DALLAS (BP)–The possibility that the Baptist General Convention of Texas might “quit processing financial contributions from churches to national conventions, such as the SBC [Southern Baptist Convention] and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship” was raised during a meeting of several BGCT leaders Jan. 21 in Dallas.
According to a report by editor Marv Knox of the BGCT journal, The Baptist Standard, ending the BGCT role in forwarding churches’ Cooperative Program gifts and other offerings to the SBC was one of 11 “items” listed during the meeting to review a proposed BGCT reorganization process. According to the story, “The leaders cited several items they hope will be priority concerns as the reorganization committees do their work.”
However, two top leaders of the BGCT, President Ken Hall and Executive Director Charles Wade, told Baptist Press that the idea of ending the BGCT pass-through of churches’ gifts to the SBC is far from being in concrete.
“The Standard, all it did was report all the things that were placed on the table for discussion,” Hall told Baptist Press. “We’re just beginning the [BGCT reorganization] process and, so, these key study committees that we’re creating will evaluate all things. But that was just a non-exhaustive list of the various things that were brought up with people sitting around the room.”
According to the reorganization process outlined by The Standard, three study committees will be appointed by Hall and Wade – one of laypeople “with extensive expertise in business and organizational structure,” one of “leading pastors” and one of BGCT executive board staff members.
The three committees will work independently, “each considering what must be done to make the convention most effective,” according to The Standard.
The journal also described the reorganization as part of Wade’s “intention to bring the convention’s structure and budget in line with its priorities.”
The BGCT is one of two conventions in Texas with ties to the SBC, the other being the newer Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which was formed by churches intent on maintaining close ties with the SBC.
Hall, who is president of Buckner Benevolences in Dallas, told Baptist Press, “I don’t really know [if the reorganization] would relate to the SBC frankly, because that was not part of the emphasis. We’re looking at ways to maximize resources so that we can do more in the way of missions and evangelism, both within the state and around the world. So we’re looking at all of our of BGCT presence, both program and entities such as institutions, to see how we might be more collaborative and more cooperative and more channeled for specific evangelism.”
Wade, in speaking with Baptist Press, stated, “The point I would make is that it’s much too premature to even assume that we’re going to be dealing with that [pass-through of church CP gifts] right now. There are other priorities. There are many things that are on the table that weren’t listed, that weren’t talked about in that particular meeting.
“That issue is on the table, but we’ll just have to see what the churches do about that. I don’t anticipate that being a key issue for these study committees.
“People would like to jump to conclusions,” Wade continued. “Again, I would just point out that that was not an official recommendation. They didn’t vote on those as being priorities. Those were just a long list of items they are thinking about. To suppose that that was some kind of an official list that had been culled down from another hundred suggestions would just be wrong. This is a very preliminary kind of a conversation.
“But I don’t anticipate that being an issue among these committees. They may talk about it, but that’s not the intention of these committees,” the BGCT executive director said.
The 11 items listed during the meeting, as reported by the Standard, are:
— “Educate and support Hispanic Baptists in Texas.”
— “Strengthen partnerships with Baptists in Mexico and South America.”
— “Expand the BGCT’s connection with and support for the Baptist World Alliance.”
— “Increase support for theological education, particularly at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary, Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology and Baptist University of the Americas.”
— “Broaden the convention’s racial and ethnic diversity, so that the elected leadership and employed staff of the convention ‘look like who we are as Texas Baptists.'”
— “Create a ‘new image’ of Texas Baptists across the state that will benefit churches and the convention.
— “Boost the BGCT’s ‘prophetic public policy presence.'”
— “Strengthen the BGCT’s institutions and challenge institutions that are affiliated with the BGCT but ‘not supportive’ of the convention.”
— “Quit processing financial contributions from churches to national conventions, such as the SBC and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.”
— “Welcome pastors and churches from other states that wish to affiliate with the BGCT.”
— “Reorganize the Executive Board staff structure to help accomplish the goals.”
David Hankins, vice president for Cooperative Program with the SBC Executive Committee, in a statement to Baptist Press, said, “If the BGCT were to no longer process financial contributions from churches to the Southern Baptist Convention, it certainly would have implications for Baptist work related to Texas.
“Since the committees have not yet made a determination on this matter, it is premature to speculate about it. Should they, as deliberations begin, desire the Southern Baptist Convention’s input on the implications of such a decision, we would welcome any inquiries,” Hankins said.
Compiled by Art Toalston, with reporting by Michael Foust.