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Texas Baptist leaders respond to new convention

DALLAS (BP)–Leadership of the Baptist General Convention of Texas claimed “misunderstandings of the BGCT” and “reasons not well-founded” in responding to the creation of a new state convention by Texas Baptist conservatives.
Russell H. Dilday Jr., recently elected president of the BGCT, told Baptist Press that based on the information provided by the conservative leadership, “I think they’ve founded (their new convention) on serious misunderstandings of the BGCT. They have misunderstood the decision made in Austin related to the Efficiency/Effectiveness Report.”
Dilday said charges the BGCT made the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship equal to the Southern Baptist Convention are “certainly not true.” He said the report “doesn’t rule out anybody; it simply opens up more freedom and latitude.”
However, Dilday said if the conservatives conscience “leads them in this way, they have that right, we wish them well. There’s plenty of work to do in a state like ours, a state that is more than 50 percent unchurched.”
Southern Baptists of Texas, a conservative group disenchanted with recent actions by the BGCT, has begun the process of creating a new state convention. The move was initiated by a unanimous vote of the SBT board of directors in Dallas Nov. 20.
William M. Pinson Jr., executive director of the BGCT, said its leaders “have stated again and again that they do not want any group to break fellowship with the BGCT.” He said prior to the SBT board’s vote, BGCT President Dilday sent a “lengthy communication to the SBT leaders stressing the importance of working together to help fulfill the Great Commission.”
“In my opinion, the reasons given (in news releases) are not well founded and are not justification for such an act,” Pinson told Baptist Press. “Certainly any Baptist group is free to do what it wills, but I pray that all Southern Baptists in Texas will find a way to continue to serve together … .”
Although some believe a division would be best, Pinson said, “I am not one of these. … If a new state convention is formed, it will not be because BGCT leaders have encouraged it. In fact, just the opposite will be the case.”
Pinson said the new convention would be abandoning Texas Baptist institutions, resources and ministries. He cited a “terrible disruption caused by having rival state conventions in Texas that led to the unification of these in 1886 and the forming of the BGCT.”
“I am committed to helping keep our Baptist family focused on the vision and priorities given us by the Lord,” Pinson said. “The BGCT will continue to be faithful to God’s Word by cooperating to help fulfill the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dilday also said the Baptist Press Nov. 24 article which quoted former BGCT president Charles Wade was a “tragic misinterpretation.”
The BP story quoted Wade as telling the Austin American- Statesman in an interview that Texas Baptists would support SBC leaders if the focus on missions and evangelism instead of trying to force all Baptists to believe the Bible is factual and scientifically true. An Austin American-Statesman spokesman said the reporter paraphrased Wade’s comments and the paper affirmed the reporter’s story. The story came during the Austin convention and newspaper officials said no one, including Wade, complained of an inaccuracy.
BGCT officials quoted Wade in his presidential message as saying, “Southern Baptist leaders will have our support if they will focus on missions and evangelism, but they will drive more and more Texas Baptists away if they focus on requiring conformity as a condition of cooperation.”
In another statement attributed to Wade in his sermon at the BGCT annual meeting, Baptist Press reported Wade told messengers he supports ordaining women as senior pastors.
BGCT officials provided a portion of Wade’s comments regarding women in ministry, in which Wade said, “It troubles many of us when women who feel God has called them to be ministers of God’s gospel are told they must be mistaken, they and their churches are not free to interpret and acknowledge God’s call in their life, and no Southern Baptist leader steps forward to defend their freedom in Christ to respond to God’s calling. The church where I am a member believes the world is too lost and the needs too great for us to be telling people, whom God has called and gifted, what they can’t do rather than setting them free to do what God has gifted and called them to do.”

Art Toalston contributed to this story.

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  • Herb Hollinger