“How could such a fine, first-rate organization fall so far so fast?” That’s the common refrain as folks talk about Texas Woman’s Missionary Union these days.
For 128 years, Woman’s Missionary Union has provided Texas Baptists with strong leadership in missions education, missions action and missions support. WMU paved the way for inspiring Texas Baptists to roll up our sleeves and get about the business of fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission.
On an educational level, WMU has trained generations of children, girls and women about what being a “Great Commission Christian” really means. Thousands of Texas Baptists—women and men alike—first learned about missionaries and the priority of missions as Sunbeams and Mission Friends. The Lord only knows how many women first felt God’s tug on their heartstrings in GAs and Acteens. And countless churches have been strengthened by WMU’s leadership development.
A vital missions role
WMU also has made missions possible for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions has financed foundational missions programs, such as church starting and outreach to people of many ethnicities and languages. And it has provided the seed money for many of the BGCT’s greatest innovations, such as compassionate ways to reach vulnerable Texans and creative ways to reach new generations of Texans. Our convention, and the kingdom of God, would have been tremendously diminished were it not for the leadership of WMU and the liquidity of the Mary Hill Davis Offering.
Although leaders have been mum about the details, Texas WMU obviously is passing through one of the most difficult, tenuous periods in its history. Last fall, Executive Director-Treasurer Carolyn Porterfield summarily resigned. Last month, the WMU Executive Board summarily fired the interim executive, Nina Pinkston. And the method was ugly: She showed up at a staff retreat only to find the staff wasn’t coming. She called the office to learn she had been relieved of her duties, and they would ship her belongings to her. This was shoddy, unprofessional treatment of a respected former missionary who had labored to keep the ailing organization on its feet. These losses have been compounded by the resignations and early retirements of four longtime employees—Waunice Newton, Ruby Vargas, Cathy Gunnin and Judy Champion.
Former presidents respond
All this has caused Texas Baptists who love WMU to grieve and to ask, “How could such a fine, first-rate organization fall so far so fast?”
Texas WMU’s crisis has prompted response from two groups—all eight living former presidents, as well as 59 “friends of WMU of Texas.” Their concerns should be heeded.
The friends sent a letter to the WMU board of directors that says: “This esteemed organization seems to be moving in a direction contrary to her historic principles and practices. We are deeply disturbed and wonder how this could have happened.” The letter calls upon the WMU board to “put aside any reticence and consider your responsibilities as board members.” It also affirms the desire to “move ahead in truth and honor as ‘laborers together with God.’”
The former presidents have called for prayer for WMU, particularly for the board meeting June 16-17. The presidents also asked the board to consider hiring an experienced intentional interim.
Texas Baptists don’t have to be missiologists to see things are amiss in our iconic missions organization. We need to pray for Texas WMU.
In the meantime, the WMU board should follow the former presidents’ advice. The pattern of the past eight months indicates deep problems within Texas WMU. The organization needs to right itself before expecting a new executive director-treasurer to take up the mantle of leadership.