Julio Guarneri elected next BGCT executive director

by Texas Baptists Communications on September 19, 2023 in News

DALLAS—Julio Guarneri, lead pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, was elected to serve as the next executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) on Tuesday, Sept. 19, during a regularly scheduled meeting of the BGCT executive board. The election follows the Executive Director Search Committee’s announcement of his candidacy on Sept. 3.

A ballot vote was taken towards the end of the board’s Tuesday session. The vote was preceded by an executive session in which board directors asked questions of the candidate and engaged in discussion. The results of the vote were 55 for and 12 against. Guarneri is the twenty-first executive director of the BGCT in its 137-year history.

Wendell Wright, chair of the Executive Director Search Committee, presented Guarneri to the board during its Monday evening session. Wright thanked board directors for their trust and prayers of support throughout the search process and reviewed the means by which the committee arrived at its prospectus. He declared the committee’s enthusiastic nomination of Guarneri, speaking highly of his character and experience in ministry.

“Your committee undisputedly agrees that Dr. Julio Guarneri meets and exceeds the qualities listed in the prospectus. He is a man of humility and peace, and he has proven imperturbable as both a pastor and president,” Wright said.

Wright also affirmed the role of prayer in the work of the committee, calling it the most important aspect of their work, and acknowledged the Spirit’s leading in the committee’s decision.

“We believe the Lord drew us to Dr. Guarneri,” he said.

A life shaped by Texas Baptists

Guarneri spoke to the board, expressing his appreciation for the nomination and shared about the impact Texas Baptists has had on his life.

“I’m a product of the BGCT. My call to ministry was at a BGCT event, I was mentored by BGCT staff and I was encouraged in my doctoral education at a BGCT institution,” he said.

Guarneri, whose father was also a Texas Baptists pastor, explained that he first felt a call to ministry when he was a teenager attending Congreso, a Texas Baptists-run Hispanic youth worship rally.

“That night, a preacher was talking about the urgency of the Great Commission. And he said that God was calling our generation to finish that task. When I heard that, it was compelling to me. At the end of the message there was an altar call for those who felt called to ministry,” he said. “That night the spirit of God tugged on my heart and I could not resist.”

Guarneri was involved in Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) during his time as an undergraduate at Texas A&I University, now Texas A&M University-Kingsville. After graduation, he began serving in full-time ministry. He spoke highly of the Texas Baptists staff who mentored him and helped him grow in his pastoral ministry.

“They gave me opportunities to serve across the state, to be a part of giving conferences and to learn with them. And the thing I remember about them is that they knew the BGCT was about sharing the Great Commission,” Guarneri said.

Mission-driven and Great Commission-focused

Guarneri extolled Texas Baptists’ history of being a mission-driven organization, noting that the Convention’s commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment overrode all differences.

“We’re diverse ethnically, diverse in background, in different geographical locations in Texas, different worship styles, different sizes, all united for the purpose of sharing Christ with this world,” he said.

He encouraged Texas Baptists to continue being mission-driven, not issue-driven, and expressed the great need for the Convention to continue working hard to reach the growing population.

“We have a growing state, a growing population. There is no ethnic majority in our state… We have this world that has come to Texas, and our churches are doing great work, our institutions are doing great work, our BGCT staff are doing great, but the needs are greater. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few,” he said.

He urged Texas Baptists to focus on that driving call to evangelism above any divisiveness.

“Our agenda should be to proclaim the news to all the people of our state, to be Jesus people,” he said. “Our agenda is to allow the spirit of God to work in our state in such a way that it goes out to the rest of the world.”

Following his election as executive director, Guarneri submitted his resignation as president of the BGCT. The Executive Committee submitted a resolution affirming Ronnie Marriott, previously first vice president, as the new president and Debbie Potter, formerly second vice president, as the new first vice president until the 2024 Annual Meeting. The resolution was approved unanimously.

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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