Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Texas Baptists Committed - It's You!

The 2010 annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas was historic - as messengers moved from their usual venues to meet in McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley. Messengers elected three new officers: Victor Rodriguez, president; Jerry Carlisle, first vice president; and Sylvia DeLoach, second vice president. All three will serve our convention well and faithfully.

TBC again did not officially endorse any candidates for BGCT office. Not endorsing, however, does NOT mean that we don't care. Though we didn't endorse, we did provide information about the four officer candidates to enable messengers to make informed decisions.

In the Southern Baptist Convention elections during the 1980s, we learned that elections have consequences. Convention officers - whether national or state - possess appointment authority that can affect the operations of a convention for generations to come. In the SBC, appointments that were made in the 1980s by a succession of Fundamentalist presidents forever changed the SBC landscape and left many of us looking for a new place to send our mission dollars.

Today, the BGCT faces many challenges, some of which were addressed in motions brought before the messengers this week. For instance, the BGCT is challenged to make these annual meetings once again matter to people and churches, as well as to make the convention itself relevant to new generations that don't relate to denominations and conventions in the ways that my generation - and my parents' generation - once did.

But our convention isn't intimidated by these challenges. Randel Everett, BGCT executive director, is boldly leading the convention to actively share the hope of Christ around the world. He has followed TexasHope 2010 with Hope 1:8, which challenges churches and individuals to be personally and actively involved in mission trips.

A few weeks ago, Michael Bell wrote a blog post here in which he said, "Naysayers, critics, negaholics, and detractors, you will have with you always." Amen! The BGCT has them, and TBC has its share as well.

Well, the BGCT isn't going away! Its leaders are working hard to find new ways of meeting the needs of a new day. And God will bless those efforts. What shape will those blessings take? Who knows but God? But God still has a purpose and mission for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

By the same token, TBC isn't going away, either. It's obvious that God still has a purpose and mission for Texas Baptists Committed. We serve a different role than the BGCT - a role of the "lookout" or "watchdog."

Those who stole Baptists' freedom in the SBC - ultimately using extremely narrow and dogmatic interpretations of Scriptures to dictate whom Southern Baptist churches could and could not call as pastor; who could and could not serve as Southern Baptist missionaries; and how members of Southern Baptist churches could and could not interpret certain Scriptures - haven't gone away, either. Nor will they.

In the 1980s, we moderate Baptists were ostriches who lost the Southern Baptist Convention by refusing to pull our heads out of the sand and look around at the irretrievable changes being wrought on the Baptist landscape. In the 1990s, Texas Baptists pulled our heads out of the sand and fought hard to save our state convention from meeting the same fate as the SBC.

Only ostriches would deny the key role that Texas Baptists Committed played in preserving the freedom of the BGCT. Led by David Currie, TBC woke up Texas Baptists, unflaggingly held meetings across the state to inform the members of our churches of what was at stake and encourage them to go to the annual meetings as messengers and vote to preserve our freedom.

But TBC wasn't just David Currie. TBC was people - it was the people that David, his staff, and his Board encouraged to actively engage in Baptist life. To deny the work of TBC is to deny the work of thousands of people who lived out the courage of their convictions in a perilous time for Texas Baptists.

By the time 2000 rolled around, Fundamentalists had largely given up their fight to control the BGCT and had begun their own convention - the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. And many freedom-loving, battle-weary Texas Baptists breathed a sigh of relief and headed back to ostrich country, wanting to believe the battle was over.

So now here we are in another new decade. Will we again wait until it's too late?

Last year, Georgia's state convention disfellowshipped a church in Decatur, Georgia, for calling a woman as pastor. Rest in Peace, local church autonomy!

This fall, the North Carolina CBF (yes, CBF!) is debating whether it should scrap its insistence on the freedom of each individual to interpret Scripture and instead adopt a "Bapto-Catholic" model that stresses creeds (such as The Apostles' Creed) and Scriptural interpretation by the community rather than by the individual. RIP, priesthood of the believer!

And in our own state, it has become apparent that the primary purpose for which the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was formed was to misrepresent the doctrinal positions of the BGCT and lead churches to forsake it for the Fundamentalist state convention. Tragically, they have experienced some success at that, pulling the wool over some churches' eyes and persuading them to leave the BGCT. Tell a lie enough, and people start believing it.

That's where TBC comes in. Rather than burying its head in the sand, TBC keeps an ear to the ground. We make ourselves available to members worried about their churches to contact us and let us know (anonymously, if necessary) what's going on at their churches so that we can provide them with the information and tools needed to protect themselves before it's too late. We stay informed about available pastors, their qualifications, and their integrity, and then provide that information to pastorless churches who request it.

Now is not the time for ostriches; it's the time for lookouts. Remember, Texas Baptists Committed isn't us - it's you!