Not Against Us

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.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Not Against Us

  1. “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.”

    As it should be. I think we’d better start with the meals.

  2. Poet,

    Good point!

    Jesus wants us to live with “full” heart, and “full” stomach. Last year we sponsored a camp for inner city children. Meal time was always a high light. At breakfast on the first day a little girl asked as she was being served, “Will this be our only meal today?” Gladly at camp we could say yes, but I am afraid that is not always true at home. We have work to do.

    David

  3. Regarding Currie’s remarks, on this I agree with him. We need candidates who love the BGCT are not seeking to change it into a clone of the SBC . Tomorrow I will post a blog on this subject, also. David, your writing always challenges me. I do so appreciate you.

  4. Charles D

    Dr. Lowrie,

    I read Dr. Currie’s column a little differently. I sensed that he does not want some of my more conservative friends (including my wife) in the BGCT at all. He stated, “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.”

    In my opinion, your column softens and effectively changes his statements by using the term “spirit of fundamentalism” – meaning that my conservative friends might continue to feel welcome in the BGCT.

    So, I really do appreciate your words and actually prefer your interpretation, but that isn’t really what he said. He said for my wife and friends to ‘leave’.

    I was really hoping that someone would say that it is time for Dr. Currie to standdown. What if every dually aligned church in Texas was to read Dr. Currie’s column instead of yours? I think there would probably be a lot of people feeling that they were not welcome in the BGCT. (and I don’t believe that to be the case!)

    Regarding ***labeling***:
    So, is it time for me to leave my dually-aligned congregation so that my wife’s beliefs are not minimized, ridiculed, belittled, and ***labeled***? I am very frustrated by continuously having my friends ‘hammered’ with the term fundamentalist just because they are conservative. Their faith is not militant!!! It is, however, sincere and conservative. In my opinion, the term “Fundamentalist” has become just another inflammatory wedge-word that is often being intentionally used to increase the distance between the two banks of the Baptist river. I would so much rather that we be about building bridges.

    I do not carry the scars of the past so maybe I’m just too naïve to comprehend just how severely those with scars were wounded. Maybe it’s going to take people without scars but with an understanding of history to move us forward!

    Sorry this is so long. I just didn’t read Dr. Currie’s article the same way. His article really hit a very raw nerve with me.

  5. Charles D: Without trying to put words in Currie’s mouth, I don’t really believe he was inviting conservatives to leave. There is none in the BGCT more conservative than I am. But, I abhor Fundamentalism with a capital “F”. I consider myself fundamentalist in so far as doctine is concerned, but I am not a person with a Fundmentalist mindset. I wil blog on this this evening and in that blog I said I was really looking for a reason to disagree with Currie, but could not on this issue. I do believe candidates for office should love the BGCT and renounce trying to make it a clone of the SBC. You and your wife are in the majority in Texas. I am with you. Stand by us.

  6. Charles D.

    Thank you for your pointed and direct comments on this matter. I know a couple of guys who took Currie’s comments in much the same way. I confess I did tone down the rhetoric because I don’t believe a war of words will get us to where we need to be.

    I agree with Ken in the fact that I believe the vast majority of the BGCT churches and members are strong conservatives in their beliefs and practices. They give millions of mission dollars to the SBC, and still have significant ties to the mission of the SBC to reach the world. Last year when I allowed my name to surface as a candidate for president of the BGCT it was because I felt that the SBC/BGCT churches needed a stronger visible voice in the future of our convention. I spoke out because I loved the BGCT enough to say enough was enough and we need a course correction.

    The course correction has more to do with us getting back on mission as a convention than our connections to the SBC, CBF, BWA, or any other national movement. We have work to do in Texas that needs to get done, and if we don’t stop the money and trust drain we will miss the opportunity the Lord has for us.

    I believe Dr. Everett is on target calling us back to our mission in Hope 2010. We must learn from the past, look to the future, and invite all our people to the table. I pray you and your wife will be more involved not less involved in the future. That is the heart of what I have been trying to represent over the past eighteen months, and will continue to pursue.

    Thanks again for sharing your heart with us.

    David Lowrie

  7. KGray

    I totally agree with Charles D. and especially his wife.

    Please do not underestimate the harm this kind of rhetoric is causing. The last time my conservative friends were invited to leave, they left. Lay leaders, Sunday school directors, tithers, mission friends teachers, young families with children — now they are in SBCT churches going on repeat missions to Africa.

    Thank you Charles D.

  8. Lee

    Actions often speak louder than words, and in this case, I think Charles D. has correctly interpreted the message. It’s hard not to, with an invitation to leave attached.

    It is not only time to tone down the war of words, it is time to stop it and move on. Perhaps it is a pipe dream to think that Baptists could ever get together again in full cooperation, though to think that might be the case is disappointing. But the continued promotion of the division, by both sides just to be completely fair, has very likely permanently damaged the testimony and witness of Texas Baptists. It is time for David Currie to stand down, and let new leadership have a chance, if not at bringing Texas Baptists back together, at least at stopping the rhetoric and finding a better way at moving forward than simply being “opposed to fundamentalism”.

    http://deepintheheart.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/currie-public-opposition-to-fundamentalism-required-for-bgct-officers/

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