Preliminary review of the Prestonwood Baptist Church Plano report
by Wm. Robert Johnston
updated 24 June 2001
Some specific inaccurate/misleading statements and flaws in reasoning (statements from the report are italicized):
- The report is more concerned with actions that theological positions.
- The report makes several complaints regarding the BGCT but does not address the fact that the same complaints have been made regarding the SBC.
- ...grave concerns about the current direction of the BGCT, in particular, its distancing itself from the SBC.
It can be argued that the distancing has been a mutual phenomena.
- Such an impression can only be offset by appropriate supportive statements and actions on the part of the BGCT that communicate clearly the BGCT's long-term commitment to the SBC and all of its ministries, not just its missions programs.
Bear in mind that some could justifiably question the value of a blanket commitment to a man-made organization. Only 22 years ago this same organization was of questionable merits such that it prompted the conservative resurgence. The SBC has made no such long-term commitment to the BGCT, and indeed the 1928 SBC resolution on cooperation declared that the SBC and the state conventions are of equal status.
- Now, the large amount being charged to churches (in addition to their size) to receive their full complement of messengers has the effect, intended or otherwise, of disenfranchising poorer churches.
The SBC allows the number of messengers to be determined exclusively by size, and only charges a modest amount (compared to the BGCT's charges) for additional messengers a church might want to bring (up to a maximum of ten). A similar system adopted by the BGCT would, in the judgement of this Committee, be fairer and would not provide the financial disincentive that discourages many poorer churches from participating in the annual meeting of the BGCT.
The BGCT does not "charge" churches in order to obtain "their full complement"; rather, the complement is determined by the dual factors of church size and church financial participation in BGCT budgeted ministries. The financial criterion serves to ask a church to cooperate with the BGCT in its ministries if it seeks to increase its voice in BGCT policy making. The second sentence above is incorrect to claim that SBC representation is determined "exclusively by size" and indeed is contradicted by the second half of the same sentence. Both SBC and BGCT representation are determined by a combination of church size and financial cooperation. The SBC's increments for increased representation are 25% of those for the BGCT. The BGCT has a smaller budget but draws from only one-tenth as many churches. When adjusted for the disparity in convention sizes, the SBC's increments are 47-64% of those of the BGCT. This difference may not justify the contrast as "modest" and "large". The charge that the BGCT criterion is unfair to poor churches should be set against the fact that the criterion works out to $2.50 per year per church member for the third and fourth messengers and $10 per year per church member for messengers earned beyond that. Regarding fairness, bear in mind the BGCT representation change sought to eliminate the ability of large churches to refuse to financially cooperate with BGCT ministries while still sending large numbers of messengers to conventions to influence BGCT policies.
- In addition, an independent Texas Baptist Bible College, Criswell College, already exists that provides such programs.
The report is ironically criticizing the BGCT for duplicating the work of a non-SBC entity.
- More recently, the BGCT initiated an investigation of the feasibility of establishing an alternative to the SBC- and BGCT-related Annuity Board to handle the investment of Texas Baptist retirement funds, a move that if brought to fruition could have disastrous effects on the retirement program of thousands of current and retired pastors and missionaries.
The allegation that thousands of individuals' retirement is under threat is unfounded to my knowledge. One purpose of the study would be to ensure that such disasters are avoided.
- All of this actual and potential duplication of SBC functions and services will require large sums of capital that must be raised from Baptists in Texas who are already supporting similar programs offered by the SBC through the Cooperative Program.
The two Texas seminaries are associated with existing Texas Baptist universities, such that capital requirements are not as great. In general, however, it will probably turn out that many of those served by the new or proposed Texas programs would not be served by the comparable SBC programs, by choice of either party.
- One unintended effect of this move to regionalize the BGCT may be to create tensions with other state conventions over their churches affiliating across state lines with the BGCT.
It is not clear why non-Texas churches affiliating with the BGCT would produce such tensions, any more than the creation of two conservative state conventions in states that already have state conventions (Virginia and Texas). The churches that would elect to affiliate with the BGCT instead of their respective state convention are probably those with disagreements with those conventions, in which case the respective state convention may not object to their choosing another convention.
- Although the Executive Director said that he thought it was not a good idea to create such a convention, he did not unequivocally distance himself from the creation of such a convention, saying that if the SBC "pushes us [BGCT Baptists who disagree with the stance of the SBC] out," there might be no alternative. By not rejecting outright the idea of an alternative national convention, in particular the proposed Baptist Convention of the Americas, the BGCT leadership has further evidenced its lack of support for the SBC's current direction.
It may not be fair to expect the BGCT leadership to formally disavow every suggestion that is made by SBC critics, just as the SBC leadership does not take time to disavow extreme comments by BGCT critics.
- 8. The Committee's eighth reason for its recommedations is the lack of fairness in the public statements of the BCGT leadership regarding the conservative direction of the SBC and the churches that support that direction. In addition, it has become increasingly clear that conservative voices are not proportionately represented on BGCT boards and committees.
The concerns of unfair statements and representation must be equally applied to the SBC and the SBTC. The SBC has used Cooperative Program funds to distribute misleading statements in Texas about Texas Baptists, has used the Baptist Press to repeat undocumented assertions about BGCT leaders, and has preferentially awarded committee and board nominations to Texans linked to the SBTC, slighting the BGCT.
© 2001 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 24 June 2001.
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