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Study committee’s recommendations spark Texas, SBC leaders criticism

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Criticism of a Texas Baptist study committee’s recommendations continued with reactions Aug. 29 from the leader of “Southern Baptists of Texas” and two Southern Baptist Convention agency heads.
The 20-page report of the Effectiveness/Efficiency Committee released the week of Aug. 25 includes recommendations that, in an Aug. 27 Baptist Press article, were characterized by a number of SBC leaders as altering, significantly, the historic partnership between the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention. The report’s recommendations will be presented to Texas Baptist messengers at their annual meeting in Austin in November.
Ronnie Yarber, administrative director of Southern Baptists of Texas, a group of conservative leaders in the Lone Star state, said the report “will most likely prove to be the document that gives birth to a new state convention of Southern Baptist churches in Texas.”
Yarber, interim editor of the SBT’s newsletter, Plumbline, and co- pastor of Meadow Creek Community Church in Mesquite, said the report is “a treatise on the opposition to the work of Southern Baptists in Texas. The tenor of the document is that of a defense of the Texas convention’s departure from the causes and purposes of the SBC.
“If this document is approved, it will be the equivalent of firing on Ft. Sumpter. It is an act of secession from the SBC. What has heretofore been covert is now overt.”
Yarber also charged the report is a “veiled suggestion … that the BGCT can improve on, and/or replace, Southern Baptist world causes.”
The report’s call for a theological Bible college and training of pastors by the state convention drew sharp criticism from R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., and president of the SBC Council of Seminary Presidents.
“I am deeply disappointed by the actions proposed by the special BGCT committee,” Mohler told Baptist Press in a response. “Texas Baptists are members of the Southern Baptist family and have contributed greatly to the building of this denomination. I do not believe that Texas Baptists will abandon the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Mohler said the report represents “wishful thinking” on the part of “those serving their own agenda.”
He cited a statement in media accounts by BGCT President Charles Wade that “we are going to protect Texas from a control mentality.”
“This is a very strange statement offered in support of a proposal to seize control and lead Texas Baptists away from the SBC. Anyone who knows anything about Texas should know that Texas will not surrender to control — even by those who promise freedom from control,” Mohler said.
Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, was critical of remarks in the report which apparently identified the ERLC as a “political action agency.”
“This is both inaccurate and inflammatory,” Land charged in a statement. “(The ERLC) is not a political action agency. … The vast majority of the agency’s resources are outside of Washington, D.C. Three professional staffers work in the ERLC office in Washington … Most of the agency’s staff serves in Nashville.”
Land said it was “curious” to him that the report would criticize the SBC for approving an increase in the budget of the ERLC while at the same time urging additional funds at the state level for the Texas Christian Life Commission.
The report’s call for the BGCT to fund “a part-time CLC consultant in Austin to assist in evaluating the impact of proposed policies and legislation” is not different, Land said, from the ERLC’s position in Washington.
“It is amazing that the authors of this report would on one hand seek to cast the ERLC simply as a ‘political action agency,’ and then propose erecting the same structure on the Texas state level and call it blessed,” Land said.
The Effectiveness/Efficiency Committee is a special Texas committee created in 1995 by the BGCT to consider the “best ways to assure the maximum efficiency and effectiveness” of the state convention’s “cooperative efforts in mission, evangelism, education, ethics and human services.”
The EEC report includes recommendations which would, if approved, create a “Texas Baptist Theological College,” direct the state to publish its own Sunday school and church literature, and create a structure to send out “lay envoy” missionaries throughout the world.
Historically, long-term foreign mission work, most Sunday school literature and theological education have been the focus of the SBC in partnership with state conventions, associations and local churches.

Complete texts of the statements by Yarber, Mohler and Land are posted in the SBCNet News Room.

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  • Herb Hollinger