News Articles

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention luncheon yields increased CP support

ARLINGTON, Texas (BP)–“Men must choose their God. They must choose to what degree to be obedient. They must choose how to believe,” stated Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman in his Feb. 7 address to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s “Great Commission Partners in the Harvest Luncheon.” “That’s every man’s choice and every church’s choice,” Chapman said.

Emphasizing the autonomy of the local church and state convention to make such choices, Chapman said, “What has made us great over these years is that we choose under God, believing the authority of God’s holy Word, trusting Jesus Christ as our Savior and wanting him to be Lord of our lives, we choose to cooperate.”

He acknowledged the tendency to worry about meeting budgetary needs, but insisted, “God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. And God’s resources are not nearly depleted.” Chapman addressed a crowd of 576 pastors and laymen assembled during the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s evangelism conference. SBTC was formed in 1998 to address the priorities of evangelism, missions and cooperation, committing 51 percent of undesignated Cooperative Program receipts from member churches to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Prepared for up to 500 luncheon participants, SBTC leaders accommodated the larger crowd as they were invited to participate in a Partners Plan Offering. The one-time special offering will supplement Cooperative Program funds potentially lost due to the defunding actions of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Funds will be directed in an attempt to help the most adversely affected SBC entities, with 70 percent evenly distributed to the six seminaries, 15 percent for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and 15 percent to the Executive Committee.

Three churches immediately responded to a challenge by pastor Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church of Dallas to give $10,000 beyond budgeted Cooperative Program support. “This is a time for those of us who are supportive of the Southern Baptist Convention to stand tall, take the high road,” Graham said. “I believe this plan is not reactive or negative. What we’re seeing with a rallying of support of the Southern Baptist Convention is very, very positive.”

Noting that his own church is “increasingly identifying with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention,” Graham offered the first pledge of $10,000 to the offering. Joining him were Mike Fortenberry, pastor of East Paris Baptist Church of Paris, and Mac Brunson of First Baptist Church of Dallas in equal commitments. Pastors throughout the crowd completed commitment cards to continue prayer support to the campaign.

Chapman told the audience, “What we need to be concerned about is what God is going to do in and through our lives as he leads us.” He expressed regret that “some of the division is being driven into the churches,” noting, “We worked for a long time not to even debate the authority of God’s Word except on the plane of the national convention,” leaving the local church with the priority of teaching and preaching God’s Word.

“But I believe that time has come. And what has drawn you together is that heart’s desire to see Jesus and Jesus alone.” He encouraged those present to allow Jesus Christ to become the “magnificent obsession in our lives.” Pastors must avoid the tendency to “get so busy pleasing people that we forget to please God,” he said.

Citing the admonition to seek the kingdom, the power and the glory of God, Chapman said, “Whatever the future of the SBTC may be, if the primary objective is the magnificent obsession of Jesus Christ, to know him and to make him known, watch out! God’s power is coming and praise God for it.”

Mac Brunson introduced representatives from Southern Baptist entities, allowing them opportunity to express their appreciation to SBTC for its financial support through the Cooperative Program.

Larry Cox, International Mission Board mobilization vice president, noted that 36 percent of the support for Southern Baptist missionaries comes directly from the Cooperative Program, expressing appreciation for contributing SBTC churches. He brought word of more than 450,000 baptisms reported in 2000 compared to 200,000 a decade ago. “And what this convention is doing in its commitment to starting new churches is exciting to us,” Cox said of SBTC’s budget priorities, noting that the IMB is reporting 6,525 new church starts overseas in the past year.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley, a native Texan, spoke of “the culture that challenges our students everywhere they turn.” He thanked SBTC churches for their part in helping the school provide a lighthouse to a lost population.

Jerry Johnson, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary assistant development director, thanked Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches for their support of the Cooperative Program and their special emphasis on “Partners in the Harvest.” He spoke of the common devotional bond the seminary has with SBTC, as well as a doctrinal bond to contend for the faith.

Further acknowledging a common denominational bond, Johnson said, “We know who we are and whose we are. We are the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and share that name with you and a commitment to the Great Commission and your renewed commitment to the Cooperative Program.”

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Ken Hemphill described the Fort Worth seminary as being “in better shape than it’s ever been.” He spoke of new requirements that every student must fulfill in the areas of leadership, worship, hermeneutics and evangelism. “We believe Texas Baptists want to have a role in teaching them,” Hemphill said to SBTC church members. Thanking them for their support, he said, “You are one of our significant lifelines. Take that message to your church from us.”

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary President William Crews questioned the decision of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in defunding the SBC’s six seminaries. “It’s hard to imagine that any denomination would not want to support 12,000 men and women being trained to lead churches around the world. Something is wrong with one’s mission outlook if they don’t want to be involved in that. Southern Baptists have the largest group of any on earth and we’re proud of that number being trained.”

Emphasizing the importance of Southern Baptist support, Crews said the loss of funding from BGCT is “real money for us.” He added, “We don’t have that great throng of Baptists out West who support us.” And yet, he said, “We haven’t worried a single day about that because Golden Gate Seminary belonged to God a lot longer than any of us were there. We are shaping leaders who will influence others to accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission through the churches. I think that’s a worthy vision.”

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land noted that the ERLC was the only agency completely defunded by BGCT. “I am a native Houstonian, sixth-generation Texan,” he said, noting that one of his ancestors served in Sam Houston’s army. “I learned my ethics from two of the best Texas Baptists I know, my mother and father. I’m only doing what they taught me to do, only believing about the Bible what they taught. When the Bible says something, that is God the Father speaking to me and that settles it whether I believe it or not.”

He referred to criticism he received from the BGCT’s Christian Life Commission director when Land wrote senators to encourage support for cabinet nominee John Ashcroft. “I read where Phil Strickland said, `Well, Richard Land certainly didn’t speak for me,'” Land recounted, responding, “Phil, I never presumed that I did.” When he expressed confidence that he can speak for the vast majority of SBTC church members, Land drew strong applause from the audience of pastors and laymen.

Both O.S. Hawkins, president of the Annuity Board, and Chapman referred to confusion caused by BGCT treasurer Roger Hall’s allegations that churches leaving their convention risk losing tax-exempt status and matching insurance and retirement funds. “For some who’ve had questions over the last few weeks over whether the Annuity Board will be able to serve those in the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, obviously we do and are,” Hawkins declared. “That was the first agreement SBTC entered into and this convention is one of only a few state conventions that provide matching funds not only for ministerial staff, but also those who are support staff.”

Chapman also offered reassurance to churches considering SBTC affiliation, clarifying that if new tax-exempt status is needed, they can contact SBTC and receive from the SBC Executive Committee the needed documentation. He added that SBTC will be licensed to provide the paperwork directly within six to eight weeks.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards reported that the new convention finished the month of January with $1.3 million given by more than 600 churches, providing $575,000 in undesignated Cooperative Program gifts. “We won’t make up dollar for dollar the shortfall, but we will say we believe in the Cooperative Program and the efforts of Southern Baptists unequivocally.”

Brunson concluded the meeting with a reference to the influence of a church in Staunton, England, where members opposed Oliver Cromwell’s attempt to rid the country of Christian influence, first attacking the seminaries. Quoting the inscription of the church cornerstone, Brunson said the church was dedicated to the glory of God as members sought to “do the best of things in the worst of times.”

“In the Cooperative Program life of the SBC, it may seem like it is the worst of times, and if so, let us rise up and do the best of things,” Brunson said.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: MEETING IN PRAYER, MEETING PARTNERS and MEETING THE NEED.

    About the Author

  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter