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Monday, August 20, 2007

Texas Baptists and the New Baptist Covenant

I grew up a Georgia Baptist.

From the age of 6 until a Black Thursday fourteen years later, I proudly considered myself a Georgia Baptist. By my teenage years, I had already made my hajj to Maranatha and Koinonia. The writings of Walter Shurden offered historical context to the fundamentalism that I continued to experience in both of my childhood churches. I knew that I was a different kind of Baptist. A "moderate" Baptist living in the oh-too conservative south Georgia. Such is not the best environment for a person who reads the Bible with an open-mind and an open-heart....

And then I became a Texas Baptist.

I had my doubts about Texas Baptists. I feared that the BGCT was merely SBC-Lite. But, hey Texas did produce great Baptists such as Jimmy Allen, Foy Valentine, James Dunn, T.B. Maston, Bill Moyers, and G.W. Truett. Great preachers like Carlyle Marney and Julie Pennington-Russell each made Texas their home for a decade. Both Bill Underwood of Mercer and Daniel Vestal of the CBF were active Texas Baptists for many years.

These Baptists represent the best of the Texas Baptist heritage - a heritage that I was eager to claim as my own....

For over 50 years, Texas Baptist leaders have sought to apply Christianity to all aspects of their lives. Through the work of the Christian Life Commission and other organizations, Texas Baptists have clothed the naked and fed the hungry. Texas Baptists have sought peace with justice. They have welcomed the stranger while also standing up for liberty of conscience and equality for all.

Joining a slew of Texas Baptists, I have offered my support for the upcoming Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. This historic event will hopefully usher in an era of unprecedented cooperation between Baptists from over 30 different organizations located throughout North America. Under the theme "Unity in Christ," the Celebration will deal with topics of the utmost importance including racism, religious liberty, poverty, and the AIDS pandemic.

Without a doubt, the Texas Baptist fathers of social Christianity like T.B. Maston, Foy Valentine, and J.M. Dawson would have been proud of BGCT involvement in such an endeavor!

Unfortunately, a handful of outspoken Texas Baptists aren't too yippy-skippy about BGCT involvement in the New Baptist Covenant. David Montoya, a pastor from the Fort Worth area, has described the upcoming Celebration in Atlanta as a "Religious Left rally." In a bit of dramatic overkill, Montoya has declared that the partnership of Texas Baptists with the New Baptist Covenant will result in the demise of the BGCT.

Montoya is not alone. Rick Davis, a well known pastor and former BGCT presidential candidate, has echoed Montoya's thoughts. Both men also strongly oppose Texas Baptists Committed, a partnering organization with the New Baptist Covenant. A third and obvious voice in opposition to the New Baptist Covenant is David Lowrie who some believe will be elected in November as the President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. If elected, Lowrie has promised to "stop the drift away from the SBC toward the CBF." He asserts that such a drift has "undermined our effectiveness" and Texas Baptists need to "get back to a more centrist position." Whatever. I'm befuddled as to how any person can argue with a straight face that the conservative BGCT is actually left-of-center. But I've digressed....

Despite these New Baptist Covenant naysayers, I'm encouraged that the BGCT has partnered with the New Baptist Covenant and will be officially represented in Atlanta. In fact, two of the scheduled speakers (Julie Pennington-Russell and Joel Gregory) are/were renowned Texas Baptists. It's also great to see that five other Texas Baptist organizations/institutions are partnering with the New Baptist Covenant. These include Buckner International, Baptist Standard, Texas Baptists Committed, Baylor University, and the African American Fellowship of Texas.

So for now, I'm content with being a Texas Baptist - a Texas Baptist who is ecastic to covenant together with thousands of Texas Baptists and millions of Baptists in North America to:
  • Create an authentic and prophetic Baptist voice for these complex times,
  • Emphasize traditional Baptist values, including sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications for public and private morality, and
  • Promote peace with justice, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and marginalized, welcome the strangers among us, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity.
Will you join me?

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12 Comments:

Anonymous Lee said...

As I understand it, neither the BGCT as a body nor the executive board has "partnered" with the New Baptist Covenant. Apparently Dr. Wade has announced that he is going to go, and whatever process his expense account requires to be authorized to do so has been done, but that doesn't constitute a "partnership" between the BGCT and the New Baptist Covenant. Dr. Wade doesn't have the authority to do that without the authorization of the convention.

I will predict that the issue will be brought to a vote at the convention in Amarillo in November. It will come either in the form of a motion, one way or the other, or a resolution, but my guess is that the convention body will vote on it. I won't speculate on how the vote will turn out.

8:42 AM

 
Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

After finding out, finally, that the NBC was refusing to invite the Alliance of Baptists (my denomination), the BPFNA (which has kept me Baptist so that I don't jump ship and become Mennonite), and the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, I have made up my mind not to go.

I hope it has success, but I won't waste my money to attend a meeting where my kind of Baptist is only tolerated, but the "dissident conservative bloggers" of the SBC--who aren't very much different from the fundamentalist SBC majority--are actively sought out and welcomed with open arms. Just as I am tired of the Democratic Party treating its liberal base with disdain ("Where else will you go?"), so I'm fed up with centrist, "moderate" (Lukewarm?) Baptists taking progressive Baptists for granted while trying everything to get conservative Baptists to honor and respect them.

No thanks.

9:45 AM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

I would have like to seen BPFNA represented. But AWAB is a killer. At this point in time, their "official" inclusion would make this racially diverse meeting crumble. Black Baptist groups would undoubtedly choose not to attend.

For the record, I'm not interested in catering to conservatives. As lukewarm as the word moderate may be, it's a word that carries a bit of historical context to it and centrist just rubs me the wrong way. Same with mainstream, golden rule, and goodwill.

Lee,

I find it interesting that supposedly Wade just uped and partnered with NBC without Executive Board approval. The BGCT is currently listed an an official partner. Also, Charles Wade appeared to represent the BGCT in April of 2006 when he signed the New Baptist Covenant. If he was overstepping his authority, why was this issue not brought up a year ago?

Must a convention as a body authorize such a "partnership" ? If so, there are about 20 "partnering organizations" that are state conventions or national bodies and I suspect most have not taken a floor vote to authorize such a partnership.

10:18 AM

 
Anonymous Lee said...

Maybe I've been mistaken all these years in thinking that Moderate Baptists represented historic, traditional Baptist principles, of which "No individual Baptist can speak for any other Baptist" is high on the list.

I'm not aware that any action in accordance with the bylaws of the BGCT related to this kind of relationship has been taken. If the executive board gave authorization to him to put his name down, it is not officially on behalf of the BGCT.

I'd be opposed to the BGCT's direct participation for two reasons. First, this is going to become a hill on which to die, and if I were a betting man, I'd lay odds on this being the issue that ends moderate control of the BGCT. It's giving what has been a relatively passive, silent majority a cause around which to rally. If the BGCT executive board and lame duck executive director make too big a splash out of this, mark my words, it will be the end of moderate control of the BGCT.

Second, CBF is already on board with the NBC, which includes the 350 or so BGCT congregations that already support CBF. I doubt if there are 100 more churches in the BGCT who would go ahead and sign on with NBC, and they can do it individually if they want to. Why force the other 4,500 BGCT congregations to be part of something they don't want to support? It's a lie to say that "The BGCT" is a partner with the NBC when more than 90% of its churches are not on board, and won't be.

I don't agree with Montoya that this will cause the demise of the BGCT, but I do believe it will end moderate control of the convention. Is it worth it?

11:07 AM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

Lee,

Just wondering your opinion but do you think (if taken to a vote) that those other 4,500 congregations would vote to affirm a relationship with the Baptist Joint Committee. After all, the BJC does partner with the exact same groups that are being represented at the New Baptist Covenant PLUS the Alliance of Baptists. Yet, the BGCT is listed as a partnering body with the BJC. From my understanding, the BGCT even gives money to the BJC.

Since the BGCT is listed as a NBC partner, does this mean that the NBC is speaking FOR Texas Baptists? I'm not so sure. After all, your own Texas CLC and the BJC regularly declare that they speak TO but not FOR Texas Baptists.

Would a "partnership" with the NBC lead to the end of moderate control? I don't know. I suspect you know Texas Baptists much better than I do. I'm just familiar with bits of Texas Baptist history. But further, I think Montoya has suggested that the election of a woman as President could be a last straw? Do you agree?

I have a hard time reconciling the work of Truett Seminary and all the females that are being trained to be ministers with the assumption that a female BGCT President would ultimately further fracture and divide Texas Baptists.

1:58 PM

 
Blogger jleeper said...

The New Baptist Covenant meeting is basically a meeting of the North American Fellowship of the Baptist World Alliance. Why are people complaining about a BWA meeting and BGCT participation a BWA event? The BWA connection is also the reason given (rather reasonably, and I'm AofB) for not involving the AofB, AWAB and BPNFA in the event.

Jerry Leeper

5:24 PM

 
Anonymous Lee said...

Gee, where to start. I don't really want to throw a wet blanket on all of this, since I am a supporter of Truett, and the BJC, and I think the moderate path that the BGCT has pursued during, and since, the conservative resurgence in the SBC has been best for the churches and the entities. But I think it has its limitations, and I think the moderate leadership, generally represented by Texas Baptists Committed, needs to realize that it has probably reached a limit.

The BJC is a great organization with strong connections to the BGCT via James Dunn. The BGCT appropriates a modest amount from its budget, and allows individual churches to contribute to that. Considering the amount, there aren't very many individual churches that support the BJC, even in the BGCT. Being a partner with the BJC, which was, by the way, approved by convention vote, hasn't become divisive because the BGCT has allowed churches to opt out of supporting it, and does so by designation, so that those who don't want to support it on principle don't have to.

I don't think the election of a woman president is a last straw issue. But I think the NBC partnership could be. Are you really comfortable with the executive director of a Baptist convention representing the whole convention by signing off on something that neither the executive board or the convention body itself approved? And if it wasn't all that big of a deal, then they should have reported this to the convention in November of 2006. You can't tell me this was all that widely publicized prior to the November meeting last year. It needs to go to the convention for a vote, plain and simple. That will take away the potential for this to become a divisive issue. As it is, the opposition will take the initiative on it.

7:56 PM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

Before I'm willing to comment about what's appropriate, I'd like to see a news organization report the facts. However, it seems that many other partner organizations of the NBC have offered their support without a convention-wide vote. I suspect in due time (hopefully before November) Marv Knox or ABP will cover the story.

I mean, hey, if Ben Cole's move to Enid or the SBC leaders endorsement of the Outpost is newsworthy - surely Montoya's promised motion deserves some coverage.

That said, the signing of A North American Baptist Covenant back in April 2006 was widely publicized. At the time I was in law school and definitely not blogging. I heard about the Covenant while playing tennis with some McAfee people. The folks at Mercer were excited. Maybe the news didn't make it out to Texas. But, I suspect it did. If this was a big deal (which it is now), then all of this should have been addressed in November 2006. I mean, hey, there is a picture with Jimmy Carter and Charles Wade to prove it.

9:15 PM

 
Blogger Tim said...

Big D,

Jut to let you know, Rick Davis is going to the gathering. I am surprised that you painted with such large brush strokes in this piece. I'm not so sure he is against it as much as you think he is.

Be Well,

Tim Dahl

4:00 PM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

Allow me to add one point, Tim.

Make sure to read Montoya's thoughts on this subject.

I believe that have an irenic and reasoned dialogue between two Baptists can positive results. Instead of yelling past one another, Baptists need to start talking to one another.

9:12 PM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

Tim,

Broad brush? No.

If you read the post, you'll notice that Rick Davis did in fact originally "echo" Montoya's thoughts concerning the NBC.

Rick's position seems to have shifted in recent days and Montoya's has to an extent as well.

11:52 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee,

I just looked it up the BGCT is a member of the North American Baptist Fellowship (the group that is getting together for the covenant). This is the N. American branch of the Baptist World Alliance. Look it up:
http://www.nabf-bwa.org/

10:15 PM

 

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