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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

David Currie - One Rancher Who Makes Sense

David Currie, Executive Director of Texas Baptists Committed, has a punchy column that just came out.

TWO KEY ISSUES: SUPPORTING THE BGCT AND OPPOSING FUNDAMENTALISM

In his Rancher's Rumblings column, Currie addresses a few criticisms of Texas Baptists Committed. Currie explains that TBC has worked closely with the BGCT in recent years to "encourage the election of officers who represent every facet of Baptist life." Looking at the list of recent elected officers of the BGCT, I'd say that Currie's TBC has been quite successful. In addition to white men, TBC has helped elect African-Americans, Hispanics and women.

Currie writes:
I do not believe that Texas Baptists could have had better leadership these past 5 years. TBC endorsed these people because we knew that they loved and supported the BGCT and, especially, because we knew that they opposed Fundamentalist control of the BGCT. Our endorsement never involved any consideration of whether they supported the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or the Southern Baptist Convention with their national mission dollars. That was – and is – irrelevant. Instead, their support of the BGCT and their opposition to Fundamentalism were the keys to receiving TBC’s endorsement.

But I hear loudly the cry that TBC is “picking the officers” and that we need an “open” convention. Well, personally, an open convention is fine with me. However, I’ve never felt that the convention was “closed.” It’s just that candidates for any office of any organization rarely spring from “the floor.” They are usually put forward by some individual or group well before the meeting. In BGCT life, TBC has been uniquely positioned to recommend candidates for office, because TBC is made up of people who have taken the time and effort to become informed about, and involved in, BGCT life.

There are those who desire to see Texas Baptists Committee refrain from endorsing candidates.
If this is to happen, Currie has a few thoughts:

There seem to be two very powerful fears in play here. Persons who have worked closely with TBC over the past 20 years – and given time, energy, prayers, money, and faithful attendance to the BGCT annual meeting each year – FEAR that, if TBC is not actively involved in endorsing officers for the convention, the convention might elect SBC supporters who would lead the BGCT down the path to Fundamentalist control. They FEAR, too, the election of those who – while not overtly supporting the SBC – might attempt to “work with” the SBC’s Fundamentalist leadership, blindly trusting them while ignoring the historic Fundamentalist commitment to control, not cooperation.

On the other hand, persons who have maintained a strong relationship with the BGCT, but – for historic or personal reasons – have continued to support SBC missions and ministries, FEAR that they are not fully accepted in BGCT life because they do not support CBF and are still funding many SBC ministries (and even institutions).

Well, I think I have come up with a simple, fair way to ease the fears of everyone concerned. Here is my solution.

I recommend that anyone who runs for office in the Baptist General Convention of Texas begin by making clear to Texas Baptists first, that he or she loves and supports the mission, ministry, and institutions of the BGCT; and second, that he or she opposes SBC-style Fundamentalist control. They can give their mission money where they want to give it, but they must publicly commit to firmly opposing Fundamentalism in any form. That is only fair and right. People have a right to know where these candidates stand on Fundamentalism.

The BGCT should be a “big tent” convention that offers a place at the table for churches that support CBF missions, SBC missions, or both. Support of CBF or SBC is not – and should not be – an issue in the BGCT. We have worked hard to protect local church autonomy and protect every local church’s right to give cooperatively as it chooses, in whatever percentage it chooses.

The reality is that there should be no Fundamentalists remaining in the BGCT. Frankly, if you are a Fundamentalist, there is a convention that was created just for you – the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. That is where you belong, and you should join it with our blessing. You can leave the BGCT, and there will be no hard feelings on our part.

Today’s BGCT should be made up of churches and people who oppose creedalism in any form or fashion, and support freedom for our institutions and ministries, and a shared vision of ministry and mission together as Texas Baptists.

So, if you feel led to run for office in the BGCT, and someone is willing to nominate and support you, I encourage you to run and let the people decide. However, I want to repeat that this encouragement comes with one qualifier attached. As you run, be sure to first clearly affirm to Texas Baptists that you love, support, and believe in the Baptist General Convention of Texas just as she is – a convention focused on including all who want to partner together to spread the Kingdom of God, free from Fundamentalist control.

We cannot afford to pretend that the past 30 years of division in Baptist life did not happen, and we must not revisit, or stumble blindly into, old battles that take our focus away from the work of the Kingdom. So we must know where our officers stand on support of the BGCT and opposition to Fundamentalism.

Supporting CBF or the SBC is not now and never has been the issue; supporting the BGCT as a free and faithful state convention is very much the issue.

Whosoever will serve, step forward.

Candidates who run for office in the BGCT must make clear that he or she opposes SBC-style Fundamentalist control. Candidates must oppose creedalism in any form or fashion. A litmus test for freedom is one litmus test that I can support.

Currie's Ramblings make more sense than any other BGCT-related blog post that I've read in the past year.

We're free and faithful Baptists for a reason. For us, it's Grace not Law, Christ not Creed. Cooperation not Control. And most importantly freedom not conformity.

David Currie is one Rancher who makes sense...

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9 Comments:

Blogger Bart Barber said...

I get the distinct feeling that David doesn't miss me and my church when he goes to a BGCT meeting.

;-)

2:24 PM

 
Blogger Cat's Dad said...

How benevolent and magnanimous on David's part. He sounds just like an power-holding fundamentalist who wants to enlarge the tent now that the issue is settled (it's been settled since the messenger-formula change in '98).

He also sounds like Obama--attempting to just sweep under the rug years and years of hate-SBC rhetoric by himself and those high up in TBC.

When you see the numbers and dollars shrinking, you get desperate. That's politics. And David's a politician.

(Never mind the near riot that took place at the 2006 Annual Meeting, courtesy of the TBC-endorsed elected leadership, of whom David says, "I do not believe that Texas Baptists could have had better leadership these past 5 years.")

3:25 PM

 
Blogger b. woodward said...

BDW -

Could you provide us with your definition of a "fundamentalist"? (I'm a young SBC'er and regular reader of The-BDW.) Do you understand it primarily theologically (inerrancy, penal substitution, exclusivism, etc.) historically ("the Takeover Crowd") , morally (arrogant, self-righteous, power-hungry...) or some other category? I generally understand it theologically, but David (and many others) seems to be thinking of it primarily as a morality / personality descriptor. How do you find most people in your circles using the term?

9:18 PM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

I've used this definition in a content footnote in several of my seminar papers:

" Fundamentalism developed as a reaction to liberalism/modernism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Adherents vowed to fight for the “fundamentals” of the faith. Typically this included a belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, miracles, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the virgin birth. Fundamentalists emphasized the importance of beliefs—doctrinal orthodoxy—and accountability usually through the use of creeds. Fundamentalism also refers to an attitude of no compromise and no toleration of dissent. In contrast to conservatives who often have similar doctrinal convictions but are willing to find unity of mission amidst diversity, fundamentalists adopt a “my way or no way” attitude toward cooperation. Or as some say it, the only way to cooperate with a fundamentalist is to obey him. For much of the twentieth century, militant fundamentalists were also independent from denominations. In the context of the Southern Baptist conflict, moderates argued that their opponents were fundamentalists for their insistence upon inerrancy, creedal conformity and allegiance to the political agenda of the “takeover” leaders. "

In the Baptist context - at least in a southern Baptist (lower case s) context - I think my definition still applies. I'm not as familiar with personalities in Texas Baptist life - I can't really speak to how they define fundamentalism.

In my Baptist world (which isn't necessarily composed of Texas Baptists, I grew up in Georgia), I think my definition was the most common. It is a definition influenced by the writings of Dr. Shurden at Mercer. Some in the SBC use a very narrow definition of fundamentalism - a definition so narrow that pretty much only Independent types like Bob Jones get to wear the fundamentalist tag. I reject that definition.

So, yea - my definition takes into consideration both theology and attitude towards cooperation.

9:39 PM

 
Anonymous Lee said...

So much for the argument that moderates are inclusive. They are inclusive, as long as they can define who to exclude before they will be inclusive. That's as "fundamentalist" as anything the other side has done.

So we are pretty much guaranteed that there will be a continuous drop off in support for the BGCT and its causes, which has fallen more than 12% in just two years. That's what happens when you put denominational politics and making sure that your power is protected over advancing the Kingdom.

And before you think that's anything favorable to you and your group, Bart, think again. You are just as guilty as they are for diminishing the Baptist witness in Texas.

8:43 AM

 
Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

Lee,

You seem to equate contributions to the Cooperative Program of the BGCT with "advancing the Kingdom." So giving to the BGCT is down. What's the point? All the stats point to the fact that American Christians are supporting denominations less and less. But that doesn't mean that those Christians through their local churches aren't "advancing the Kingdom" in different, new, and exciting ways.

Do you suggest that Bart and others who support the SBTC are not "advancing the Kingdom" as well? What about those progressive Baptist churches in Texas who choose not to participate in the work of the BGCT but support other ministries and organizations. Do you suggest that they too aren't "advancing the Kingdom" ?

And Lee, you mock moderates as being exclusive - but hasn't history taught us that cooperation is not possible with agenda-drive fundamentalists who desire control? You can't cooperate with someone for the sake of "advancing the Kingdom" when that someone honestly isn't interested in cooperating....

12:01 PM

 
OpenID loveandlead said...

BDW,

I thought your description of Fundamentalist was on target in many ways. For me personally in Texas the division has been more political vs. theological. From my perspective most Texas Baptist leaders have been rather conservative especially when you look at the scope of theology. Even a "moderate" Baptist is a very conservative theologian for all practical purposes.

I do believe David Currie and the TBC have sought to create an "inclusiveness" for many within the Baptist family. Through their efforts certain values have been protected, and affinity groups represented.

I believe Currie and others are sensing a "sea change" is in the works. While we were struggling over Baptist values the world has changed on us. The challenges facing conventions in this day of rapid change are huge. I suspect we are living in a day when we will have to lay aside some "old wineskins" and dream new dreams of cooperation and networking.

I see both Lee's perspective and yours on this issue. Lee is trying to make the point that the "party" spirit of recent years has encouraged many to find new ways of networking. However, Aaron you are right on target in suggesting the Kingdom of God is much bigger (praise the Lord) than the BGCT. I firmly believe the SBTC are part of the same Kingdom and serving the same Lord.

Change is inevitable. It is my prayer and hopes that a new day is dawning when the BGCT will be positioned to be a key player in reaching the "world" that is coming to Texas and the world beyond our borders.

I am 48 years old. From the first days of my ministry I have lived in the wake of the struggles of our SBC/BGCT leadership. I am tired of those struggles and ready for us to get to work at building the Kingdom by all means possible.

David Lowrie

1:45 PM

 
Anonymous Lee said...

David said it well. It is the whole "party spirit" and the turf protecting that is, as far as I am concerned, counterproductive to whatever kingdom work we are trying to do as Baptists. The fact that there are two state conventions in Texas, both visibly antagonistic toward the other, speaks volumes about our willingness, or should I say, unwillingness, to abide by the instructions of scripture.

I get a little more upset at the moderates, partly because I used to consider myself one, and believed in the idealistic language of inclusion and cooperation that is at the heart of their PR campaign. But real Christlikeness, at least from what I can discern in the scripture, means treating those who have been the most mean-spirited and oppositional with the same kind of gentleness and respect that you treat those who agree with you. It also means taking the high road all the time, even if it means you might have to back down and concede your point to reach an agreement. As long as you are not compromising scriptural principles, what are you really giving up?

I'm just flat out tired of seeing resources and energy that should be going into ministry and missions get spent on this seemingly endless battle that seems to accomplish nothing more than to get a few people who think they are prominent and important a committee chair, board seat, or elected to an officer position.

7:56 PM

 
Anonymous KGray said...

Instead of endorsing one candidate, Mr. Currie labels and stereotypes an entire convention, as well as whomever he includes as "Fundamentalists." And warns people not to cooperate with them. And tells them they should be gone by now; if not, please leave with our blessings and join that Fundamentalist convention, the SBCT, which has no real reason to exist.

Then he says we're a big tent who loves to cooperate and we shouldn't revisit old struggles.

That doesn't make any sense to me.

10:39 PM

 

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