Convention business sessions draw little dissent from floor

ARLINGTON–Offering fellowship but not affiliation to churches in surrounding states, messengers meeting at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Nov. 12-13 in Arlington rejected a constitutional change that would have allowed affiliation by non-Texas churches.

Messengers quickly decided on that and one other bylaw proposal that passed, then approved eight resolutions with no more than a handful of dissenters.

Messengers approved a bylaw change to replace the word “drunkenness” as it appears in several instances to “the use of alcohol as a beverage,” stipulating that such practice is unacceptable for employees and members elected to the executive board, committees and offices of the SBTC.

A motion offered last year that sought to permit affiliation by Southern Baptist churches outside Texas was rejected, following the advice of the Executive Committee. Non-Texas churches wishing to train and fellowship in Texas were welcomed to do so.

“Our rationale in thinking through this is that we want to be co-laborers and good partners with the SBC and other state conventions, but to accept churches outside of Texas would endanger that goodwill relationship,” explained SBTC Executive Board Chairman Joe Stewart of Littlefield. He offered several reasons why out-of-state churches along Texas borders might want to affiliate, calling SBTC’s generosity in sending 54 percent of receipts to the SBC unprecedented.

Furthermore, the core values that provide a minimal bureaucracy, theological integrity and missions focus are practices to be applauded, he said.

However, Stewart said the board preferred to remain in cooperation with other state conventions rather than becoming competitive.

“We are the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and must draw the line somewhere. We believe the state border is a good place to do that.”

During consideration of the budget, Mike Nelson of Northrich Baptist Church in Richardson asked where he might find “results of the money being spent” as evidenced by “baptisms, church plants or Bibles produced,” adding that he did not find what he was looking for in committee reports.

SBTC Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis referred him to staff reports in material distributed to messengers and recalled that the earlier missions report noted 108 church plants. SBTC Evangelism Director Don Cass said a report based on 2007 figures would be ready at the Feb. 4-6 evangelism conference along with “a reflection of where we’ve come in the last five years.”

Unanimous approval was given without discussion to the six resolutions that addressed regenerate church membership, the importance of sound doctrine for true unity, Christian civility, support for covenant marriage, biblical literacy and appreciation for SBTC President Steve Swofford.

The other two resolutions, one on evangelistic outreach and pioneer missions, and the other on the role of the Baptist Faith & Message, were approved by all but a handful of messengers.

Resolutions Committee Chairman Bart Barber of Farmersville introduced the first resolution which urged churches “to renew their commitment to regenerate church membership by acknowledging the necessity of spiritual regeneration and Christ’s lordship for all members of local churches,” with the aim of glorifying God, edifying his people and more effectively evangelizing the lost.

The statement also affirmed baptism only of believers by immersion, renewal of the practice of redemptive church discipline, review of membership rolls and accountability among members, celebration of the Lord’s Supper as a meaningful memorial, and development of congregants capable of responsible self-governance.

John Mann of Springtown presented the resolution on sound doctrine, stating that it cannot be compromised when establishing a New Testament church and a unified convention. The resolution affirmed “ongoing doctrinal conversation within Baptist life for the purpose of further defining ourselves, evangelizing this world, and growing in relationship and obedience to God.”

Lynn Cunningham of Grapevine introduced the resolution describing the role of the Baptist Faith & Message as the “instrument of doctrinal accountability,” considering it appropriate for all Southern Baptist entities to employ as the minimal theological standard by which they operate.

The appropriateness of entities adopting and enforcing “additional theological standards” as part of the unique responsibility of trustee boards was upheld, with the stipulation of “conscientious accountability to the convention” in its governance.

The resolution upheld the liberty of any individual not in a fiduciary or employee relationship with the SBC or its entities “to accept or reject, in part or in total” the tenets expressed in BF&M.

Messenger Mike Nelson asked for clarification as to whether the resolution referred to the most recent revision in 2000 or an earlier version from 1963 or 1925.

“I believe that any doctrinal statement that someone’s going to take ought to be brought back before this convention and voted upon,” Nelson said.

Barber said the committee regarded the current BF&M as the one addressed while agreeing with Nelson’s call for accountability.

“The convention always has the opportunity to express an opinion on any action we take,” he said, noting the language in the resolution calling on trustees to operate in “conscientious accountability.”
The resolution was approved overwhelmingly with three votes in opposition to it.

Jerry Stelter of Lubbock presented the resolution on Christian civility which stated the “application of Christian decorum and decency often lags behind the development of new forms of technology and communication.”

In approving the statement, messengers committed to follow biblical mandates and Christian convictions while treating others with Christian civility and kindness.

Damon Simpson of Porter offered the resolution supporting covenant marriage, citing the dramatic rise in divorce rates in Texas because of no-fault divorce laws and government policies that fail to protect the institution of marriage. The statement passed by messengers encouraged the introduction and passage of laws that will encourage marriage and discourage divorce.

Following Cunningham’s presentation of the resolution on evangelistic outreach and pioneer missions, messenger Jack Broadwater of Burton sought clarification on the call for greater mission efforts and resources in reaching the unreached areas of the U.S.

“Is that going to come out of our Cooperative Program giving–the 54 percent we give to the SBC or will that be coming out of the 46 percent we are retaining in Texas in lieu of the statement this morning that this is a Texas convention?”

Barber clarified the difference in a resolution as an expression of opinion and a motion that calls for a course of action.

“My opinion is everyone ought to give more faithfully to the Cooperative Program so that we have more resources to apply into areas like this,” referring to the stated concern for “significant cities and states within the U.S. that remain under-engaged by Southern Baptist mission efforts.”

The resolution passed with only one objection.

B.B. Alvarez of Dallas addressed biblical literacy as messengers resolved to give a higher priority to biblical knowledge and its importance to the development of a Christian worldview.

“The full counsel of Scripture is a heritage that should be taught to future generations in fulfillment of Christ’s command to make disciples,” the resolution stated, commending to churches’ cooperative efforts of the SBTC with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Criswell College, and Jacksonville College “for the promotion of further instruction of biblical knowledge and practice.”

A final resolution approved by messengers commended Swofford for leading the convention “in a winsome and pastoral manner, serving our convention unselfishly and in the spirit of Christian grace,” with appreciation expressed to First Baptist Church of Rockwell in sharing their pastor’s time.

Committee on Order of Business Chairman Michael Lewis praised “the wonderful spirit of cooperation by messengers.

“What a blessing it is to dwell together in unity and have a likemindedness of the gospel,” Lewis said.

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