More than 1,800 messengers and guests gathered in Waco, Texas, Nov. 13-15 to take part in the 137th Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT). Drawing from Galatians 6:9, the theme of the three-day event was “Unwavering.” Attendees participated in worship celebrations, business sessions, rallies and workshops.
Worship celebrations and Convention leadership focus on unwavering faith, unity
In his final Annual Meeting Executive Director’s Report, Dr. David Hardage spoke from his heart to attendees, celebrating milestones and encouraging steadfastness. Hardage shared his hope that Texas Baptists protect the unity and harmony the Convention enjoys. Calling it rare and a treasure, Hardage passionately urged churches to take up the responsibility to guard that unity.
“It has to be the gospel above all else, and around that we build our harmony, around that we build our unity, around that we stay together, and around that our best days are yet to come,” Hardage said.
Hardage will retire at the end of 2022.
On Monday night, Hardage was honored for his years of service. Associate Executive Director Craig Christina shared some of Texas Baptists’ greatest accomplishments under the leadership of Hardage — including the reorganization of the Convention into five ministry centers and a refocusing on sharing Christ and showing love.
“Thank you, Dr. Hardage, for leading us from viability to vitality,” he said.
Christina also announced the inaugural David W. Hardage Run With It, a virtual race named in honor of Hardage and his years of service to the churches of the Convention. The race will benefit the newly established David and Kathleen Hardage Endowment Fund at the Baylor University Baptist Student Ministry (BSM). Registration for the inaugural race, scheduled for Dec. 3, is available here.
During his presidential address, outgoing President Jason Burden shared his deep love for Texas and Baptist ministry within the state, and he encouraged attendees to focus on sharing the love of Christ as Texas continues to expand and change.
“Texas is changing. We could yearn after the ways of yesteryear, but we’d be wasting our time. God’s not going to stand still. God’s going forward, and God is looking for people to keep up with Him,” Burden said. “The kind of Texas that will be in the future is going to be largely determined by what God does through Texans in this room today.”
During the Monday worship sessions, attendees heard messages from speakers from across Texas. In the morning session, Tony Canady, church planter of Triumphal Christian Fellowship of Waxahachie, spoke from Numbers 14:20-24 about remaining unwavering — reminding attendees to focus on God’s word rather than what they see and trust in God’s heart for his church. The afternoon session featured a word from Ariel Martinez, pastor of Del Sol Church in El Paso, who spoke on trusting in the Lord to rebuild after difficult circumstances. In the evening worship session, Pastor Michael Gossett of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler brought a message from Psalm 85 about revival.
“You know what I love about Texas Baptists? It’s a convention that believes in evangelism,” Gossett said. “It’s a convention that understands the power of the gospel and God's word. You and I have to continue that direction, we have to stand firm in our faith and stand firm in the mission that God has called us to.”
Music in the worship celebrations was led by First Baptist Woodway and Art Wellborn, First Baptist Waco Choir and Andy Muskrat, Biblical Community Church and David Talguit and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor worship team.
Officers elected, increased budget and other business approved
Messengers elected new officers to serve for the 2022-2023 term during the Monday morning business session. Julio Guarneri, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, was elected president; Nebiye Kelile, pastor of Pathway Church in Dallas, was elected first vice president; and Ronny Marriott, pastor of First Baptist Church of Burleson, was elected second vice president. All officers ran unopposed and were elected following a vote by the 1,101 messengers in attendance at the time of the first business session.
Clint Davis, chair of the Executive Board, gave an update on business conducted by the Executive Board during 2022. He also introduced David Mahfouz, who serves as the chair of the Executive Director Search Committee.
Mahfouz shared the committee’s progress, explaining they are hosting listening sessions to best understand the needs, expectations and desires of churches for the new executive director. Following the listening sessions, a job profile will be written and released in January 2023, when the committee will begin to receive nominations.
Messengers heard an update from the Gen Z/Millennial Task Force, which outlined five recommendations based on their research. The task force was assembled following a motion at the 2021 Annual Meeting in Galveston to study and recommend ways to increase millennial and Generation Z involvement in Texas Baptists life and churches. Chris McLain, pastor from First Baptist Church in Bandera, presented the task force’s recommendations. A full report can be found here.
“As our state grows and changes, engaging with and resourcing emerging adults to follow their unique callings will both revive churches and help establish new churches,” McLain said.
Later in the business session, in conjunction with these recommendations, Scotty Swingler, associate pastor of students at Sugar Land Baptist Church, submitted a motion on behalf of the Task Force. The motion was to create a task force to study the creation of a pastoral residency program, whereby young ministers are mentored and trained by established ministers. The task force will present its findings to the new Executive Director, the Executive Board and the messengers of the Convention no later than the 2024 Annual Meeting.
During the Tuesday business session, the motion was passed.
The 2023 budget was introduced by Ward Hayes, treasurer and CFO for Texas Baptists. Messengers approved the proposed 2023 Texas Baptists missions and ministry budget of $35.46 million, the second consecutive year the budget has increased.
A full recap of the Monday business session can be found here.
Four resolutions were approved during the Tuesday business session, including one thanking the Hardages for their years of service, one regarding cultural engagement, one about religious liberty and one thanking Waco for hosting the event.
Several meal functions were held throughout the event. The Texas Baptist Missions Foundation held a special lunch benefiting the Baylor Baptist Student Ministries. On Monday night, attendees to the Missions Banquet heard from an International Mission Board missionary and wrote cards of encouragement for Texas Baptists missionaries. On Tuesday afternoon, the Texas Baptists Hunger Offering Luncheon raised awareness about the Offering and encouraged people to be “all in” in the fight against hunger and poverty.
The 2023 Texas Baptists Annual Meeting will be a Family Gathering on July 16-18 in McAllen, Texas.