The Lost Decade for Texas baptist Christians, 2001-2010, An Admirable Life (7)

   As goes Texas, we used to think, so goes the Southern Baptist Convention. The decade just now ended began with 1,000 churches leaving the old Baptist General Convention of Texas, to form a new, purportedly more theologically conservative convention of churches. Two groups clustered around the old BGCT: Texas Baptists Committed and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. 

   Confusion reigned.

   Ten lost years later, the SBC is now described as a declining denomination. Various mega-churches control the convention apparatus, but there is little evidence this is good for the convention or its institutions. Recruiting at the seminaries now centers around over seas connections, where potential students know nothing about the bloody wars of 1979 to 2010. 

   Why were these years lost, 2001 to 2010? There are actually more of us than ever if one takes into account the various bodies. We are just not "us" any more. 

   We have quite literally lost a generation to non-denominational bodies, the Bible Church movement and the Assemblies of God. Believe it or not, many of our most talented musical young people walked over to the Assemblies. A good number of moderate (and conservative) persons, cast into outer darkness by the convention's ultra-right shift and its manifest elitism on the state and national levels, decided to worship with the Episcopalians.

   We lost a generation. The ones we lost are not coming back. It is ludicrous to think, for instance, in Texas, that yet another Savior-Executive Director, will come to restore the now defunct BGCT to some semblance of its lost prominence. In fact, the BGCT, cum-Texas Baptists Convention (unfortunate acronym) is well on its way to becoming the second tier state convention in its own state.

   Why? We do not know how to say what is admirable any more. Once, we would have just said, "I belong to a Southern Baptist Church," and, for all its regional connotations and historical baggage, that would have been enough to say, "God-Honoring, Jesus Loving, Spirit Filled, Door Knocking, People Accepting, Tithe Giving, Missionary Sending, Clergy Educating, Independently Organized, Democratic Polity, Sacrificially Cooperative and, oh, yes, Bible Believing."

   All those things we found admirable. We joined the societal shift to sound-byte politics, demonized our opposition, blamed the victims and purged our ranks. 

   Our ranks remain purged. 

   What will help?

   There will be no remarriage. The divorce was long, bitter and rancorous. We divided everything, split up the children (who then chose to live with neither of us) and settled in a new place. Naturally, as with a dreadful divorce, both parties had to accept a lesser standard of living as reward for their failing.

   What will help?

   Survivors who would move on will have to decide on a definition of the admirable life. For the fundamental-conservatives, it will have to be something much more than "I affirm inerrancy as defined by the current but malleable credo of the national convention and its mega-church leadership." For the moderate-conservatives, it will have to be more than "We are not mean like the fundamentalist conservatives."

   A new Savior-Executive Director will not help any more than the last two helped. The one led in zig-zag fashion, constantly starting, seldom continuing, never culmination. The latest one scarcely even started.

   The churches are dying. The pastors are all mid-50's and beyond. We may all retire or die in a three years span during this coming decade.  No one wants the job any more.

   Where is there hope? Somehow, we will have to decide on an acceptable definition of what it means to be admirable. Then, we will have to hold up that example to the churches, make their pastors healthier and more accountable to some professional standard of conduct and stay the course.

   I am trying, in this series, to look behind the verbiage, to say just what an admirable life is, lest we continue to have to choose between nihilism (nothingness) and fanatacism. We have wasted a decade. 

   We do not have another one to waste.

 

Opinions here are mine alone.

11 thoughts on “The Lost Decade for Texas baptist Christians, 2001-2010, An Admirable Life (7)”

  1. For young pastors inerrancy simply means the Bible has no mistakes. This is what we have been taught in Sunday School since age 2. If the BGCT could simply learn to swallow the term “inerrancy” the slow bleeding to the SBTC would stop. Southwestern is a large seminary that is more than able to fill empty pastor positions. In fact, many students there dream of pastoring in a church like yours. In short, it aint so bad Aintsobad. . .

  2. TJ,
    I am not sure what inerrancy means for young pastors. I doubt that you know. Life is usually a bit more nuanced than you seem to understand.
    “Affirming inerrancy” will not mitigate the circumstances between BGCT and SBTC. There are power issues and trust issues between the churches and the conventions (both of them). Inerrancy is a word more freighted than you realize, or at least, more than you testify.
    Still, it is good to hear a theory that ends with “would like to pastor a church like yours.”

  3. WOW!!! I have followed this mess for a decade… and still when I check back in on it after a year’s absence… it sounds the same. I vote to let it go and move on. Oh, that is what I did… good luck. I will check back in another year or so. Life outside the bickering is great. The air is pure and God is at work … of course we dropped the Baptist moniker and went back to work.

  4. aYou’ve hit the nail on the head pretty well here. There are a lot of factors involved in all of these issues. On one side, megachurches and their pastors dominate the proceedings, using their fame, influence and numbers to impress convention messengers into handing leadership over to them though most of them don’t even give what would be considered a decent tip to the convention’s ministries. On the other side, a good-ole-boy system where big salary convention jobs go to people who have connections and influence, rather than to those who actually have the intelligence and ability to do the job.
    The next executive director of the BGCT will actually have to work at the job in order to be successful. A string of preaching dates in the more prominent pulpits (with accompanying appropriate honorariums) will no longer suffice as a platform from which to convince people that you are “doing something.” The BGCT will have to be restructured, downsized and made more efficient. I think the following will be necessary for a new executive director to do the kind of work, and advocate for the kind of change that is necessary for the BGCT to stabilize and stop bleeding churches and CP money:
    1. Someone from a state convention in a part of the country where austerity, efficiency, and a modest salary have been dictated by circumstances, and where the executive director has had plenty of “other duties as assigned” because the convention can’t afford more salaries to do that work (like, say, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Penn-South Jersey, Michigan, Indiana or some such place).
    2. The entire current executive board needs to step down and get out of the way. Let the convention name a new board with new faces, and not the same people who have been occupying seats on committees and boards for so long, the seats are contoured to the shape of their rear end. That will give the new executive director the chance to work without having to address old preferences, agendas and the structure of prominence and prestige of the BGCT royalty. He won’t owe anyone anything.
    3. The new executive director needs to be an active member of a Southern Baptist church which is among the leading supporters in its area of the Cooperative Program. He should have no ties to the BWA, Texas Baptists Committed, any Baptists committed group, CBF, or any other denominational politically motivated and created organization. Period.

  5. Here is what I think would be better:
    A leader of one of the larger associations in Texas; knows the state, has great administrative experience, has had to find his way through the wars in order to hold his association together, people skills, etc. It is a thought I put forward before and the convention took a guy from Virginia, closely linked to CBF, not  a real known commodity in Texas, etc., and it dissolved into what you describe; a show. Dont want that again.

  6. Serious question: what are the primary duties of the job?
    Is the spiritual gift of leadership a requirement? Administration?

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