Preliminary review of the First Baptist Church Dallas report
by Wm. Robert Johnston
updated 27 February 2003
Some specific inaccurate/misleading statements and flaws in reasoning (statements from the report are italicized, with page numbers from the original):
- Report is not a balanced treatment. For example, statements by the SBTC and SBC are accepted at face value while relevant official statements by the BGCT are not even cited.
- Report relies heavily on information from the Missouri Baptist Laymen's Association (MBLA), which is not a completely reliable source.
- Report relies heavily on guilt by association, rather than directly verifiable doctrinal positions.
- Report does a poor job regarding citations: some citations are incomplete, some are incorrect, some quotations are not documented. Some of the problems may result from using secondary sources such as the MBLA.
- Report quotes some sources out of context, quotes some incorrectly, or repeats incorrect quotations from secondary sources.
- Report is poorly written, having an unfinished appearance in places.
- Numbers represent identifiable connections to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and/or Texas Baptists Committed.
In addition for the past eight years one or more Vice-Presidents of the BGCT have been identified with the CBF or TBC. (p. 6).
Report fails to define criterion for "identifiable"/"identified" connections.
- Involvement and close association with the CBF and TBC indicates that elected leadership of the BGCT has acted as an accessory by association because the committee could find little evidence of BGCT leadership criticism or repudiation of the expressed views and/or actions of the CBF or TBC leaders. (p. 7).
Failure to engage in open attacks is not sufficient to make one an "accessory by association"--a term which is a euphemism for guilt by association. This statement is factually incorrect because BGCT leaders are on record making statements and taking actions contradicting alleged views of the CBF. (A primary example is BGCT actions with respect to University BC, Austin.)
- Clanton led "breakout sessions" at the 1992 and 1995 CBF General Assemblies.
Jann Aldredge-Clanton apparently has not been invited to lead any CBF sessions since 1995, for unknown reasons.
- Paul Simmons, a former Professor of Christian Ethics at Southern Seminary, has been a leading Southern Baptist abortion rights advocate and writes in his book, Birth and Death: Bioethical Decision-Making, "God is truly pro-choice," and that: "The Bible holds open the possibility, therefore, that abortion may be consistent with the will of God." (p. 7)
The context of these statements is needed in order to establish whether Simmons is actually in disagreement with conservatives. For instance, in 1996 the SBC Christian Life Commission wrote "For several years, the Southern Baptist Convention has passed and reaffirmed resolutions adhorring abortion 'except to save the life of the mother' (SBC Resolutions 1982, 1984, 1987, 1989)", suggesting that abortion in this situation is not considered by the SBC as inconsistent with the will of God. (Please note that I am not defending abortion; I am merely stating that these quotes are inadequate to document Simmons' position.)
- The BGCT has provided partial funding for two Texas churches that have a woman as pastor. (p. 8)
This statement warrants documentation, considering that my most recent information is that only one BGCT-affiliated church has a woman as pastor. (I have seen undocumented reports that one church and one mission are being provided with some funds from the BGCT.)
- At its 1994 General Assembly, the CBF released its first "resource packet" entitled "HIV/AIDS Ministry: Putting a Face on AIDS." The packet was again widely distributed at the 1995 CBF General Assembly. (p. 8).
The CBF stopped distributing this packet prior to 1998. It would be useful to know if the committee examined a copy of the packet or if they used the citations from the MBLA, which has indicated to me that they do not have a copy of the packet.
- David Currie, the Coordinator of Texas Baptists Committed, said "Recently, Loretta and I traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the executive board meeting of the Interfaith Alliance. I serve on this board along with Foy Valentine, former executive director of the SBC Christian Life Commission. [The Interfaith Alliance] is a clear alternative to the many Religious Right organizations currently claiming to represent people of faith."
"I am honored to serve on this board and very proud of the excellent leadership being given by Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, our executive director. I would urge all our TBC readers to support the Interfaith Alliance." (p. 9)
The report fails to indicate the deletion of two sections of text. The complete quote is as follows:
I serve on this board along with Foy Valentine, former executive director of the SBC Christian Life Commission. The Interfaith Alliance is an organization that focuses on religious liberty for all Americans. It seeks to encourage civility in matters of public policy and politics and is a clear alternative to the many Religious Right organizations currently claiming to represent people of faith.
I am honored to serve on this board and very proud of the excellent leadership being given by Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, our executive director. Welton is a former Director of Citizenship for the SBC Christian Life Commission and former pastor of Broadway Baptist Church, Fort Worth. I would urge all our TBC readers to support the Interfaith Alliance.
- The committee found no reason to believe that any BGCT leaders embrace all of the views expressed by many of those whom they serve in the CBF but in the world of reality leaders are often known by the company they keep. (p. 10)
If the committee's finding was "no reason to believe", why is this then contrasted with "the world of reality"?
- Under the EE plan adopted in 1998 that same church is now entitled to only 2 messengers and must pay $1,250 to the BGCT if it wants to send the additional 4 messengers. (p. 10)
These funds are not a "payment" but are a participation in evangelism and other ministries. Why would a church declining to cooperate want 6 votes? Additionally, note that the SBC also ties financial participation to representation.
- The chancellor of Baylor University, who served on the search committee for a new executive director of the BGCT, has urged Texas Baptist [sic] to leave the Southern Baptist Convention saying, "Why should we send $43.3 million in tribute each year to the fundamentalists?" (p. 10)
Herbert Reynolds is not quoted correctly here. The FBC Dallas report cites the Fort Worth Star Telegram, but a transcript of Reynolds' speech in Houston on the referenced date gives no such statement, but the following instead:
Frankly, I can readily understand why the Southern Baptists of Texas group and the initiators of the Reconciliation Movement would want to derail our efforts in Texas to chart our own destiny, a destiny that might lie quite apart from the Southern Baptist Convention or at least a destiny where we do not automatically deliver a $43 million dollar annual tribute to the Executive Committee of the SBC!
While Reynolds did use the term "fundamentalists" in the speech, he did not (according to the transcipt) make the statment attributed by the FBC Dallas report. (If the error in quotation was by the Fort Worth Star Telegram, it would not be the only instance where the secular media has misquoted BGCT leaders.) Reynolds opened this speech by saying:
Today, I am speaking for myself only. I do not represent Texas Baptists Committed, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baylor and certainly not the SBC. Further some of the viewpoints I will present may seem presumptuous and are not necessarily shared in by some of the people with whom I have labored over the years.
His speech is not so much actively "urging" departure from the SBC as it is favorable speculating about such a possibility.
- David Currie...said: "Texas Baptists continue to make clear that they have no intention of following the path of the Southern Baptist Convention. Year after year messengers to the BGCT have rejected fundamentalist candidates for convention leadership. We are distancing ourselves from the Southern Baptist Convention and rightly so. (p. 10)
The report fails to indicate the deletion of a section of text. The complete quote is as follows:
Texas Baptists continue to make clear that they have no intention of following the path of the Southern Baptist Convention. Year after year messengers to the BGCT have rejected fundamentalist candidates for convention leadership. Year after year we have declared our autonomy as a state convention. We are distancing ourselves from the Southern Baptist Convention and rightly so. To do otherwise would be to ignore "the high calling we have in Christ Jesus".
- Jerold McBride...has said, "The BGCT will not be safe until the majority of churches in Texas know what has happened and is happening and no longer feel an emotional connection nor have a strong financial tie to the SBC. We need a full alternative literature program to replace the SBC Sunday School Board literature. Which seminaries are we as the BGCT going to support?" (p. 10)
The report fails to indicate the deletion of two sections of text. The complete quote is as follows:
The BGCT will not be safe until the majority of churches in Texas know what has happened and is happening and no longer feel an emotional connection nor have a strong financial tie to the SBC. We are years from getting to this point.
The BGCT still must make many critical decisions. How are we going to fund the Bible college, the lay theological education program, etc.? What kind of literature program are we going to have? Supplemental literature is not enough. We need a full alternative literature program to replace the SBC Sunday School Board literature. In what kind of mission partnerships are we going to be involved? Which seminaries are we as the BGCT going to support? These are all decisions that will have to be made by messengers to the convention each year.
- BGCT-Web page link. Educational institutions which we represent: Logsdon School of Theology, Truett Theological Seminary. Notice the absence of the SBC Seminaries. (p. 10)
These links are listed on the page for the BGCT Christian Education Coordinating Board, which includes the Texas schools for organizational reasons. The SBC seminaries are not directly linked to the BGCT, but indirectly through the SBC. A more noteworthy point is that there is not an obvious link to the SBC's home page on the BGCT's web site.
- (3) The action to effectively defund certain SBC agencies is evidence that the doctrinal positions of the SBC, its seminaries and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission are no longer held by those now leading the BGCT. (p. 13)
While the action may support this contention in regard to doctrine, the issue which is more clear is that the BGCT objects to policy actions of these entities. Further, an arguement could be made that the doctrinal differences result from these SBC entities changing their doctrines from those traditionally held.
© 2001, 2003 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 27 February 2003.
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