News Articles

SBC leader attempts to initiate reconciliation; BGCT’s leaders decline pre-convention meeting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–For the second time in two months, leaders of the Baptist General Convention of Texas have rejected an invitation to meet with leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention in an effort to reconcile differences between the two Baptist bodies.

Speaking in reference to the second attempt, Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “Several weeks ago, I called Charles Wade and asked him about the possibility of the two of us meeting to determine if further talks might develop between the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”

Chapman said that Wade, Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, welcomed the opportunity. Chapman and Wade met on Sept. 28 in a private, four-hour meeting in Wade’s office in Dallas.

“Obviously we differ theologically, but we had an enjoyable visit as we discussed our common concerns from different perspectives,” Chapman said.

Both Chapman and Wade agreed to enlist seven BGCT leaders and seven SBC leaders to gather at the Baptist Building in Dallas on Oct. 19.

“When I called on Thursday, Oct. 5, to let him know the progress I was making in enlisting the six other individuals representing the SBC, he told me those he had wished to enlist were unwilling to meet prior to the BGCT annual meeting in Corpus Christi, Oct. 30-31,” Chapman said. “He mentioned conflicts in scheduling this close to the BGCT annual meeting and the possible mixed signals it would send to the Baptist constituency in Texas.”

“I had hoped this meeting would be considered of such importance that everyone would have made it a top priority,” Chapman said. “Unfortunately, most of the BGCT leaders feel no urgency to talk with SBC leaders prior to their convention. To me, their unwillingness to meet with us signals their absolute resolve to press forward for the adoption of the Texas-preferred 2001 budget that dismantles the Cooperative Program in Texas and the unified cooperation that has existed with the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Wade, in a prepared statement to Baptist Press, did not dispute Chapman’s comments, including the fact that both men had agreed on a meeting time. Instead, Wade criticized Chapman for going public with the information.

“In my notes from this conversation, we agreed there would be no publicity regarding our meeting and there would be no criticism if either of us could not meet before the Convention,” Wade said.

Chapman, however, said that Wade is only partially correct.

“We didn’t discuss contingency plans in the event that either group wouldn’t meet,” he said. “We did agree for the two groups to meet privately and try to make progress in communicating with each other. We also agreed that any statements coming from the group meetings would come from the two of us jointly.”

“Further,” Chapman continued, “We agreed to ask the two groups not to be critical publicly of each other while the talks were progressing. It now appears we both were too optimistic. The fact of the matter is I am hopeful SBC leaders will refrain from caustic rhetoric. BGCT will do what the messengers are willing to adopt, and the SBC will prayerfully consider what must be done in light of the BGCT Executive Board’s recommendations to destroy the cooperative principle of the Cooperative Program.”

“The only reason we are releasing this information is because many Southern Baptists in Texas have asked us to attempt to meet with BGCT leaders,” Chapman said. “We felt we should let them know the Southern Baptist Convention has continued to make overtures with BGCT leaders to resolve differences.”

Wade further stated that he would be willing to meet with Chapman, but not until after the BGCT meeting in October.

“I determined that it was not reasonable to put together a meeting before the Convention,” Wade said. “Texas Baptists are at a crossroads. The decisions that will be made at the BGCT meeting will have a profound and wide-ranging impact.”

However, it’s not the first time Wade has refused to meet with SBC leaders. In a letter dated July 31, 2000, three BGCT leaders were invited to participate in a forum on Sept. 21 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The invited panel guests included Wade, Jim Denison, David Currie, Jimmy Draper, Al Mohler and Paige Patterson.

“Not one of the BGCT leaders replied to the invitation until a few days before Sept. 21 when Ken Hemphill (president of Southwestern) received a call from Charles Wade indicating that none of them would be coming,” Chapman said.

BGCT messengers will decide whether or not to virtually defund six Southern Baptist seminaries, the Executive Committee, and totally defund the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The recommendations came from a seminary study committee made up of a number of leaders and supporters of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a shadow denomination made up of anti-SBC members. The recommendations were approved by the BGCT’s executive board.

Chapman said Texas Baptists should make every effort to attend the BGCT meeting.

“Reconciliation requires two parties working together,” Chapman said. “It would seem BGCT leaders have decided they have the votes in Corpus Christi to do as they choose. Perhaps they are right. The churches still have time to send messengers to speak and vote against the proposed Texas-preferred budget for 2001.”

“If the convention majority remains the same as in the most recent years,” Chapman said. “The partnership that God has blessed so wonderfully will dissolve from the pages of Southern Baptist history.”

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes