Texas Baptists Committed’s board of directors must decide what to do with the organization, the most potent political force among Texas Baptists for the past quarter-century. The answer will have profound consequences for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
When TBC launched about 20 years ago, a titanic battle for the soul, and future, of the Southern Baptist Convention was all but settled. A focused, well-organized force—they called themselves conservatives; others called them fundamentalists—had set out to take political control of the national convention and turn it hard to the right. By 1990, their victory was complete.
Within this context, an architect of that “takeover” or “resurgence” movement threatened to gain control of the BGCT, Baylor University and the Baptist Standard. Some Texans took this threat seriously. They created Texas Baptists Committed to prevent what happened nationally from occurring in our state.
Texas Baptists Committed succeeded by implementing two key political tactics. It conducted rallies to discuss the controversy that consumed the national convention and to warn it could take place in Texas. It also endorsed slates of BGCT presidents and vice presidents, who won victories every year. Their elections controlled the process for nominating board members of about 27 agencies and institutions affiliated with the state convention, plus the BGCT Executive Board. These steps rebuffed efforts to steer the BGCT in the direction of the national convention, an endeavor that succeeded in most other state conventions.
Along the way, Texas Baptists Committed collected its share of critics, who lambasted the organization for controlling the state convention’s political process. The criticism escalated about a decade ago, after churches that favored what had happened in the SBC and opposed the BGCT’s resistance pulled out and formed a competing convention. It echoed in recent years, amid claims that, since our state convention defeated fundamentalism, TBC’s guiding hand no longer was needed. Some critics seemed to forget the original threat and condemned TBC’s very existence.
Criticism aside, we owe a debt of gratitude to Texas Baptists Committed. Thanks to TBC, our state convention has not endured the upheaval and redirection that afflicted the national convention and many other states. Our state convention stands as a bastion for historic Baptist principles, such as soul competency, the priesthood of all believers, local church autonomy, the primacy of Jesus, and the separation of church and state. We have had Hispanic, African-American and female presidents. Thank God and TBC, our strong and vital institutions have neither fallen to fundamentalism nor forsaken our convention.
But now David Currie, TBC’s only executive director, has stepped down, and its board must decide what to do next. Some Texas Baptists want them to keep on plugging, while others would prefer they pull the plug. Neither is the correct answer.
Texas Baptists Committed must reinvent itself, as some observers hoped it would do a couple of years ago. The BGCT does not need TBC to endorse its officers or rally folks to attend meetings. But our convention and all freedom-loving Baptists need TBC to help them become all they can be. TBC—or something much like it—must become a first-rate educational organization. Baptists need to know our heritage. We need creative methods for instilling our principles in the lives of our people. And even though the heat of battle has chilled, we need wise and winsome warnings about the clear—if not imminently present—danger of fundamentalism. We also need advocacy for our mission and ministry, for our institutions, and for all the “least of these” who will not receive the gospel and experience wholeness if we do not reach them.
TBC should not die. But it must be reinvented.
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–Marv Knox is editor of the Baptist Standard. Visit his FaithWorks blog here.