A clean start for a church—and its neighbors
TYLER—After pastoring Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler for 30 years, Pastor David Dykes announced his retirement during the morning service at Green Acres February 28. Dykes is the longest-serving pastor of the church and the first pastor of Green Acres to retire. His retirement is effective Aug. 31 of this year and he plans in the coming months to help the church begin the process of searching for a new pastor.
The church has grown to more than 17,000 members and is a perennial Cooperative Program leader in the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2008, Dykes was awarded the M.E. Dodd Cooperative Program Award during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting for his distinguished support of Southern Baptists’ unified giving plan. He led Green Acres to affiliate with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in 2020.
Dykes has served on several boards during his ministry including those for East Texas Baptist University and the Southern Baptist Executive Committee. His local involvement is extensive and includes being a volunteer chaplain for the Smith County Sheriff’s Department. He is a graduate of Samford University, and holds two degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He and his wife, Cindy, plan to remain in Tyler and stay involved in Green Acres as retirees. “I love Tyler and Green Acres,” Dykes said in a church release. “I am looking forward to handing the baton to the next generation of younger leadership.”
FORNEY—Jimmy Pritchard, 65, former president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, and a leader in the conservative resurgence in the SBC and Texas, lost a brief but hard-fought battle with COVID-19 and pneumonia Feb. 24, after being hospitalized a few days earlier.
The church announced his passing at the Wednesday night prayer vigil where members had gathered to pray for healing, having received the crushing news from the family just an hour earlier. Four days later, the Sunday morning crowd at Forney wept at their loss, but offered praise that Pritchard was healed through his passage to heaven.
Many in the congregation had sat under his ministry since he was called to First Baptist in 1994 and led the church through significant growth, welcoming over 6,000 new members, and baptizing over 2,600 new believers, with 38 people having answered a call to full-time Christian vocations. International, North American, and Texas missions has been a hallmark of his tenure, including work in Scotland, Hungary, Lebanon, Uruguay, Thailand, Czech Republic, India, Cuba and Ethiopia, various projects in the U.S., and birthing a new church in nearby Talty, Texas.
His messages to Southern Baptists often called for spiritual awakening born out of prayer and motivated toward missions. While president of SBTC he led times of prayer in every region of Texas throughout 2015, accompanied by SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards.
“We are spoiled,” Pritchard said in his 2014 sermon to messengers in Fort Worth. “The Great Commission has shifted to be the Great Convenience. Our problem is not in structure. It’s in our heart.”
A year later in Houston, he drew from his study of this history of U.S. missions to cite the Haystack Prayer Meeting of 1806 as an example of acting upon a desire to see the lost saved and discipled.
“It’s almost like we’ll pray and cross our arms and say, ‘Okay, God, now do something really wild because we’ve prayed,” Pritchard said. “He might. But it is more than likely we need to add to our praying a bit of resolve like those five young college students who said, ‘We can do this, if we will.”
“Those regional Pastor Prayer Gatherings typified Jimmy Pritchard’s desperate cry for revival, renewal and awakening,” Richards said of the denominational leader. “Brother Jimmy knew that every spiritual awakening has been preceded by prayer and obedience. He could see the goal line of making disciples of all nations. And now, in glory, I think he has an even clearer vision of the countless number of souls redeemed because of his obedience to that cause that he championed.”
Richards recalled Pritchard welcoming representatives from the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas while SBTC president in 2015, recognizing their mutual commitment to biblical inerrancy. “And in the public arena, he said Pritchard “led the charge for a clear, definitive and unchanging definition of marriage” alongside past SBTC presidents.
SBTC Executive Director-Elect Nathan Lorick described Pritchard as a friend to so many. “The way he loved the Lord, his family, his church and his friends set such a great example for all of us. Personally, my life has been enriched because of our friendship,” he added. “He was dearly loved and will be deeply missed.”
Prior to coming to Forney, Pritchard pastored Congress Avenue Baptist in Austin where he helped birth Hays Hills Baptist Church, nurtured the Austin Baptist Deaf Church, and was recognized for the fastest growing Sunday School by the local Baptist association. Similar milestones were recorded at churches he served in Camden, Ark., and Gould, Okla.
In addition to serving as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention from 2014-2015, he was elected second vice president for 2008-2009, and served on the SBTC Executive Board. Most recently, he was tasked with chairing SBTC’s relocation committee. He was active in local Baptist associations wherever he pastored, moderating the Kauf/Van Baptist Association and directing evangelism for Austin Baptist Association.
A trustee for the International Mission Board and Criswell College, he served on presidential search committees that selected Tom Elliff at IMB and Jerry Johnston at Criswell. He also offered leadership to the denomination as a trustee of Baptist World Alliance, IMB trustee chairman, Home Mission Board workshop leader, and Southwestern Seminary alumni association president.
Son James Pritchard spoke of his father’s ability to resonate with Texas pastors I churches of any size and emphasized his personal integrity as a quality needed in an SBTC president when nominating his father. “The key to [my father’s] success was not what happened in front of people, but what happened in front of God,” he stated.
Born in Fairfield, Texas, Pritchard earned his D.Min. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a project on applying principles of spiritual growth. In addition to his M.Div. earned at SWBTS, he graduated from Sam Houston State University with a B.A., majoring in history. Survivors include Pritchard’s wife, Jeanette who is also battling COVID-19, his children, James, John and Julie, seven grandchildren.
A public visitation for the community will be held March 5 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the First Baptist Forney Chapel. On Saturday, March 6, family visitation is scheduled from 1 to 2 p.m. in the worship center where the funeral will follow at 2 p.m. The service will also be live streamed at www.fbcforney.org/livestream.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Higher Ground 2.0, P.O. Box 97, Forney, TX, 75126 to fulfill the vision Pritchard had for the church and community he served.
On Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a controversial bill titled the Equality Act. This legislation, filed as H.R. 5, seeks to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. (See also: What is the Equality Act? and The Equality Act: A dangerous law with a clever name)
The vote was 224-206, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of the legislation. The Republicans who voted for the act were Brian K. Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and John Katko and Tom Reed of New York.
Last Congress, the Equality Act passed in the House, but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. When the House voted for the bill in 2019, the vote was 236-173, with 23 representatives not voting. Eight Republicans joined every Democrat to vote for passage of the legislation. The eight members of the GOP to vote for the bill were Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Susan Brooks of Indiana, John Katko, Tom Reed, and Elise M. Stefanik of New York, Greg Walden of Oregon, Brian K. Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and William Ballard Hurd of Texas. Fitzpatrick and Katko were also co-sponsors of the bill.
In the Senate, Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican in 2019 to co-sponsor the bill while Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the sole Democrat who was not a co-sponsor. Collins said this week she will not co-sponsor the legislation in the U.S. Senate this year. “There were certain provisions of the Equality Act which needed revision,” said Collins. “Unfortunately the commitments that were made to me were not [given] last year.”
Manchin also said in 2019 he would not support the legislation without changes. “I strongly support equality for all people and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. No one should be afraid of losing their job or losing their housing because of their sexual orientation,” said Manchin. “I am not convinced that the Equality Act as written provides sufficient guidance to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it, particularly with respect to students transitioning between genders in public schools.”
When the bill was introduced in the Senate in 2019, the GOP held the majority (53 seats) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow the bill to be voted on. President Trump was also expected to veto the legislation had it passed. This year the Senate is evenly divided, with 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 2 Independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine) who caucus with the Democrats. If the Senate voted on the measure and Collins voted in favor while Manchin opposed, the result would be a 50-50 tie, which would be broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.
But before the bill would even come up for a vote, the bill would have to overcome a filibuster, an attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter. The only formal procedure that Senate rules provide for breaking a filibuster is invoking Rule 22, which requires 60 members to end debate on most topics and move to a vote. This Senate rule is the reason almost all partisan legislation in the Senate, with a few notable exceptions, requires 60 votes rather than a 51 vote majority.
Senate Democrats wanting to stop the filibuster from being used to prevent passage of the Equality Act and other parts of their agenda have two main options. The first is to formally change the text of Senate Rule 22. But that would require support of two-thirds of the Senators present and voting. The second way is sometimes called the “nuclear option”—and more formally as “reform by ruling”—requires only a simple majority. This method was used in 2013 and 2017 to prevent filibusters of presidential nominees, including Supreme Court nominations.
However, this “nuclear option” is currently unlikely because at least two Democratic Senators—Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—oppose ending the filibuster.
Democrats wanting to pass the Equality Act are likely going to have to wait until after the midterm elections in 2022. Eight Republican senators are running for reelection, while four others have announced they are not seeking reelection. Ten Democratic senators are running for reelection, while no Democratic senators have announced plans for retirement. The Democrats would need to hold on to their ten seats and pick up at least one from the 12 seats currently held by Republicans.