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Texas Baptists’ Family Gathering celebrates unity in diversity

McALLEN, Texas (BP) – Nearly 2,000 messengers and visitors gathered in McAllen July 16-18 to take part in Texas Baptists’ Family Gathering, the 138th Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT). The theme, drawn from Ephesians 2:19, was coming together as the “Household of God.”

Included in the Family Gathering were meetings of the Convención Bautista Hispana de Texas, the African American Fellowship and ethnic and cultural partners. Messengers and guests participated in worship celebrations, business sessions and workshops. With final registrants totaling 680 messengers and 1,220 visitors, total attendance topped the 1,824 who attended the 2022 Annual Meeting in Waco.

President’s challenge

“We are now living in a Kairos moment,” said Julio Guarneri, Texas Baptists’ president, in a challenge to messengers at the 2023 Family Gathering. Beginning with Christ’s announcement of his ministry in Mark 1:15, he challenged messengers to understand who they are and what time it is.

Guarneri, the senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, who was elected for a second one-year term as Texas Baptists’ president, said he believes we are “at a crossroads of redemptive history.” Outlining rapidly shifting demographics and population numbers in Texas – 164 languages spoken in Texas alone, he said, with Texas Baptist churches ministering in around 80 languages – Guarneri called for a renewed commitment to sharing the Gospel.

“The nations have come to us, and we are reminded today that Texas remains both a mission base and a mission field, more than ever,” he said. “We are called to the nations. The nations have come to us.

“That’s what time it is, y’all.”

Officers elected, motion affirming women in ministry, other business

Messengers elected new officers to serve for the 2023-2024 term during the Monday morning business session. Guarneri was re-elected to a second one-year term. Ronny Marriott, pastor of First Baptist Church in Burleson, was elected first vice president. Debbie Potter, minister of children at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, was elected second vice president.

Guarneri and Marriott ran unopposed and were elected by the messengers in attendance at the McAllen Convention Center during the first business session. Potter was elected 173-133 over Glenn Lackey, a layman from Canyon Creek Baptist Church in Temple.

BGCT officers are (left to right): Ronny Marriott, Julio Guarneri and Debbie Potter.

In the Tuesday morning business session, messengers adopted an amended motion to affirm women in ministry. The motion as approved requests “that the Executive Board resources BGCT staff to continue developing more strategies, resources, and advocacy initiatives to assist churches in affirming, appointing, and employing women in ministerial and leadership roles.”

The original motion, submitted by Meredith Stone, a messenger for Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, would have “instructed” the BGCT Executive Board to “have staff create programs, resources and initiatives in affirming, appointing and employing women in ministerial and pastoral roles.” Dustin Slaton, pastor of First Baptist Church of Round Rock, offered the amendment, which was approved, and then the amended motion was adopted.

Craig Christina, Texas Baptists’ acting executive director, said the adopted motion “preserved our unity under a big tent by voting to affirm women and affirm the autonomy of the local church in calling out the called.”

Monday evening, Pete Pawelek, pastor of Cowboy Fellowship of Atascosa County in Pleasanton and a member of the Executive Director Search Committee, gave an update on the committee’s progress. He thanked messengers for praying for the committee, which he noted is a diverse group, and said through regular meetings, the search committee has narrowed its focus to “a small handful of candidates.” He added that the committee’s hope is to present a single candidate to the Executive Board soon.

Bobby Contreras, chair of the Executive Board, provided an update on business conducted by the Executive Board in 2023.

Contreras shared the Executive Board had unanimously deemed two churches – Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio and Second Baptist Church in Lubbock – to be out of harmonious cooperation due to their public affirmation of same-sex sexuality. He said concerns about the churches were brought to BGCT staff, who followed up and found both churches to “hold views that were inconsistent with the Convention’s long-held view on biblical sexuality.” Staff presented information to the Executive Board, which was unanimous in its decision.

Contreras said the churches were provided the opportunity to further clarify their views and to be considered for reinstatement, “but no clarification was received.”

Contreras reminded messengers that in years when the Texas Baptists Annual Meeting is conducted at the Family Gathering, the Executive Board is given the responsibility for approving the next year’s budget, so no 2024 budget recommendation was made.

Ward Hayes, treasurer and CFO for Texas Baptists, provided a financial report, noting that it “is simply a testimony in numbers. … It is certainly giving testimony to the goodness of God.” He noted that Cooperative Program giving was up in 2022, “praise be to God. We certainly celebrate that,” and said overall, giving was “fairly stable” and Texas Baptists “remain in a positive, strong financial position.”

The 2024 Texas Baptists Annual Meeting is scheduled for Nov. 10-12, 2024.

A fuller version of this story, is available here. More information on this year’s Family Gathering is available at texasbaptists.org.

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  • BGCT Staff