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Texas convention weighs reconciliation with the Southern Baptist Convention

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (BP)–A day after contentious debate and a historic vote by the Baptist General Convention of Texas to redirect $5.3 million from Southern Baptist Convention seminaries and entities, messengers debated how to seek reconciliation with a denomination they apparently want to distance themselves from.

BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade spoke of mending fences with SBC leaders while messengers debated motions on how such an effort should be approached.

In his official report to the BGCT Oct. 30 in Corpus Christi, Wade said he hoped the defunding vote would convince Southern Baptist leaders to consider changes in the Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs as adopted last June by the SBC. That may be easier said than done.

Any future discussion between SBC and BGCT leaders, Wade told BGCT messengers Oct. 31, would have to include issues of inclusion of Texas Baptists in national leadership and revisions to the 2000 BF&M.

Wade said he would “probably” call Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, to talk about the future.

BGCT messengers on the convention floor debated two motions on reconciling with the SBC.

James Heffington Jr., a messenger from West Oaks Baptist Church of Bryan, wanted leaders of the SBC and BGCT to observe three days of fasting and prayer prior to the June 2001 annual meeting of the SBC in New Orleans.

The second motion, offered by Dave McFadden, pastor of First Baptist Church of Kerrville, called for the creation of a mediation task force that would employ a professional, non-Baptist Christian counselor to help the parties seek reconciliation.

Robert Prince, pastor of First Baptist Church of Vernon and chairman of the BGCT’s committee on order of business, moved that both motions be referred, noting that the BGCT could speak only for itself and not for the SBC.

Most of the 35-minute debate focused on whether to refer both motions to the BGCT executive board for action.

Heffington’s motion called for SBC and BGCT leaders to observe three days of fasting and prayer “in a common meeting between the executive boards, presidents and any other members of both the BGCT and the SBC” prior to the 2001 SBC meeting in New Orleans.

“I have seen peace committees, but no prayer committee. God can do this … . It is not too late to bring us together,” Heffington said.

With those words the debate began.

“I don’t want to defer or refer,” said Lewis Price of Mims Baptist Church in Conroe. “I think we should adopt this motion. I think this convention should vote.”

“Motions to refer are just a … delaying tactic,” said David Rogers of First Baptist Church of Zapata. “Whether the SBC wants to cooperate or not, we ought to make the statement that we [the BGCT] favor reconciliation.”

Prince said he was interested in the restoration of unity, Christian love and trust, but that the BGCT executive board is the place to “formulate a way to bring about dialogue with the SBC.”

James Covey of Westwood Baptist Church in Tyler, urged messengers to defeat the motion to refer and to “make a unilateral commitment to a time of prayer and fasting, no matter what the SBC does.”

The motion to refer passed on a show of hands with only a scattering of opposition.

McFadden’s motion called for creation of a seven-person mediation task force, composed only of “members of the 63 percent of Texas Baptist churches which have not given to the Cooperative Program with any special designation during the year 2000,” opting for the allocation that forwards 33 percent of their gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions and ministries.

McFadden said those who have chosen to continue to give according to a longstanding allocation have “been accused of hiding our heads in the sand. That is not true. We have chosen to trust our leaders.”

His motion also called for employment of a professional mediator.

McFadden said he has talked both with Chapman and Wade and said both want reconciliation.

“I challenge Texas Baptists to lead the way in making every effort” at reconciliation, he said.

In moving to refer the action to the BGCT executive board, Prince said an effort to mediate the dispute was referred to the SBC Executive Committee, which “was rejected” by that body.

Bob Campbell, from Westbury Baptist Church in Houston, who chaired the BGCT theological education study committee that recommended the BGCT defund the six SBC seminaries, opposed McFadden’s motion. He said it would restrict membership on the reconciliation task force to those who had given undesignated funds to the SBC. All Texas Baptists should be represented, he said, not just a selective group.

Ella Pritchard, a messenger from First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi, favored referral, saying Texas Baptists “have sought reconciliation for 21 years and have been excluded from everything. The SBC has acted in bad faith.”
The motion was referred on a show-of-hands vote.

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  • Don Hinkle