AQUILLA, Texas (BP)–Baptist Men will have an “ongoing dialogue and relationship building commitment” with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention following a unanimous vote of TBM board members Feb. 15 at Latham Springs Baptist Encampment near Aquilla. The request for a new fraternal relationship will be considered by SBTC’s executive board on April 3. If approved, Texas Baptist Men will become one of the many avenues available for the 1,258 SBTC churches to be active in missions initiatives.
TBM has been a self-governing affiliate of the Baptist General Convention of Texas since 1967 when only one state Baptist convention operated in the state. The organization provides many avenues for mission outreach by men from Southern Baptist churches, with disaster relief being the best known. Funding has come from the BGCT, TBM’s Forever Foundation and, most recently, designated gifts from SBTC churches sent through the newer state convention.
Following several years of dialogue regarding how the missions organization will relate to SBTC, TBM’s interim executive director, Leo Smith, told board members, “We have a document now that to me is of God and will allow us to do what our desire has always been, to just be Texas Baptist Men and have dotted line relationships with both sides.”
SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told the Southern Baptist Texan newsjournal, “The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is delighted that Texas Baptist Men want to provide missions services through an official relationship. Hopefully, together we can touch many lives for Jesus.”
The resolution and faith statement offered by Brian Goodland of Gordon underscores a commitment to assist Texas Baptist churches as they lead their men in a missions and ministry lifestyle as mandated in the Bible. The statement affirms the historicity of Scripture, describing it as God-breathed and points to the example of Jesus for TBM ministries that offer physical and spiritual relief.
TBM will continue their “unique affiliation and partnership” with BGCT, in addition to partnering with other state conventions in cooperation with the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board of the SBC. The resolution further states that TBM will officially work with SBTC and its churches in a “mutually supportive relationship” and with all Texas Baptist associations.
“The BGCT does not control TBM and my understanding with SBTC is that they have no desire to control TBM,” Smith said, urging support for the motion. “Wouldn’t it be a marvelous statement of God if this was passed in a unanimous kind of way and we could be an organization that could walk hand in hand with the Baptists of Texas, doing ministry to the glory of God?” Smith asked, drawing “amens” from board members.
“I strongly suggest you accept this and you begin that walk and not look back, but just look forward to what God is going to do in the days ahead.” With no further discussion, board members unanimously approved the measure in a ballot vote.
TBM’s acting president, Andy Andreason, introduced the discussion with a poem decrying men who “persist in building walls who should be building bridges.” Having come to the meeting “very heavy-hearted,” he said, “I was thinking we were going to have division even within TBM. God just showed us that was not the case. We’re still his organization and we can still march down the road as one.”
Andreason told board members, “Jim Richards has read this and is very supportive of it. Charles Wade [BGCT’s executive director] has read this and is extremely supportive of it. So both the major conventions are supportive of this particular resolution,” discouraging any amendment to the language. “I think this permits us to go into every single church in the state to carry out the ministries God has called us to do.”
In 2000 Richards invited institutions built by Texas Baptists to establish fraternal relationships with the new state convention. Affirmation of a “high view of Scripture” and an official expression of a desire to work in partnership with SBTC were the conditions set forth.
The TBM board responded in 2001 by changing their bylaws to open membership to men in churches not affiliated with BGCT. However, they chose not to establish a formal relationship with any convention and did not acknowledge SBTC in any official way, preferring to honor a 33-year-old “gentlemen’s agreement” with BGCT.
The matter resurfaced a year later when a task force of former TBM presidents and retired staff proposed a resolution calling for a relationship with SBTC, using language that met SBTC’s conditions for a fraternal agreement. TBM board members approved that statement by a vote of 44-15. However, Smith, then-president of TBM, ruled that it was not in God’s timing due to a divided vote and set the vote aside.
In November of last year, SBTC hired Gibbie McMillan as missions services associate to develop a disaster response system and volunteer “builders” network, coordinate chaplaincy ministry in cooperation with the North American Mission Board and establish specialized men’s evangelism projects and fellowships relating to interest areas. McMillan also assists churches in providing Royal Ambassador training and other mission education for men and boys.
Speaking to the Feb. 15 meeting as interim executive director, Smith explained that because TBM is supported by funds from BGCT, he shared the proposed resolution with BGCT’s administrative committee where changes were suggested. Wade and Richards then discussed modifications to the final draft that would satisfy both parties.
“Our desire was to be able to walk with both of these conventions and be able to minister because we’re so entwined in all of our ministries with the men from all of the churches,” Smith said.