Month: October 2004

SBTC adopts $19.2 million budget, passes resolutions on activist judges, sanctity of life

PLANO, Texas?During it annual meeting Oct. 25-26, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention adopted a $19.2 million budget, re-elected its president and passed resolutions on such topics as activist judges, the terrorism war, abortion and embryonic stem cell research, education, Christian holiness and evangelism.

Messengers also honored Joe Atchison, a native Texan and longtime pastor and director of missions in Arkansas, with the H. Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award “for sacrificial and extraordinary service” in Southern Baptists’ conservative theological resurgence.

Formed in 1998 with 120 churches, the SBTC marked its seventh convention at Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, registering a record high 2,040 people, including 1,035 messengers. The confessional convention has grown to more than 1,550 affiliate churches.

The evening session Oct. 26 drew an estimated 4,500 people during a “Hope and Heritage Rally” co-hosted by the SBTC and Prestonwood that featured the Prestonwood choir and orchestra and a message from Jerry Falwell, the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., and founder of the Moral Majority that mobilized millions of evangelical voters in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Calling Christians to be “the conscience of the culture” one week before the Nov. 2 election, Falwell, who this year has had his ministry’s tax-exempt status threatened for his public support of Bush, said evangelicals support Bush because of his values, not because he’s a Republican.

“We couldn’t care less that Bush is a Republican. If (Bush) were a Democrat, we’d still be behind him because of who he is and what he believes,” Falwell said to applause.

The former independent Baptist who joined Southern Baptist ranks in the mid-1990s said he didn’t involve himself in cultural issues until the late Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer confronted him in the 1960s, complimenting Falwell on his gospel proclamation but telling him he was a “total failure in confronting the culture.”

Falwell said Schaeffer convinced him America was on the verge of a death culture that warranted prophetic voices from the pulpit, though he admitted he thought Schaeffer was overstating his case a bit.

“Turns out he was right,” Falwell said.

 

BUDGET AND OFFICERS

The convention elected as president for a second term Chris Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in the College Station-Bryan area. The church has a large ministry to Texas A&M students.

Also elected were Ed Ethridge, director of missions at North Texas Baptist Association, as first vice president; Bill Sutton, pastor at First Baptist Church, McAllen, second vice president; and Brenda Wills, First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, secretary-treasurer.

Ethridge, the only officer serving a first term and in the only contested election, succeeded Garland pastor David Galvan of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida, who completed his second term. Ethridge received 299 votes; Gil Lane of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo garnered 123 votes.

SBTC messengers adopted a 2004-05 budget of $19,245.933, up $2.9 million from the previous year. Of receipts SBTC churches give through Southern Baptists’ CP missions funding channel, the SBTC will forward 53 percent of funds to Southern Baptist Convention causes, up from 52 percent last year and towards a goal of 55 percent by 2009.

The SBTC remains the lone state convention passing more funds to the SBC than it keeps for in-state work. Of the SBTC operating budget, about 40 percent is earmarked for missions and evangelism, much of which funds church planting.

 

Texas churches ‘campaigning’ for CP

This fall, about 70 Texas churches are taking the “Vote CP” challenge?a promotional play on the 2004 election season to boost Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program.

Utilizing a DVD containing sermons, PowerPoint presentations, Sunday school lessons and video clips, churches are already gearing up to educate their congregations and boost their evangelism efforts.

“Vote CP asks churches to take decisive action to close the widening gap between those who have heard the Good News of Christ and those who have not by enhancing their cooperative efforts to reach the world,” explained David Hankins, executive vice president of the Executive Committee. “A vote for CP is a vote for sending more missionaries, for thoroughly equipping godly leaders and for baptizing more people through increased evangelistic efforts.”

Many churches have made longtime commitments to the CP, but it is becoming common for members to be ignorant of the 79-year-old missions funding mechanism. The Vote CP campaign aims to reach church members with the “who, what, when, where, and why” of the program.

Statt Riddlebarger, pastor of Pearsall Road Baptist Church in San Antonio, said he preached “on missions and the Cooperative Program from Matthew 28 using the video clips from the DVD” the week after receiving the Vote CP resources. “This resource was helpful because it showed a movie that introduced CP and how it started in 1925.”

“We wanted to use this material for people who didn’t understand the Cooperative Program, so they could see and understand what missions is all about,” Riddlebarger said.

Riddlebarger said he assumed his church members knew what the Cooperative Program was. It wasn’t until a younger minister serving in his church came up to him and said, “Why don’t we support people in missions in this church?” that he realized the “Vote CP” campaign was a must.

“We have been longtime supporters of the Cooperative Program, but I realized that the minister was younger and had no concept of CP,” Riddlebarger said. “This has been a helpful tool in helping people understand why we participate in mission projects. A visiting person said this past Sunday, ‘I’m so glad you’re preaching this stuff.'”

CP Missions development director John Kyle said the DVD helps churches see the Cooperative Program as more than just a budget item. “This is how you’re reaching people when your church is not over in Brazil on that mission trip. The other 51 weeks of the year people are being reached because of the Cooperative Program.”

The portion Southern Baptist churches allocate for CP has declined from an average of 10 percent to below seven percent. “It’s been a downward trend for 20 years. One big Lottie Moon offering in one year is not going to be enough to sustain [Southern Baptist ministries] much less increase our mission efforts,” Kyle said, referring to last year’s record-breaking offering of $133 million. “We know what God’s told us to do. We have the best way to do it together if we decide to do it.”

While 95 percent of Southern Baptist churches participate in the CP at some level, Kyle suspects that 80 to 90 percent of the people have no idea what the CP is or what it does. “If budget time is the only time we think of it and just see it as a line item in the budget, that’s no vision. Before presenting anything to the church, we need to look unto the fields and get our eyes off the spreadsheet.”

Pastor James McGinlay of First Baptist Church Lakeside in Fort Worth purchased the Vote CP materials at the annual Southern Baptist convention. “I went looking for some way to promote the Cooperative Program. A lot of people don’t even know what it is,” McGinlay said. “I wanted something we could put on the big screen before the service and in the bulletins.”

McGinlay, like others, has vowed to put on a special program that will pinpoint missions. “People just aren’t sold out to missions like they used to be. If we were to offer a new class on parenting or marriage at our church, people would rush to sign up. But when we say we’re going to offer a class on missions, they aren’t interested.”

First Baptist Church of Garrison’s pastor, John McGuire, stated, “The pastor has to have a passion for missions and for sharing it with his church. The younger generation is disconnected and not interested in the organizational, denominational, or associational work of the SBC. They see only the local situations and it’s difficult to see beyond that. There are some blessed exceptions, though. The youth that are dedicated to missions are the most focused group we have.”

McGinlay is currently rewriting the curriculum to be used in the new members class at his church, where attendance is required for at least five sessions to join the church.

For more information on the Vote CP campaign, visit www.sbc.net/votecp.

Budgeting process varies by church size and style




The methods SBTC churches employ in yearly budgeting vary greatly in deciding how to divide missions dollars and who formulates the budget. The varied approaches often are dictated by church size and leadership style. Typically, multiple parties are involved.

In the three churches the TEXAN contacted, all require congregational participation typical of Baptist churches.

First Baptist Church of Burkburnett, a congregation that averages more than 500 on a Sunday morning, generates a year-to-date financial report for its staff each week. The following year’s budget is complete by late November and is distributed to the church. In early December, a church business session is held where it is discussed among the congregation.

A third reading is given two weeks later and the church votes, said Bill Liggett, the pastor.

At Texas Oaks Baptist Church in Austin, Pastor Rob Jones said a stewardship team devises the church’s budget from the format of the church’s ministry approach: purpose-driven.

“We go to each of the organizations or parts of the church that fall under the different purposes, and we ask them to come in prayer” with what they believe God is leading them toward. Jones said the team attempts to be very specific with each staff member and ministry leader about expected expenditures.

For missions, Jones said the church attempts to give at least 10 percent undesignated funds through the Cooperative Program funding channel, in addition to giving through its association and other local or church-based missions endeavors.

Jones said the stewardship team communicates extensively throughout October and November about the budgeting process. In December, the church has three readings of the budget over three weeks, then votes.

Jones described it as a thorough “unfolding process” that allows church members to digest the budget information and formulate ideas and questions.

“By the time we got to the third reading, (the vote) was unanimous,” Jones said.

First Baptist Church of Colleyville begins with a “zero-based” budget, which means they start at zero and build from scratch each year based on ministry area needs, said church administrator Sheila McKay.

The large congregation near Fort Worth uses a model from “The Church Guide to Planning and Budgeting” by Richard Vargo.

During the process, each person of a seven-member financial committee is assigned a staff member to meet one-on-one with to discern that ministry area’s needs for the coming year.

The handout the finance committee uses warns of two extremes in budget forecasting: slack?an intentional understatement of offerings or expenses?and optimism?where contributions are estimated 25 percent higher than the giving trend. Both should be avoided, the handout warns.

Texas churches utilize creative funding formulas to support SBC ministries

The existence of two state conventions in Texas provides options to Southern Baptist churches attempting to fund worldwide missions. Members must examine how the priorities of each convention match their own, often resorting to creative financing of their church’s mission preferences.

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) was formed in 1998 when members of 120 churches sought to strengthen ties with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and relate to one another through a confessional organization. The SBTC’s first budget allocated half of all undesignated receipts from affiliate churches to Southern Baptist ministries worldwide. Such allocations are distributed through the SBC’s Executive Committee in Nashville.

Having grown to more than 1,500 churches, the SBTC now sends 52 percent of CP receipts to the SBC, using well over a third of what is retained for in-state evangelism and missions. The 2005 proposed budget increases the SBC’s portion to 53 percent.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) originally retained only 54.24 percent of the undesignated receipts from Texas churches, according to information at .cpmissions.net/2003/Yourstatecontribs.asp listing state convention contributions. While the proportion of in-state and out-of-state allocations were divided 67/33 for most of its history, the BGCT Adopted Giving Plan, which its churches are encouraged but not required to use, now calls for 79 percent of CP funds to support BGCT missions, ministry and institutions. BGCT evangelism and missions receive about 15 percent of the adopted budget allocations.

BGCT churches may send the “worldwide” portion of CP receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) or a BGCT-Texas Missions Initiative,” according to the convention’s website (www.bgct.org). When the BGCT began recommending a budget with 79 percent staying in Texas, the majority of its churches opted for a more traditional split, typically sending 33 percent on to the SBC and 63 percent to the BGCT’s work. With fewer churches using the recommended formula, the BGCT reported that 34 percent of receipts from its churches were forwarded to the SBC–higher than recommended.

Glen Meadows Baptist Church in San Angelo sent their CP funds through BGCT, dividing it between the SBC and BGCT until this year. When a team of five deacons examined the theological statements, expenditures, policies and affiliations of SBTC and BGCT, they concluded that the priorities and convictions of SBTC were more compatible with their congregation.

“It is clear from comparing budgets, SBC and SBTC are mission oriented whereas BGCT is institutionally oriented,” the report stated. In July of this year the church voted to uniquely affiliate with SBTC based on their findings.

Local churches exercise their autonomy by deciding whether to affiliate with the BGCT, SBTC or other bodies. Some congregations dually affiliate and a few have no state convention relationship. Seventy-five percent of the 1,544 churches of the SBTC are uniquely affiliated, while the remaining 25 percent retain affiliation with the BGCT or other Baptist groups.

As the BGCT reduced the portion they sent to SBC that for a few years included a cap on support of SBC seminaries and defunded the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, hundreds of BGCT churches began sending the CP portion of their budget directly to Nashville for distribution. That move provided a means of maintaining their support of SBC ministries without making a decision on affiliating with SBTC.

According to the 2004 SBC Annual Report, 222 Texas churches sent CP funds directly to the SBC during the time frame of October 2002 and September 2003. In that group 206 churches were then affiliated with BGCT. Only 16 of those churches were uniquely affiliated with SBTC during the 2002-2003 year of the report while another 18 were affiliated with both conventions. Either during the 2002-2003 reporting year or since then, 10 of those BGCT churches had also affiliated with SBTC and nine left BGCT altogether and relate to SBTC uniquely.

First Baptist Church of Redwater, Texas, was among that group that redirected their giving around the state convention. Over a four-year period the church did not contribute to BGCT, although they continued to be listed as a member. Pastor Steve Rice said he was impressed that the SBC Executive Committee would not accept their money until they produced a document verifying the church action. “That is good for accountability,” Rice told the TEXAN.

While wanting to encourage the church to move in the direction of the newly established Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, the young minister serving in his first pastorate thought it best to proceed slowly. “I didn’t want to lead the church into a convention that I didn’t know a lot about.”

He turned to his deacons to study the matter for several years, gleaning information from other churches, representatives of the two conventions and materials published by the SBC. “We knew this was something that could be volatile,” Rice said. “We didn’t want to make a quick or rash decision.”

The Redwater church affiliated with SBTC las month, recognizing the value of contributing to missions and evangelism in Texas as well as around the world. The church enjoys actively participating in the local Baptist association, but Rice never considered advising the church to no longer relate to a state convention at all. “We may sense that things are going well here, but we recognize other counties are suffering” where the gospel has not been adequately shared, he said. “We just wanted time to see that SBTC was going to be stable.”

Texas churches directly giving more than $100,000 to the SBC during 2002-2003 were: Champion Forest Baptist, Houston, $456,499; First Baptist, Euless, $207,958; Fielder Road Baptist, Arlington, $207,009; Bannockburn Baptist, Austin, $186,261; Lake Arlington Baptist, Arlington, $176,890; First Baptist, Carrollton, $167,047; Southcrest Baptist, Lubbock, $154,366; Hyde Park Baptist, Austin, $134,413; Memorial Baptist, Grapevine $133,921; First Baptist, Sugar Land, $128,604; and Walnut Ridge Baptist, Mansfield, $118,618.

As churches autonomously decide how to best represent their priorities, they budgeted for the Cooperative Program in a variety of ways. Of those listed above, both First Baptist of Euless and Walnut Ridge Baptist of Mansfield uniquely affiliated with SBTC soon after the new state convention was formed. Both churches send a portion of CP funds through SBTC and the rest directly to the SBC.

Both Fielder Road Baptist of Arlington and Memorial Baptist of Grapevine are dually affiliated with SBTC. The Arlington church continues to contribute to each state convention as well as sending funds directly to the SBC. Like all three of the other churches, the Grapevine church has historically been committed to the Cooperative Program. Pastor Gregg Simmons explained how they handled the process of maintaining that support while evaluating state convention affiliations.

“Several years ago, in response to the BGCT decision to cut support to the SBC seminaries, Executive Committee and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the church voted to channel the bulk of its Cooperative Program gifts directly to the SBC.” According to the most recent report of 2002-2003 gifts, Memorial Baptist sent $133,921 to the SBC directly.

Simmons explained the process by which the church returned to sending the CP portion of their budget undesignated through SBTC. “Last year our missions committee did an extensive study of the SBTC and BGCT. They were impressed by several of the SBTC core commitments, such as maintaining a minimal bureaucracy, placing a priority on starting new churches and the commitment to give 51% of receipts to the SBC,” citing a 2002 SBTC budget.

“Our church voted last year to begin giving our CP gifts through the SBTC. We believe this is the true genius of the Cooperative Program concept—churches, state conventions and national convention working cooperatively to support global missions.”

Some Southern Baptist churches in Texas even allow each member to allocate how the Cooperative Program portion of the tithe is distributed. A west central Southern Baptist church maintains its affiliation with BGCT though the vast majority of members prefer to send contributions to the SBC or SBTC. A church member has the opportunity to specify whether the CP portion of the tithe is sent to the SBC, SBTC or to the BGCT where the traditional 67/33 split is specified.

One north Texas BGCT church designates missions dollars to the International Mission Board, the SBC budget and BGCT. The pastor of another BGCT church in west Texas said they send a minimal amount to the BGCT to retain voting privileges while forwarding the vast majority of its CP gifts directly to the SBC. A few dozen churches that early on affiliated with the SBTC continue to send a large portion of CP funds directly to Nashville while also contributing to the SBTC’s budget where more than half of that amount will also make its way to the SBC. The variety of approaches that Texas churches have used to maintain traditional support of Southern Baptist ministries generated sufficient funding to more than make up for the BGCT’s reduced support of the SBC in budgets adopted since 2001. Three approaches made the difference:

  • Formation of a new convention committed to sending the SBC more money than it kept from affiliate churches;
  • Direct contributions to the SBC from churches;
  • Customized giving by BGCT churches that specified sending the SBC a portion larger than what the adopted budget allocated.

SBC Executive Committee Executive Vice President David Hankins recalled that direct gifts from Texas churches jumped dramatically when BGCT went so far as to defund several entities for a few years and is now leveling off. While a full report for 2003-2004 is not available until next year’s annual meeting, the number of Texas churches giving directly declined to 192, nine of which had not been giving directly in the prior year.

“In the early ‘90s the state convention in Texas opened Pandora’s box to promote ‘designated’ Cooperative Program giving,” observed SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards. “So-called designated giving is the loose thread that could unravel the fabric of the Cooperative Program. The Cooperative Program was created as an ‘undesignated’ giving channel. To say, “undesignated’ Cooperative Program money is like saying, “a round circle.’ It is one in the same. Nevertheless, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention will honor the wishes of the churches by forwarding funds to the SBC or certain designated entities.”

Hankins said, “The Executive Committee prefers that churches give one undesignated gift for the cooperative Program through the state convention to be divided between the state convention and the SBC according to the state convention and the SBC according to the state convention’s approved percentage division,” Hankins told the TEXAN. He added that there is also a preference “that state conventions approve only one CP giving option and that the option sets an equitable and generous percentage for the SBC.”

Through the years, Hankins said, the SBC has encouraged state conventions to forward at least 50 percent of CP receipts to the SBC. While that is the practice of only two state conventions (Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Southern Baptist conservatives of Virginia), a messenger to the annual meeting of the SBC requested “a good faith estimate from the state conventions who are in cooperation with the SBC” as to when they will reach the original goal of a 50/50 split of CP funds between the SBC and state conventions. An eight-person Task Force on Cooperation (representing the executive directors of the Baptist state conventions and the [SBC] Great Commission Council) is in the process of studying the issue.

Richards described his hope that SBTC can show the value of investing in Texas in what he described as an “entrepreneurial atmosphere.” He emphasized three selling points as having the greatest importance:

  • “Texas needs to be reached and the SBTC has a positive, effective missions strategy to get the job done.
  • “The proposed Operating Budget for 2005 will send 53% of the funds to the Southern Baptist Convention to fund our national and international missions and ministry.
  • “While maintaining a small in-house staff the SBTC can provide assistance to small and medium size churches in carrying out their ministry.”

Richards added, “Cooperative Program giving is a wise investment in the kingdom giving every church the opportunity to get the most bang for their mission buck.” For more information on SBTC values, visit www.sbtexas.com and select the Q&A SBTC Beliefs and Values link.

Wedgwood in Fort Worth sends members out, helps revitalize sister congregation

FORT WORTH?When a church faces a membership decline, solutions are often elusive. For Meadowridge Community Baptist Church in Fort Worth, the situation was desperate enough for a radical approach.

After various attempts at revitalization through the years failed, the pastorless and struggling congregation felt a need for drastic change. “We had a faithful remnant,” said Leo Garrett, a Meadowridge member and distinguished professor of theology emeritus at Southwestern Seminary. But, he said, “We needed a fresh start ? a fresh supply of dedicated, mature Christians.”

Meanwhile, nearby Wedgwood Baptist Church had spent several months on its “Touching Eternity” giving campaign, a fund designed largely to begin “new works”?mission churches that would allow Wedgwood’s reach to extend beyond its landlocked location. As Wedgwood members prayed about their first “assignment” and Meadowridge sought direction on how to continue its church at all, God merged their paths.

In December 2003, a Meadowridge transition team met with Al Meredith, Wedgwood’s senior pastor, and another staff member, Randal Lyle, over lunch. After hearing their concerns and request for help, Meredith was hesitant to send only a dozen or so people into an unknown?and possibly defective?situation.

Instead, he offered an unusual answer: If Meadowridge was willing, Meredith said, Wedgwood would send a “critical mass” of 100 to 150 members to join the church. The church could call Randal Lyle, Wedgwood’s college minister, as its next pastor, and Meredith would give him permission “to raid the congregation,” he explained, taking as many members as felt led to go.

It was a life-changing day for Lyle.

“Wedgwood was already committed to starting a church or some kind of new work, and we just didn’t know it would come in this form,” Lyle said. Meredith’s suggestion at the lunch meeting surprised Lyle too. “This was the first I had heard of this, and I am sure the shock showed on my face.”

While the idea was unusual, the Meadowridge congregation of about 40 members, an affiliate of the SBTC, was willing to consider it because of its great need, Meredith explained. “It was a risky thing for them,” he said, “but their options were limited.”

Lyle likewise recalled initial hesitance in the minds of some at the church. “It was a huge step for people from Meadowridge. Overnight there would be enough people from Wedgwood that they could be outvoted on issues if the new folks decided to do so.We wanted to make sure that our purposes and values were in line with each other.” But in the end God overcame this initial concern, Lyle said, and the church voted unanimously to go forward with the plan.

After months of preparation, the vision was officially presented to the Wedgwood congregation in May 2004. After that service, Meredith recalled, “People tearfully came down the aisle. They said they loved Wedgwood but just felt called to do this.” In the end, the group?approximately 110?moving from Wedgwood to Meadowridge was entirely active members and also included several church leaders and even the entire Saturday night service worship team.

Why would a church send 100-plus tithing members to another church? “Only because the Lord says so,” Meredith said. “We’ve tightened our belts financially, but we’re rejoicing in what God’s doing at Meadowridge.” Not only did the church send an influx of members, it has also pledged to help support Meadowridge’s new associate pastor, Jeremy Powell, who had formerly served as Wedgwood’s singles minister.

Since this chapter of Meadowridge’s story began on August 1, new and old members alike have experienced real blessing at the church, Lyle said. In two months, the church has already grown enough to need two Sunday services. “The most exciting part of it all is that we are reaching many people from this immediate community who have not been involved in church anywhere,” Lyle said. “We have reached some people here at Meadowridge that would have never found Wedgwood, even though it is only about four miles away.”

The revitalization has already resulted in several baptisms.

Lyle said the church is also beginning to reflect its community in ethnic and age diversity, including a fast-growing senior adult population.

Garrett agreed the change has brought great benefits to his church. “It’s a great encouragement” to original Meadowridge members, he said. “We have been tremendously blessed.” Plus, Garrett has watched former Wedgwood members benefit, as well, noting that many had not known each other previously because they had attended different worship services at their former church.

Before revitalization occurred, Garrett said, “There were times we wondered if we had invested in the wrong cause.” Garrett said the church now can minister in unprecedented ways. “The two groups are coalescing into one church more rapidly than we expected,” he said. “We have the resources and the momentum to develop a congregation in far South Fort Worth [of great s

Executive Committee, NOBTS cite initial misunderstanding over action




Initial perceptions by Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee staff were that New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees fell short of fulfilling the request of SBC messengers during the trustees’ meeting Oct. 13.

Responding to news that NOBTS trustees believed they had fulfilled the request of messengers to adopt sole membership in the fashion and timeline set forth last June, Executive Committee staff attorney and Vice President for Convention Policy, Augie Boto, told the TEXAN: “If Dr. (Charles) Kelley and if Dr. (Tommy) French told you that, then I’m extremely pleased to hear that.”

Boto said he would need additional documentation from NOBTS to show that, because he believed the motions approved were unclear about the trustees’ full action.

Executive Committee lawyer Jim Guenther, who attended the meeting, told Baptist Press Oct. 14 the trustees’ action fell short of the SBC’s request but moved in the right direction.

Kelley, NOBTS president, told reporters the board had acted to amend its charter in compliance with the messengers’ wishes and French, the trustee chairman, contacted after the meeting, said the same thing.

“We didn’t fall short of the request. We did what they said for us to do,” French said. “The convention told us to adopt sole membership, and that’s what we did. And we did based upon what the Executive Committee gave us. We’re using not only their language, we’re using the document they gave us, except we asked our attorney to work with their attorney on a few little items, but it was not anything significant and if they objected we wouldn’t even push that.”

Kelley told reporters the trustees’ action fully fulfilled what NOBTS was asked to do. The SBC Executive Committee must approve an amended NOBTS charter to recommend to messengers at the 2005 SBC annual meeting in Nashville.

TRONG>Related Story: New Orleans Seminary trustees adopt sole membership, will voice reservations to SBC

New Orleans Seminary trustees adopt sole membership, will voice reservations to SBC

NEW ORLEANS–Last June, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting sent a mandate to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary: Legally specify the SBC as “sole member” owner of the school in a form the SBC Executive Committee will approve and recommend to the convention.

On Oct. 13, the NOBTS trustees voted 35-1 approving an amended charter to propose to SBC messengers that includes sole member language “as outlined by the Executive Committee,” but with plans to voice “reservations regarding legal and polity concerns.”

Sole membership is a legal term that solidifies ownership rights in corporations–including non-profit entities such as the SBC’s 12 agencies and seminaries–while attempting to limit the sole member’s liability by abdicating governance to trustee boards.

NOBTS was the lone holdout among 11 SBC entities that the Executive Committee had asked to adopt sole member legal language–modeled after the charter of the North American Mission Board when it formed in the mid-1990s. The Executive Committee itself is the 12th SBC entity and plans to also adopt sole membership.

The NOBTS trustee chairman and seminary president said they have fully fulfilled the messengers’ request, adopting the charter document the Executive Committee provided.

“We have committed to the Baptist way,” NOBTS President Charles Kelley told reporters during a meeting break. “The Baptist way is you work with the messengers of the SBC. That vote was taken and we have responded to that vote in a way I think every messenger of the SBC will say ‘OK, they did what we asked them to do.’ And the Executive Committee will have the proposal from us that they wanted from us, with reservations stated. It will not be sprung on the convention. ? There are no secrets out there. We like to keep everything on the table.”

Messengers to next June’s SBC annual meeting must ratify the amended charter.

The SBC messengers’ action in Indianapolis last summer followed several years of quiet wrangling between the NOBTS trustees and the SBC Executive Committee over the wisdom of specifying the SBC as the “sole member” of the school’s non-profit corporation under Louisiana law, which is said to differ from most states.

Last spring the NOBTS trustees were considering two options–including an alternative to sole membership that Kelley said would aim to achieve the same end–to present to the 2005 convention.

Bruce Sloan, a trustee from Oregon, told the TEXAN he was “uncomfortable thinking that our options were limited to what the Executive Committee wanted us to do, that we didn’t have any choices.”

Jim Guenther, longtime Executive Committee attorney who attended the Oct. 13 meeting, said during a forum with trustees after their vote that the Executive Committee requested messengers issue the request because it had no guarantee from Kelley that either option would be recommendable by the Executive Committee.

Responding, Kelley said he could not guarantee that because he could speak to what his trustees might do.

Before the Oct. 13 vote, which took place in a closed executive session, Guenther told the TEXAN that Louisiana’s so-called “Napoleonic” model law–which had been cited by NOBTS lawyers as a concern because it differs from English model law–“has no bearing on this issue.”

Further, during the question and answer forum with trustees following their vote, Guenther said under Louisiana non-profit law the members of the corporation are not liable in lawsuits.

“When we become the member, we will have that statutory immunity,” Guenther said in response to a question from trustee Mitch Hamilton of Colorado. NOBTS lawyers had argued sole membership would increase the SBC’s liability risk in Louisiana. Executive Committee lawyers had argued the opposite.

Guenther told trustees the convention’s sole membership in the school’s corporation will solidify SBC control of the seminary without intruding on trustee administration of the school’s business and assure it “legally will remain perpetually owned and controlled by the convention.”

Trustee chairman Tommy French told the TEXAN the amended charter is identical to one offered to NOBTS by the Executive Committee in 2002 and should be one the Executive Committee can recommend to messengers next June as prescribed by the SBC.

Kelley said the amended charter plus a document outlining the trustees’ reservations would be available to the press and the public “long before the convention takes place.”

French told the TEXAN in a telephone call after the meeting that the trustees plan to have the amended charter ready for Executive Committee approval in time for its February meeting as prescribed by the SBC messengers.

In the first of two motions the trustees approved, they called for Kelley to explain the board’s reservations about the charter change to the 2005 SBC annual meeting.

In a second motion, trustees called for “Reservations regarding the legal and polity concerns be referred” to the seminary’s executive committee and legal counsel “for further review with the final document being presented to the full Board before the April 2005 meeting.”

Both Kelley and French told the TEXAN no further action is required by the NOTBTS trustees in fulfilling the SBC’s request regarding sole membership. Any minor language changes will be worked through approved by the Executive Committee in time for its February meeting, French said.

Some NOBTS trustees have stated polity concerns, among them that the Executive Committee’s request of the seminary appeared to be more a decree than a request and that sole membership in NOBTS’ case could facilitate future Baptist polity abuses.

Executive Committee leaders have disputed such arguments, citing its inability to mandate orders to other SBC entities.

Kelley told the SBC Executive Committee last February and the TEXAN during the Oct. 13 trustee meeting that sole member language in the NOBTS charter could allow Baptist polity abuses by a future SBC willing to overreach into responsibilities now reserved for the school’s trustees.

The Executive Committee requested the SBC’s six seminaries and five agencies—International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Annuity Board (Guidestone), LifeWay Christian Resources, and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission—to amend their charters to specify the SBC as the sole member of the entities’ corporations.

The request aimed at upgrading the entities’ charters to contemporary corporate law standards and fortifying the SBC’s ownership of them—partly in response to Baptist schools such as Baylor that had attempted to cut ties with state convention owners, Executive Committee attorney Guenther told the TEXAN.

At that February meeting, Guenther argued that only sole member language assures “a Baylor-like event does not occur in this convention.”

Before the SBC’s action in June, which passed by a roughly 2-1 margin, Kelley had asked the Executive Committee for an additional year to devise some alternatives to sole membership that would aim to achieve the same goal of fortifying the SBC’s ownership of the school.

He planned to bring those options to the SBC messengers in 2005.

Following the vote Oct. 13, Kelley told reporters his fears about future polity abuses include the potential for future SBC leaders to foil a grassroots renewal such as what occurred in the conservative resurgence.

Kelley said the conservative resurgence is a textbook example of how change in Southern Baptist life takes place through the slow process of electing leaders who may nominate and appoint others to boards and committees.

“(There was) never a vote on the floor of the convention (during the resurgence) instructing an institute what to do. Never any kin d of motion to push in a more conservative direction, but they did it with the trustees.  I am afraid that this is a step towards trying to strengthen the control.  When you’re focusing on strengthening the control—if we control that, why not control something more? … My fear has been fed by the way this process has been handles.”

RESOLUTION #1 – APPRECIATION OF PRESTONWOOD BAPTIST CHURCH, PLANO, TEXAS

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, meeting in Plano, Texas, October 25-26, 2004, wish to express gratitude and appreciation to Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas, Pastor Jack Graham, and staff for their gracious and untiring effort on our behalf; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we pray God’s continued blessing on this great church and all who come under its influence.

RESOLUTION #6 – REGARDING THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE: STEM CELL RESEARCH AND PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION





WHEREAS, all life is sacred from the point of conception (Exodus 20:13; Psalm 139:13-16); and

WHEREAS, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has historically affirmed the sanctity of human life; and

WHEREAS, all human life is God’s prerogative and embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of a human life; and the practice of abortion is still far too common; and partial-birth abortions are still permitted by court order in certain states despite the law; and

WHEREAS, embryonic stem cell research has to this point produced no successful therapies for known diseases; and, therapeutic success, in any case, would not provide ethical justification for the destruction of human life; and

WHEREAS, adult stem cells have proven to be adaptable and useable for therapies now in over 70 diseases; and

WHEREAS, personal and corporate gains are being put ahead of the value of human life;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, meeting in Plano, Texas, October 25-26, 2004, will be well-informed citizens on these issues through the fine resources of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and others; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we stand firm in the fight for all human life and that we encourage all governmental officials within our sphere of influence to do the same; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that we not only support The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act and those governmental officials who stand behind it, but that we urge them to go further to end all abortions.

Resolution #9 – Christian Holiness

WHEREAS, being untainted by the sin and corruption of the world, and having in His Being all righteousness and perfect purity, God is holy; and

WHEREAS, those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and therefore follow Him as Lord are His people; and

WHEREAS, God has invested His name in His people and has called us to be holy like Him; and

WHEREAS, God has chosen to reveal His holiness to the world through us; and

WHEREAS, If our marriages do not endure trials and persevere, if we and our youth do not abstain from sexual activity outside the bond of marriage, and if our relationships within and without congregations are not guided by peace, then we are not holy; and

WHEREAS, if we are ruled by carnal habit, and behaviors such as gluttony, the recreational use of drugs or alcohol, or participation in any product of the sexual industry, and if we are entertained by what does not delight our Heavenly Father, we are not holy; and

WHEREAS, if we do not spend time daily alone with God in prayer and in reading His Word, if we do not daily confess and forsake our sins, and if we do not daily seek His will to the neglect of our own, then we are not holy;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, meeting in Plano, Texas, October 25-26, 2004, humble ourselves before our Creator and Redeemer, to acknowledge that we are not holy; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we repent of our sins, confessing them to God and forsaking them in practice, pleading with God for the transformation which will come from the person and power of His resurrection through our brokenness; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that we are committed to living out God’s holiness in our culture so that those without Christ may see Him and begin to see what cannot be had in this world without Him.