February 2003 Richards' editorial "Urban myths about the SBTC"
by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 6 June 2003
The SBTC’s Southern Baptist Texan recently ran an article by Jim Richards, SBTC Executive Director. The article purports to set forth the truth on seven "denominational urban myths".
Richards never explicitly indicates these "myths" are well circulated in Texas. The article serves to minimize the seriousness of profoundly false and profoundly damaging myths that are indeed being spread in Texas. False claims and innuendo are still being circulated regarding the BGCT (some even by the SBTC itself).
That aside, it could be argued that Richards’ article does not present the whole truth regarding some of his "myths", or offers opinion rather than facts.
- All Baptists believe the Bible.
What do we mean by "believe"? Considerable effort has been expended in Texas to generate the impression that BGCT leadership rejects the virgin birth, the resurrection of Christ, and other key doctrines. These claims of course are false. The issue is whether belief means a particular inerrant reading.
- The Cooperative Program is whatever an individual, church or state convention wants it to be.
This is an exaggerated representation of what has occurred in Texas. The BGCT has for some years redefined the Cooperative Program, allowing churches to redirect funds to or away from certain items and still be counted as Cooperative Program funds. An irony here is that many churches now supporting the SBTC made use of this practice, negatively designating such BGCT entities as Baylor and the ERLC, without complaint. Richards states "Since the SBC created the Cooperative Program, state conventions are obligated to honor [its] definition." The Cooperative Program is in some sense a joint creation of the SBC and the state conventions. It would also seem appropriate to expect the SBC to not undermine the Cooperative Program with state conventions as well. By summarizing the issue in this way, major issues between the SBC and various state conventions (in which both are at fault) are dismissed.
- The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has more money than it can spend.
Richards does not address this issue head-on. His statement that surplus funds are being retained to pay cash for future facilities does not address the suggestion that ministries are not in place to use these funds. A question that should be answered is whether funding of these future facilities was originally planned from current funds. This has not been the only use of surplus funds: CP giving over the budget in 2001 was sent in full to the SBC for its seminaries, and in 2002 the SBTC executive board voted to allocate $80,000 in surplus funds for staff.
- The [SBTC] has no real ministries in Texas except the Criswell College.
Richards’ response is that "Over 100 church ministries are facilitated through the SBTC." The point in question is a matter of opinion, not fact. The issue is whether the SBTC can take credit for ministries where it puts churches in contact with outside organizations--"networking"--versus making the capital investment to establish in-house entities to address ministry needs. In terms of the latter, the SBTC’s efforts to date pale in comparison to those of the BGCT. Either method has advantages and disadvantages (although most conventions, moderate or conservative, have not chosen the networking model).
- The SBTC is creedal.
The point here is one of semantics, not of truth. Richards says churches must "affirm" (state affirmatively) "agreement" with the 2000 BF&M, but need not "sign" or "adopt" this document. It is unclear what difference he perceives between affirming agreement and signing the document, aside from what "signing" would mean for a church rather than an individual. According to the SBTC Constitution and Bylaws, churches must offer a statement signed by the church clerk attesting that the church has acted to affirm full agreement with the 2000 BF&M. No other state convention currently dictates such adherence to a particular version of the BF&M. If there is a real difference in practice between "affirming agreement" and "signing or adopting", this may leave open the question as to what degree of doctrinal conformity there really is within the SBTC. Since Richards stipulates that churches need not "sign" the 2000 BF&M, in response to the charge of creedalism, does this mean that required signing of the 2000 BF&M would make it a creed?
- Churches cannot designate funds through the SBTC.
This is a misrepresentation of the actual concern. Churches may not designate funds through the SBTC directed towards an entity which does not have affiliated or fraternal status with the SBTC. Thus, churches may not designate funds through the SBTC for Buckner Baptist Benevolences, the Texas River Ministry, and dozens of other Baptist works in Texas.
© 2003 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 6 June 2003.
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