“Two thousand years after Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations, there are over 2,000 people groups who do not have the Bible in their heart language – and that’s just not right,” said Julio Guarneri, Texas Baptists president, during his address at the May 2023 Executive Board meeting May 22-23. “The global church needs to step up its game, and Texas Baptists need to take their place in this mission of God that is global and that is about His kingdom.”
The meeting was conducted virtually and broadcast from East Texas Baptist University in Marshall.
Guarneri, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, exhorted Executive Board members to consider “what it means to pray for your kingdom to come,” as he has called for Texas Baptists to do during the preparation for the Family Gathering, which will be held July 16-18 in McAllen.
Christians look forward to the day of Christ’s coming reign, but also must participate in His kingdom “here and now,” he said. They must understand that the kingdom of God “permeates every segment of society and filters into every domain, and cares for the whole person and the whole community.” Guarneri said Texas Baptists must “value cooperation around the Great Commandment and Great Commission over uniformity and secondary issues.”
“It’s time for us to focus on our mission here in Texas, and it’s time for us to rethink our worldwide strategy, so that we can be the people of God,” he said. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done in Texas as it is heaven. Your will be done in the world as it is in heaven.”
Executive Director Search Committee provides update
Wendell Wright, director of church and denominational relations at Dallas Baptist University and chair of the Executive Director Search Committee, provided an update to Executive Board members. He noted the search committee reopened the portal April 7 for one month, closing it again May 7. Wright said they did so “in the interest of making sure all who wanted to be considered could apply.” Wright noted the search committee’s progress.
“Our original pool of candidates has been reduced,” he said. “We are now in the process of scheduling interviews with the existing pool.”
Wright said the search committee has prayed for and about each person who was nominated.
“Every applicant and nomination received has been given full consideration and prayed over by your search committee in our collective gatherings as well as in our individual times of prayer,” Wright said. “Throughout our process, we have faithfully prayed for, evaluated and openly deliberated every candidate.”
When the search committee determines a candidate, that candidate will be presented at a special-called meeting of the Executive Board. Updates from the search committee are being posted to txb.org/edsc.
Christina addresses women in ministry
In his report Monday evening to the Executive Board, Craig Christina, associate executive director and acting executive director, reiterated Texas Baptists’ historic stance on women in ministry. Noting “numerous questions” had been received in recent months on the matter, Christina reviewed the history of statements made by messengers at Texas Baptists annual meetings in 1998 and 2021, and asked: “So, what does this mean for us today?”
“We have been conservative, evangelical, orthodox Baptists for over 100 years, and we will continue to be so into the future,” Christina said. “Texas Baptists churches have spoken and continue to speak for themselves on the issue of women in ministry or women in the role of pastor. At Texas Baptists, conformity over the role of women in the church is neither a test of fellowship, nor a condition of cooperation.
“We neither insist on uniform practices or ministry titles, nor do we compel the conscience of any Baptist to adhere to the conclusions of another on this issue,” Christina said. “Of the theological issues we consider worthy of defining harmonious cooperation in the BGCT, women in ministry is simply not among them. We remain committed to advancing the gospel through the GC2 movement to share Christ and show love until all people have the opportunity to say, ‘yes,’ to Jesus.
“So brothers and sisters, let us not grow weary and let us not be distracted by tertiary issues. Too much is at stake. We are stronger together, and we have a state and a world to reach for Jesus Christ.”
Treasurer’s report cites giving lag
While bringing a financial report during the business meeting Tuesday, CFO/Treasurer Ward Hayes shared that Cooperative Program giving is down by 5% compared to the first four months of the previous year. Cooperative Program giving in the first quarter of 2023 was $7.47 million, compared to $7.7 million of the first quarter of 2022.
“This is something we’re keeping a close eye on,” Hayes said. “We’ve also taken active steps to offset.”
In response to the decline, Texas Baptists staff has been asked to reduce variable budgeted costs by 5%. Additionally, convention-wide expenditures for the first quarter were over $800,000 under budget, Hayes said.
Hayes also noted that giving to the Mary Hill Davis and Texas Baptist Hunger offerings were “lagging behind.” He expressed hope that both “catch up.”
Pastor poses gun violence policy question
Katie Frugé, director of the Center for Cultural Engagement and the Christian Life Commission, and John Litzler, the convention’s general counsel and director of Public Policy for the CLC, delivered a policy update with the legislative session coming to a close. Litzler indicated a full report detailing the CLC’s actions related to its legislative priorities would soon be made available.
During the report of the Christian Life Commission, Paul Kim, lead pastor of Forest Community Church in Plano, expressed gratitude from the Cho family of New Song Church of Carrollton for Texas Baptists’ support after Kyu and Cindy Cho and their 3-year-old son were killed in a recent mass shooting in Allen. Kim asked a question from his congregation, wondering whether Texas Baptists’ policy priorities included addressing gun violence.
“Can we as Texas Baptists make a statement about gun violence?” he asked. “It is a concern of every parent in Texas or the nation. So that’s the question: Whether we can address this issue, at least to make a statement. I hope our Christian Life Commission can do something about this in our state Capitol.”
Frugé told Kim she shares “the concern and just the horror” over gun violence, adding it hits “too close to home for so many of us, with Uvalde and then the Allen shooting.” She said Texas Baptists have “begun having internal conversations” with Christian Life Commission commissioners “on how we can speak to issues like gun violence, and how we can support legislative issues.”
Litzler added there seemed to be increased momentum for legislative action, but noted a bill to raise the minimum age for purchasing an assault rifle to 21 had stalled, and several efforts to address the mental health issues surrounding gun violence had also failed to move forward.
Baylor BSM agreement ratified
The Executive Board took two significant actions regarding the Baptist Student Ministries at Baylor University.
Calling it an answer to the prayers of many who love Baylor, Mark Jones, director of the Center for Collegiate Ministry, informed the Executive Board that Baylor had agreed to give a parcel of land adjacent to campus to Texas Baptists for construction of a BSM building. Jones explained the BSM at Baylor had seen highs and lows through the years, but is currently surging after it was relaunched five years ago.
“We’re thankful for this season of favor with Baylor,” Jones said, “and feel like now is the time to move forward.”
The Executive Board ratified a Memorandum of Understanding between Baylor and Texas Baptists regarding the land gift and approved a recommendation from the Finance Committee to allocate $500,000 of available investment and undesignated endowment earnings to the construction of the new BSM building on the Baylor campus.
After a question, Hayes clarified the one-time donation is a gift rather than a loan, and it does not reach the required seed money of $3 million. Hayes believed it would show “potential donors we are certainly behind this 100%.”
The estimated total building cost is $6 million.
Sexual abuse task force to be created
The Executive Board also approved a recommendation by the Administration Support Committee to create an Executive Board Task Force to study and recommend guidance on matters of responding to sexual abuse issues within Texas Baptists churches.
In his report Monday evening, Christina said Texas Baptists need to “understand legal requirements and more than that, best practices that we can follow to make sure that we’re always doing what is right and honorable and going the extra mile to care for victims, but also to help and offer assistance to churches.”
The task force, which will be appointed by Christina and Executive Board Chair Bobby Contreras, will consist of three Executive Board members, three Texas Baptists pastors not on the Executive Board and three licensed counselors not on the Executive Board. The task force will report to the Executive Committee at each regular Executive Board meeting and will function until Dec. 31, 2024, unless extended by the Executive Board.
Additional business approved included:
A recommendation by the Institutional Relations Committee to change the relationship of Texas Baptists with Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene from that of an Affiliated Member to Special Agreement. Texas Baptists had elected 75% of board members for Hendrick Medical Center; under the Special Agreement, Texas Baptists will elect no more than 20% of board members. The Special Agreement is for 10 years.
A recommendation by the Institutional Relations Committee to relate to Baptist Standard Publishing by Special Agreement. Texas Baptists will continue to elect a simple majority of the board of directors of Baptist Standard Publishing, and all members of the board of directors will be members in good standing of Texas Baptists churches. The Special Agreement is for five years.
A recommendation by the Committee on Nominations for Boards of Affiliated Ministries to fill a vacancy on the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio Board of Trustees with Marilyn Elliott, a member of First Baptist Church of San Antonio.
Recommendations by the Administration Support Committee for revisions to several internal policies:
A revision of Policy 882 Extended Ministry Leave. The name of Policy 882 was changed to “Concurrent Staff Employment” and amended to reflect policy that BGCT staff members may not work as senior pastors without approval of the executive director. The policy also amends guidelines for interim and part-time pastoral and other church staff positions. Specifically, the policy provides limits to terms for interim pastoral roles.
A revision of Policy 842, Time Away From Work, to add Juneteenth (June 19) as an official holiday for Texas Baptists employees.
A revision of Policy 846 Medical Leave of Absence to provide staff members up to eight weeks of maternity leave after birth by cesarean section and up to six weeks of maternity leave after natural birth. The revision provides paternity leave of up to three weeks.
A revision of Policy 606 regarding the Mary Hill Ethnic/Minority Scholarship Program to remove the name of specific universities so students who attend any BGCT-affiliated or related university qualify for the scholarship. The recommendation was made jointly with the Center for Cultural Engagement.