GREENSBORO, N.C.—Acting out of loyalty to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Texans affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship “failed deliberately” to create a strong state organization, Dallas pastor George Mason told a gathering of Texans attending the CBF general assembly June 23.
Baptists disaffected by what was called the fundamentalist takeover or the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention launched CBF in 1991. CBF celebrated its 25th anniversary June 22-24 in Greensboro, N.C. The event also marked the 20th anniversary of CBF Texas, the state affiliate.
In a CBF Texas meeting held during the general assembly, two leaders who were present from the beginning reflected on how CBF Texas began.
“When CBF Texas got started, it was something we had to do,” said Mason, pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas.
“Not a threat”
Most other Baptist state conventions made churches’ relationships with both their state conventions and CBF difficult or impossible, “but that was not true in Texas,” Mason said. Instead, CBF congregations in Texas eventually formed their state affiliate in order to nominate Texans to national CBF leadership positions.
“We made sure the (Baptist General Convention of Texas) would know this was not a threat” to the BGCT, he added. “We didn’t want to create a left-wing, right-wing, centrist approach” to Baptist relationships.
“The truth is, that was how it was perceived, anyway,” he explained, noting CBF congregations were branded as left-leaning.
“This was not helpful,” he said. “It has been a challenging period of time as we have sought to be helpful to the BGCT, and the BGCT tried to figure out what to do with us.”
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Many Texans confused CBF Texas with Texas Baptists Committed, a political organization created to prevent the BGCT from shifting to the right, as did the Southern Baptist Convention, he said. That confusion was understandable, because members of Texas Baptists Committed and CBF Texas primarily were the same people, he acknowledged.
“… we forgot our polity”
“CBF Texas has been one confusing entity since the beginning,” Mason said. “We got into this because we forgot our Baptist polity.” The church is the center of Baptist life, he explained. And the structure of national conventions, state conventions and congregations is not hierarchical, although many Baptists forgot or did not understand.
“State conventions should not have thought of themselves as farm teams or the feeder system for the national (SBC) body,” he said, noting churches should be free to participate in the SBC, or CBF or both. “It’s complicated, but (Baptists) didn’t understand how to live up to the principles of voluntary association. They assumed connectionalism.”
Consequently, Texas churches affiliated with CBF did not form a clear identity, much less tangible cohesion, Mason said.
“We have failed to create a strong state (CBF) organization, but we failed deliberately,” he reported. “We’ve been very cautious out of friendship and deference to the BGCT. … We have not created a groundswell of CBF Texas identity—to our detriment.”
Speaking to Baptists from across Texas, Mason said: “We love each other in this room. We love all the Baptists we work with. Sometimes, it’s painful. We must persevere. … And as far as it has to do with you, live at peace with one another.”
Bill Bruster, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Abilene who participated in the founding of both Texas Baptists Committed and CBF Texas, affirmed Texans who had the courage to be “boat rockers.”
He named Cecil Sherman and Daniel Vestal, who had been Texas pastors and became national executive coordinators of CBF; Herbert Reynolds, who was president of Baylor University; and Texas pastors Hardy Clemons, Terry Cosby, Jim Denison, Glen Foster, Paul Kenley and Mason.
“They were willing to rock the boat and tell the truth,” Bruster said. “These are people who gave birth to CBF.”
During their meeting, CBF Texas members elected officers, as well as members of the state governing board and regional groups.
New officers are Heather Mustain, missions minister at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, moderator-elect, and Judy Collins, a chaplain and member of The Crossing Baptist Church in Mesquite, recorder. John Moore, pastor of missions at First Baptist Church in Abilene, was elected 2016-17 moderator last year.
Elected to the CBF Texas governing board were Heather Bell of Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston, Deborah Harris of First Baptist Church in Austin, Kathy Krey of Dayspring Baptist Church in Waco, Shannon Rutherford of First Baptist Church in Levelland and Jared Slack of First Baptist Church in Austin.
New members of CBF Texas regional groups are Kyle Childress of Austin Heights Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, East Texas Region; Brent McDougal of Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Dallas, Dallas/Fort Worth Region; Stephanie Nash of Second Baptist Church in Lubbock, Lubbock/Amarillo Region; Dustin Payne of The Forum Church in Houston, Houston Region; and Garrett Vickrey of Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, San Antonio/South Texas Region.
CBF Texas Coordinator Rick McClatchy urged participation in the national organization’s campaign to raise $12 million in endowment.
“I hope Texas will lead in the giving toward this campaign,” he said, noting Texas CBF will receive $100,000 from the national endeavor. Of that amount, $50,000 will build a home to be sold to a qualified low-income family on the Texas-Mexico border, $25,000 will support retreats to promote contemplative spirituality and $25,000 will fund conferences to help churches become more diverse and multicultural, he said.
Participants in the CBF business session elected five Texans to national positions: Jenny Howell, an adjunct member of the Baylor University religion faculty, chair-elect of the nominating committee; Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, governing board; Angela Reed, assistant professor of practical theology and director of spiritual formation at Baylor’s Truett Seminary, ministries council; Katie Sciba, medical social worker from Stafford, governance committee; and Jim Morrison, a financial services executive from Dallas, CBF Foundation.
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