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BGCT prepares for constitutional changes

Nov. 6, 1998



A Baylor regent and a George W. Truett Theological Seminary professor are once again headlining the officer slate at the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT).

More than 7,000 Baptists are expected to descend on Houston Nov. 9-10 for the 113th annual meeting of the BGCT.

BGCT President Russell Dilday, a professor at Truett Seminary, will be renominated for a second term.

Dilday could not be reached for comment.

Jaclanel McFarland, first vice president of the BGCT and a Baylor regent, will also be renominated.

McFarland said she will accept the nomination and said she will work to improve Christian higher education in Texas.

'I think it's vital for Baptists in Texas to educate our young people,' McFarland said.

To do this, McFarland said she supports giving more money to Christian education. Much of this could be done through the Effectiveness/Efficiency Report.

'Truett is still a very young seminary,' McFarland said. 'Some of these things in the Effectiveness/Efficiency Report relate to theological education.'

McFarland is also expecting some messengers to fight the seating of messengers from Calvary Baptist Church, where the Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell is pastor. Calvary hired Pennington-Russell, the first female senior pastor in a Texas Baptist church, in June.

'We anticipate a challenge to Calvary Baptist Church's messengers because they have a woman pastor,' McFarland said. 'It's unfortunate because I certainly see it as a church issue--autonomy. I've heard her preach and I'm very impressed with her. They [messengers] don't have any authority over the local church or the church's hiring policies.'

Topping the BGCT's agenda is a constitutional amendment changing requirements of Texas Baptist churches sending messengers.

As it now stands, a church can send four messengers for its first 100 members and an additional messenger for each additional 100 members, not exceeding a total of 25 messengers.

The constitutional change would provide two messengers for every church and two more for $250 given to the state convention. A messenger is allowed for each additional 100 members and $1,000 given to the state convention. Each church could send no more than 25 members.

The constitutional change requires a two-thirds majority and is supported by Baylor's administration.

'I think that's a good proposal,' President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said. 'I hope we'll vote to pass that.'

Messengers will also vote on whether to affirm the Effectiveness/Efficiency Report approved by last year's messengers.

'I hope that we will approve the Effectiveness and Efficiency Report,' Sloan said. 'I think the convention will affirm that report.'

Throughout the two-day convention, different organizations will host dinners and receptions. Baylor's chancellor will headline one of these events.

Chancellor Herbert H. Reynolds will be the featured speaker of the Texas Baptists Committed breakfast Tuesday morning. Reynolds will speak on 'Texas Baptists: Hitherto and Henceforce.'

Reynolds will pick up where Dr. Bill Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest Divinity School, left off. Leonard spoke at the Texas Baptists Committed meeting earlier this year and discussed 'History is Watching: Texas Baptists and a New Road to the Future.'

'We have to think about what we're going to do with our strength and potential,' Reynolds said.

Reynolds said Texas Baptists are determined to maintain their integrity and a fully autonomous state convention.

Reynolds said the reconciliation movement, which is primarily led by fundamentalist Baptists, 'is total nonsense.'

'I think this reconciliation movement is not going to go anywhere,' Reynolds said. 'I think it's another ploy by fundamentalists to keep Texas Baptist money and to derail our efforts to charter our own destiny.

'They lack Christian integrity,' Reynolds said. 'We have to do this for future generations.'

Reynolds said Texas is, in actuality, a separate convention.

'Texas needs to chart its own course and to try to envision what we need to do in the near future,' Reynolds said. 'Texas is the only state that has the history of freedom, strength of numbers, the finances, the soundness of identity, polity, theology to not only rule our own vote, lead out in partnering with other states that involves a much greater geology territory.'

In other state business, messengers will vote on a $49.7 million budget.

'I think we're going to see new budget changes that will allocate more resources,' Sloan said.

The issue raised by each administrator is one of church autonomy. This is a traditional Baptist belief but has often been ignored by the fundamentally-controlled Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Baptist moderates said.

'It [the relationship between the BGCT and the SBC] can be maintained as individual churches in their freedom choose to maintain it,' Sloan said. 'I think the Southern Baptist Convention is a very real option. It ought to remain an option for churches.'

McFarland said if the SBC becomes more conservative with a 'right-wing, political stance,' more Texas Baptists will be alienated.

The Southern Baptists of Texas (SBT), a fundamentalist state convention alligned solely with the SBC and established after last year's BGCT meeting, will meet Tuesday and Wednesday after the BGCT.

The group will attend and vote at the BGCT and will then travel across town and attend the SBT meeting.

McFarland said she expects low turnout at the Southern Baptists of Texas meeting following the BGCT.

'I think it will be a small group - probably less than 300 churches and those churches with small membership,' McFarland said.

Additional reporting by Lariat Staff Writer Brittney Partridge

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