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Two spirits aired at Texas CBF meeting

ATLANTA (BP)–Texas Baptists Committed will not give up battling “fundamentalists” in their state, the leader of the group told a gathering of Texas Cooperative Baptist Fellowship participants during a breakout session at the CBF’s annual General Assembly in Atlanta, Ga., June 22.

Texas Baptists Committed Executive Director David Currie, who claimed his organization would not be “alive and well” if not for fundamentalists in Texas, said his group and CBF should continue educating churches in Texas so they will not be “taken over.” Currie cited a “well known” but unspecified moderate Baptist church in Texas where conservatives began teaching Sunday school and then altered the makeup of the church.

“If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere,” Currie said. “If you support CBF, you need to make sure that your deacons support CBF. If you have women deacons, you need to make sure that the people support women deacons.”

Texas Baptists Committed and CBF are separate organizations, but share many of the same stances on religious issues. He said no one should believe “lies about Texas Baptists supporting homosexuality” or being “anti-American.”

Currie also said that without the endorsement of his group, the leadership of the Baptist General Convention of Texas would not be as diverse.

“Some people keep asking why Texas Baptists Committed keeps endorsing candidates [for BGCT offices]. I believe it is because without the endorsement of Texas Baptists Committed we wouldn’t have had our first Hispanic president or our first African-American president, and in the future, our first woman president,” he said. “We are not the SBC; we don’t shut people out.”

He said many people have asked him if recent developments in the Southern Baptist Convention would change his thinking. Currie was apparently referencing the presidential contest at the 2006 annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.

“My response is this: When they apologize to Russell Dilday, and when they rewrite the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 to recognize that women are actually children of God, then I’ll listen,” he said. Dilday is the former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1994, he was dismissed by the institution’s trustees, who then installed denominational conservative Kenneth S. Hemphill as president.

Texas CBF Coordinator Rick McClatchy voiced a more moderate assessment of CBF’s role in the state. He said the group was making progress as it pursued greater racial diversity through its Hispanic initiatives and cooperation with other Texas Baptists. He also said 12 additional churches in Texas became first-time contributors to CBF in 2005.

The CBF, McClatchy said, will be noticed by more people as they realize that the group is about the task of attempting to create a different culture, much like Christians did in the days of the Roman Empire. “In a culture of power and cruel domination over others, Christians were convinced that God loved them and that they in turn were to love others. The church was an alternative community of love and care for others,” he said.

McClatchy asked the Texas CBF to assist in creating an “alternative culture of service and sacrifice that challenges a world where everyone is rewarded for looking out for themselves.”

“If we can, then even our social and religious critics can hurl their barbs, but then concede that no one else cares for people like we do,” McClatchy said.

Texas CBF participants adopted a budget of $150,060 for the 2006-2007 fiscal year and elected new members for the Texas coordinating council. Larry Reynolds of Denton was named moderator-elect.

Currie also spoke for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (formerly Public Affairs), an advocacy group located in Washington, D.C., that consistency has taken positions different from social conservatives. Among other things, the BJC has opposed school vouchers, the posting of Ten Commandments displays on public property, public prayer and certain abstinence programs.

Currie said the BJC has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent annually to maintain offices near the Capitol Building. “That’s a waste of God’s money and your money,” Currie said.

He said that Texas Baptists Committed and other Texas Baptists should assist the BJC as it undertakes a capital campaign to raise $4-5 million for the purchase of a building in the Washington, D.C., metro area. This effort is necessary, he said, because religious liberty in America is under attack and the First Amendment “as we know it would probably not be able to pass through Congress right now.”

Southern Baptist Convention messengers voted in 1991 to de-fund the Baptist Joint Committee due to a disconnect between what messengers believed and where the BJC stood on significant issues.

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  • Gregory Tomlin