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Prestonwood in Dallas slates vote on joining conservative Texas convention

DALLAS (BP)–A denominational relationships committee from Prestonwood Baptist Church has recommended that the 17,500-member Dallas congregation align itself with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, according to an executive summary of the report obtained by Baptist Press.

The recommendation is one of three major issues church members will vote on during a special meeting July 23.

The committee also recommended continuing Prestonwood’s current affiliation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas through the October BGCT annual meeting. The committee then will recommend whether to continue the church’s relationship with the state convention.

Prestonwood has joined a growing number of Texas congregations that have aligned themselves with the conservative SBTC.

In mid-July, for example, four other Texas Baptist churches have announced their affiliation with the SBTC: First Baptist Church, Buchanan; Family of God Mission in Crockett; Magnolia Baptist Church; and Dehli Baptist Church.

On July 6, 23 Texas Baptist congregations in the Henderson Southern Baptist Association voted to affirm their support of the Southern Baptist Convention and its newly revised Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs.

Last November, First Baptist Church, Dallas, in a near-unanimous voice vote, loosened its ties to the BGCT and aligned with the SBCT.

The Dallas vote was slated after a deacon committee produced a sweeping 18-page report that documented links between the BGCT and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and a host of organizations, such as Texas Baptists Committed, critical of the SBC’s conservative stance on biblical and moral concerns.

Whether Prestonwood will leave the BGCT depends on how the convention addresses eight concerns outlined by the committee, said Jack Graham, pastor of the church.

The issues cited in the executive summary are:

— “[the BGCT’s] rejection of the 1998 version of the Baptist Faith and Message,” which included a new article on marriage and the family.

— “[the BGCT’s] failure to make a clear and unequivocal long-term commitment to the SBC and its leadership, including support for all ministries of the SBC.”

— “[the BGCT’s] replacement of the Cooperative Program, as originally conceived, with the current options system adopted by the BGCT.”

— “[the BGCT’s] adding a significant dollar cost, in addition to church size, to the requirements a church must meet to have its full complement of messengers to the BGCT annual meeting.”

— “[the BGCT’s] duplication of SBC functions and services.”

— “[the BGCT’s] move to regionalize the BGCT by allowing non-Texas churches to affiliate with the BGCT.”

— “[the BGCT’s] failure to disavow unconditionally the proposed creation of a new national convention, the Baptist Convention of the Americas.”

— “[the BGCT’s] failure to be fair in its public statements about the conservative direction of the SBC and about the churches that support that direction, as well as in its appointment of conservative members to the BGCT boards and committees.”

Disenchantment with the BGCT reached a focal point during a Feb. 28 meeting of conservative Texas Baptist pastors hosted by Graham; Ed Young Sr. of Second Baptist Church, Houston; and Claude Thomas of First Baptist Church, Euless.

At the time, Graham predicted that more than 40 percent of the churches were unhappy with the BGCT’s current direction and said major changes were on the horizon as conservatives consider their relationship with the state convention.

Jim Richards, executive director of the SBTC, told Baptist Press he is looking forward to working with Prestonwood.

“We are excited and delighted to have Prestonwood Baptist Church seek affiliation,” Richards said. “We have already partnered in some endeavors in missions and ministry and now we look forward to a full working relationship.”

Richards said he believes other churches may affiliate with the SBTC if Prestonwood approves the committee’s recommendations.

“The influence of Prestonwood is greatly respected in Texas and across the SBC,” Richards said. “Because of their bold stand, many other churches will feel comfortable in perhaps moving in the same direction.”

Charles Wade, executive director of the BGCT, was out of town and not available for comment.

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  • Todd Starnes