nominee for executive director post in Texas

DALLAS (BP)–Phil Lineberger, a former president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and pastor of Williams Trace Baptist Church, Sugar Land, Texas, has been nominated as the next executive director of the state convention.
The BGCT executive board will consider Lineberger’s nomination in a called meeting Sept. 14 in Dallas. If elected, he will succeed William M. Pinson Jr., executive director since 1983, who will retire Jan. 31, 2000. Lineberger, 53, was selected by an 18-member search committee named by convention officers and the executive board.
Lineberger was president of the BGCT from 1989-91 and vice president in 1988-89. He is a current member of the BGCT executive board.
“I’m very humbled, and I’m looking forward to the challenge that’s out there,” Lineberger said of his possible election. “I’m very excited. I appreciate the confidence of the committee. I have great love for Texas Baptists. I look forward to what Texas Baptists can do in the future.”
Search committee chairman Bill Brian, an attorney and member of First Baptist Church, Amarillo, said the committee received more than 30 recommendations submitted by Texas Baptists. The committee carefully considered each recommendation and invited five candidates for interviews, he said. Four nominees accepted and were interviewed by the committee.
The committee chose Lineberger from a “very solid and eminent list of persons” recommended by Baptists “from the Panhandle to deep-south Texas, from the east to the west,” Brian said.
“We were led by Phil’s known leadership in the convention — as a convention officer, an executive board member and a trustee of Texas Baptist institutions,” Brian said. “We are excited that a man of Phil’s energy, love for Texas Baptist people and willingness to serve will come to this position and succeed a great leader.”
People who have known and worked with Lineberger through the years, Brian reported, described him as “a consensus builder, warm, a person who sets goals and achieves them, kind but firm, a self-starter, not autocratic, not a high-control leader, but one who leads through good vision.”
Although Texas Baptists have been divided politically, Brian expressed confidence Lineberger can work with people who might take an adversarial stance toward him or the convention.
“Even those with whom Phil has disagreed would say he’s fair,” Brian noted. “As [BGCT] president, he was inclusive in platform roles. Persons who were known to differ were allowed to participate on the platform at the convention’s annual meeting.”
The committee affirmed Lineberger’s evangelistic spirit, Brian said, citing his church’s 73 baptisms last year, a ratio of one baptism per 10 people in average attendance, much better than the Baptist norm. Just before one of their meetings, Lineberger led a 44-year-old engineer to faith in Christ.
“Another of Phil’s strengths is that he was a bivocational pastor for four years,” Brian recounted. “He said one of the strengths of Texas Baptist life is its bivocational pastors.” Lineberger’s references also noted he relates very well to laypeople, Brian said.
Lineberger impressed the committee with many of his observations on Texas Baptist life, Brian said.
Acknowledging denominational politics has divided the Southern Baptist Convention and many state conventions, Lineberger said he has tried to support “mainstream Baptist life.” He told the search committee: “Texans are smart. People will not allow themselves to be coerced,” Brian recalled.
Lineberger also told the committee: “The best way to defend the faith is a life lived based on biblical principles. … We must have as much grace in our hearts as truth in our heads.”
Lineberger was a co-chairman in 1994 of the moderates’ organization, Texas Baptists Committed, and is a member of its executive committee. In the TBC newsletter in 1994, he wrote, “… we must continue to elect BGCT leaders opposed to fundamentalists[‘] control but committed to being inclusive.” If “fundamentalist leaders” are elected, he wrote, they “will not be inclusive[,] and we have the SBC example to prove that won’t work.” In 1979, he wrote, “one faction of the [SBC] family took control of the denomination by deceptive means. To be frank, they started a lie, ‘that our SBC leadership and seminary professors did not believe the Bible.’”
In the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, an organization started in 1991 by moderate Baptists critical of SBC leadership, Lineberger recently served on the Theological Education & Scholarships Task Group. He was a worship leader at this year’s assembly and, in 1998, was co-leader of a workshop on “Educating Church Leaders: Telling Your Church the Truth about Being Baptist.”
He also is a director of Associated Baptist Press, a news service heavily funded by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
In Texas, he was a member of the Effectiveness/Efficiency Committee and the E/E Funding Committee, groups which recommended a number of changes in the state convention’s longtime relationship with the SBC.
Williams Trace Baptist Church in Sugar Land has a resident membership of 1,152, according to the most recent BGCT Annual. The church averaged about 700 people in Sunday school attendance and baptized 73 new Christians last year, Brian reported. It contributed $41,499 to world missions causes last year, including $27,805 to the Cooperative Program for Texas causes and $13,695 to the Cooperative Program for worldwide causes.
Lineberger has been a member of the Baptist World Alliance evangelism committee, a trustee of Dallas Baptist University and William Jewell College in Missouri and president of the Kansas-Nebraska and Arkansas Baptist pastors’ conferences.
He became a Christian at age 10 in his hometown of Texarkana, Texas, after attending a revival led by longtime Texas evangelist Freddie Gage. He was ordained by Highland Park Baptist Church in Texarkana in 1968.
In addition to his pastorate in Sugar Land, Lineberger has been pastor of First Baptist Church, Tyler, Texas; Richardson Heights Baptist Church, Richardson, Texas; Metropolitan Baptist Church, Wichita, Kan.; Calvary Baptist Church, Little Rock, Ark.; and Calvary Baptist Church, Huntsville, Ark. He also was associate pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas.
He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and has earned master’s and doctoral degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth. He received honorary degrees from Baylor University and Dallas Baptist University.
He and his wife, Brenda, have three adult daughters, Becky Lineberger Groves, married to Shawn Groves; Amy Lineberger Seay, married to Brian Seay and the mother of Olivia and Phillip; and Kathy Lineberger.

Compiled by Art Toalston, with reporting by Marv Knox and Herb Hollinger.