El Paso: At the close of the business session of the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting, it is customary for the convention to stop and honor those who have joined the great crowd of witnesses in glory during the past year.
Each year this has been a touching moment for me as I am vividly reminded how richly my life has been blessed through the touch and influence of others.
This year as I closed out my second term as president I sat at my place on the platform with my mind racing back over the past four years. During this four years I struggled to help our Baptist family pull together for our future. Suddenly as my mind was racing through the flood of memories and emotions, I saw the smiling face of my dear friend and comrade Bill Wright smiling right back at me. It was a moment that caught me off guard. I was not fully prepared for the flood of emotions I felt. It was hard for me to control my emotions.
In an instant I remembered Bill asking me to consider being nominated for president when no one else was knocking on my door. I remember our first step in the journey in Lubbock when we invited David Currie to meet us for a face to face meeting to talk about the election and to lay down the ground rules for this journey into the unknown. I remembered Bill’s nomination speech in Amarillo when he closed with these lines “if you can’t vote for David, then by all means vote for Joy!” (As you know Joy won by a slim margin and some even suggested it was his fault… which is clearly not the case. Of course my final instructions to Bill before he stepped on stage was: “Bill, please don’t cuss!”) I remember countless long conversations about the future as we played the parts of good cop/bad cop to our very best.
Bill Wright stood tall as a Texas Baptist. He knew our only hope was not walking away but getting involved. He challenged me to be better than I thought I could be–I miss him more than words can fully express.
Some have suggested that under my administration nothing really changed. I would dare to disagree but only time and history will tell the full story. Often times real change must begin in the heart and in the attitude. The BGCT that Bill Wright dreamed of was a BGCT that worked together to share the gospel with those searching for hope. It was a BGCT that sacrificed for those in need. It was a BGCT that sought to major on the majors and not on the minors. He dreamed of the BGCT being family not a collaboration of factions and political parties.
I for one think Bill would have had a great time in McAllen. Fresh winds are blowing. If you looked closely the people at the convention wrestled with the issues and made decisions. We left the rubber stamps at home and brought our hearts and minds to bear on the task at hand. In addition, the exhibit areas were abuzz not with closed circles of those plotting some denominational strategy, but with friends laughing with friends, and new friendship being born.
Next year we will return to Amarillo for the annual meeting. I have decided I am going to spend most of the convention in the hallway in a circle with my friends catching up on old times, laughing and having fun! I cannot think of a higher tribute to Brother Bill!