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Texas board drops BF&M from proposed agreement with NAMB

DALLAS (BP)–The Baptist General Convention of Texas executive board struck any reference to the Baptist Faith and Message in a proposed cooperative agreement with the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board considered at the BGCT board’s Sept. 24 meeting in Dallas.

While the proposed agreement acknowledges that missionaries jointly funded by the state convention and NAMB must meet each entity’s particular requirements — which in the case of NAMB requires adherence to BF&M — the BGCT action avoids any impression that the board approves of the Southern Baptist statement of faith.

NAMB, in a statement released to Baptist Press, said the Baptist Faith and Message phrase is needed as a “clear delineation of the foundational doctrinal beliefs held by our denomination, this entity and our missionaries.” The NAMB statement noted that the original agreement still will be presented to NAMB trustees in October.

The recommendation for the new cooperative agreement was one of 16 proposals offered by the BGCT Missions Review and Initiatives Committee at the meeting. The proposal, which had been hammered out by the committee in dialogue with NAMB, was amended to delete the phrase which read: “shall comply with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”

Executive board members objected to the sentence requiring compliance because of the appearance of compromising the BGCT stance of distancing itself from the BF&M 2000 which they regard as “a creedal statement.”

The first six recommendations from the Missions Review and Initiatives Committee concerned the yet-unnamed world missions network to be established as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) affiliate of the BGCT. Recommendations 7-12 entailed policies to affirm Baptist missionaries and assist those affected by their non-affirmation of the BF&M 2000. The remaining items concerned the North American Mission Board, including the cooperative agreement.

The final step for the recommendations will be the BGCT annual meeting Nov. 11-12 in Waco.

In other business, the executive board:

— approved a proposal to sell the Baptist Health System — five San Antonio hospitals – to Vanguard Health System, a for-profit organization based in Nashville, Tenn.

— approved proposed amendments of Articles VI and VIII of the BGCT constitution, granting convention-affiliated institutions the ability to select one-fourth of their trustees. Currently, all such trustees are selected by BGCT. These amendments next must be passed at two consecutive BGCT annual meetings.

— passed a proposed amendment to the constitution to make it possible for the new missions network to be established following convention approval in November. According to the constitution, the executive board has the authority between annual sessions to approve the creation of 501(c)(3) organizations. However, the business and financial plan differed, requiring approval at two consecutive annual conventions. BGCT spokesman Ken Camp clarified that two approvals will still be required, with a board action and passage at the state convention as satisfying the amendment requirement.

— approved the proposed 2003 BGCT budget of nearly $50.9 million, representing an increase of 7.1 percent over last year’s adopted budget of $47.5 million.

The proposed budget anticipates more than $1 million of the increase from endowment income and a new giving plan that increases the portion of receipts from churches retained by the BGCT from 72.3 percent to 79 percent.

With the use of a new giving form, churches will allocate the remaining 21 percent of their contributions to the SBC, the CBF or to BGCT world missions causes which include the proposed world missions network, a transition fund for international missionaries, Texas partnerships, Mexico partnerships and the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.

Recommendations by the Missions Review and Initiatives Committee to support and affirm Southern Baptist missionaries, especially those who refused to affirm the 2000 BFM, brought minor discussion. In response to the question of how many missionaries have been helped following their resignation, E.B. Brooks, coordinator of the BGCT church missions and evangelism section, said the BGCT has assisted 16 families, and 80 families have been in contact with the convention.

During discussion of the recommendations, concerns of board members began to surface that the BGCT is taking steps to form its own missions-sending organization. Study committee chairman Clyde Glazener, a former BGCT president, explained, “We have not formed a typical missions-sending agency. We’re not saying we ever will, but I’m not saying we never will.” When asked, “So it is possible that what we’re creating will one day send missionaries?” Glazener replied, “When you use the word ‘possible,’ anything is possible.”

All of the motions concerning Baptist missionaries carried with minimal opposition.

At its August meeting, the BGCT administrative committee endorsed the world missions network recommended by the missions study committee. “The network will work closely with existing Baptist agencies, such as Baptist World Alliance, the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Global Missions and other appropriate missions agencies,” according to the committee’s report.

Executive board discussion of the world missions network also focused on whether the BGCT is taking steps toward establishing its own sending organization. Brooks responded to one question by saying, “As it is set up now, it is not a sending organization.”

One board member commented, “I don’t think we need to hedge. We need to say so if we are going to become a missions-sending organization.”

Brooks stated, “The board is saying we don’t know what we’re going to do in the future.” He added later that the missions study committee has not discussed strategy beyond the missions network entity.

Recommendations for the world missions network also were approved with minimal opposition.

Prior to the discussion, Brooks said of the cooperative agreement, “We need this. We need it because our churches give to NAMB. We have input to the NAMB strategy.” Without the agreement, Brooks said, “There is no funds allocation from NAMB to Texas. It is not a contract, it is an agreement.”

Brooks also called the board’s attention to the sentence in the proposed agreement, which said, “These personnel shall comply with the BF&M 2000.” He explained that it applied only to those missionaries seeking to be appointed through NAMB. He further clarified that missionaries who could not sign the BF&M would be supported by the BGCT through other sending entities.

His explanations did not prevent various board members from expressing strong opposition, primarily regarding ambiguities that could be read into the clause requiring compliance with the BF&M 2000. Brooks and others reiterated that only the newly appointed missionaries who wanted to have a relationship with NAMB would be required to comply with the BF&M.

One board member rebutted, “We’re really trying hard to distance ourselves from that creedal statement. We need some clarification of language so that when we give this to our people, when this hits the press, that there is no question whatsoever that the BGCT is not associated with a requirement to sign the Baptist Faith and Message.”

Another member stated, “When people in Texas see that sentence, they won’t understand. Restructure the sentence so that it is clearer.”

After some discussion, the motion to strike the sentence referring to the BF&M carried by about a 60-40 margin. The motion to approve the amended recommendation carried as well.

NAMB, in its statement to Baptist Press, said Brooks relayed that the proposed cooperative agreement between NAMB and the state convention was not approved by the BGCT’s executive board, but was changed. “It’s NAMB’s understanding that change eliminates reference to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 because, according to Brooks, ‘it was redundant,'” the NAMB statement recounted.

“The North American Mission Board doesn’t believe clear delineation of the foundational doctrinal beliefs held by our denomination, this entity and our missionaries to be redundant, but necessary,” the NAMB statement continued.

Robert E. Reccord, NAMB president, said after more than a year of negotiations between NAMB and the BGCT leadership he was “dumbfounded” that the executive board chose to alter the agreement. “We thought we had arrived at an agreement that we could both present to our respective boards, but it appears the target continues to move,” Reccord said. “It is difficult to arrive at an agreement when this happens.”

Reccord said he still plans to present the original document to NAMB’s trustees in October as it was approved by the BGCT leadership in earlier discussions. That document includes the assurances that new NAMB missionaries will affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

Last year’s call for renegotiation of the cooperative agreement relationship with NAMB included the plan to retain $1.28 million previously sent to the SBC and allocated to NAMB, with BGCT officials stating that the state convention could administer mission programs more efficiently in Texas without NAMB’s direction.

Reccord has said he views the retention of funds as a “defunding” of NAMB. “It is not the state’s money that is returned to the state,” Reccord wrote to the BGCT. “It is funds representing the gifts of Southern Baptists all over North America who are contributing to a coordinated mission strategy for the continent.”

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  • Kay Adkins