The churches and leaders of the Baptist General Convention of Texas find themselves charting a course through uncharted waters. In a world that seems to be turning upside down with changes within and without. The leadership of the convention and the local church must look toward heaven for guidance and direction.
Randel Everett, our new chosen leader, has set a course for the future anchored on timeless principles of the Kingdom: Present the gospel to everyone in Texas in their “heart” language by Resurrection Day 2010, and make sure all Texans know where their next meal is coming from, especially the children. This vision strikes us at our point of strength and weakness at the same time. As Texans we often live under the illusion that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and do anything. Well, I think we have proved this “urban legend” to be wrong.
Marv Knox spoke to the issue well saying:
“The wonderful thing about the impossibility of Texas Hope 2010 is that it kicks our pride in the head. Let’s just admit we’re a prideful people. And we come by all that pride quite naturally.”
In a day when our fellowship appears to be fractured and there is strife in our ranks, the Lord has challenged us to come together around these Kingdom tasks. Bold daring vision inspires unity in the ranks.
Recently David Currie, the able and committed leader and voice of the Texas Baptist Committed, wrote in his column “A Rancher’s Rumblings” about entering a new day in the selection of our leaders. Historically since the onset of the “Conservative Resurgance” born out of a discussion between Paige Patterson and Judge Pressler at Café Du Monde in New Orleans, the TBC has fought for “religious freedom” in Texas against the controlling “spirit” of Fundamentalism with a capital “F”. The first salvo of this struggle was fired in Houston 1979 when I was a sophomore at Baylor as Pressler using his skills as a politician and political strategist launched a campaign to wrestle the control of the Southern Baptist Convention into the hands of his faithful foot soldiers. These foot soldiers would over ten years take voting control of all the boards of trustee positions and then would oust the leaders for new “Fundamentalist” leaders. One of the darkest days in Texas Baptist life was when Dr. Russell Dilday was fired and locked out of his office in an ultimate act of power politics. This “spirit” of control and political maneuvering has seeped its way into our life as a denomination and even into the spirits of our local churches. To be honest, I learned Roberts Rules of Order and how to handle a business meetings by watching the wrangling and the maneuvering at our annual SBC meetings. It was not a pretty sight, and often embarrassing.
Currie realizes change is in the air in the BGCT and communicated some of the FEARS of those who braved this battle in Texas and maintained our freedom against this “spirit” of Fundamentalism. He wrote:
“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.”
It would appear that these would be real fears for those who have struggled to get us to this point. I remember last year when it was announced that I was going to be nominated for president of the BGCT, that Dr. Dilday my seminary president and long time friend of my family wrote me in essence reminding me to “not forget” the challenges and the issues of the past. I believe if we do not learn the hard lessons of the past, we are prone to repeat them, and worse of all waste the sacrifice and courage of so many. There is no place for the “spirit of control” in our ranks from either side. We must make it clear we are entering a new day when political strategies will not be the marching orders for our people and churches. We need to care less about who is in control and more about accomplishing our Kingdom mission.
Currie’s stated his solution to this dilemma this way:
“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.”
I am not exactly sure how this request will be implemented, but I think we all understand the concerns and fears that motivate this plea. I am not afraid to make such a declaration with these stipulations. I oppose the “spirit” of Fundamentalism and control on all fronts. I believe we need a new day of openness and trust. I believe we can no longer afford to set our course based on fear, but we must embrace the future with faith in the Lord and the workings of His Kingdom. Let me go on record, I am tired of labels, I want us to learn to go by first names and to get to know each other better. Most of us cannot be put into a box or label very well. We all are complex unique creations of God. Our best leaders for tomorrow will not be those who get their marching orders from a handful of chosen leaders but rather those who move by the winds of the Spirit of God. We face challenges that will demand creativity, risk, trust, and daring. We need to “re-invent” the whole concept of cooperation and networking among followers of Jesus. The “spirit of control” will destroy us. We need to “lose control” and learn to trust again.
One day Jesus’ disciples returned from a day of Kingdom work to report that they found others working the fields that were not from their number (or camp). They bragged about stopping them I suspect expecting Jesus to commend them for their devotion and orthodoxy. To their shock and amazement Jesus said:
“Do not stop him, no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward” Mark 9:39-41 NIV
The truth that strikes me from this statement is the comment “about me”, I need to be reminded from start to finish, it is all about Jesus. This is His Kingdom. This is His work. Jesus is in control.