Kingdom, future focus mark May Executive Board meeting

by Texas Baptists Communications on May 21, 2024 in News

Themes of unity over uniformity, a compelling kingdom focus and dutiful preparation for future opportunities marked the May meeting of the Texas Baptists Executive Board, which was held May 20-21 online and on the campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton.

Guarneri calls for stubborn focus on kingdom agenda

During his Monday evening address, Texas Baptists executive director Julio Guarneri outlined a rousing vision for the convention’s future.

Topics included a focus on God’s kingdom agenda, a new strategy planning process and team, Texas Baptists’ historical identity and commitments, denominational developments impacting the churches of the convention, the implications of these and other changes and five action items for the convention’s short-term future.

“We want our agenda to reflect that of Jesus,” Guarneri said. Noting that Jesus’ agenda was clear, comprehensive and compelling, Guarneri expressed a desire for Texas Baptists’ agenda to be the same.

“We want every Texas Baptists church, every institution we relate to, every partner and everyone who is considering joining our movement to have clarity about who we are, what we do and what God is doing through us,” he said.

He noted changes in denominational life may soon create situations where others are looking for partnership opportunities.

“We need to be ready to welcome churches who want to be a part of what God is doing through Texas Baptists,” Guarneri said.

He emphasized the need to remain focused on God’s kingdom.

“May we not give in to the temptation of getting off course the agenda and the mission our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has given us,” he said. “May we stay stubbornly focused on the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. May we be about His kingdom agenda.”

Finding unity around ‘common goal’

Ronny Marriott, Convention president and pastor of First Baptist Church of Burleson, delivered a message on unity among churches in broader Baptist life and beyond.

Observing the many ways the nation is divided, he noted that religious organizations are not exempt from similar division. By Marriott’s count, there are presently 65 unique denominations and groups under the Baptist umbrella. Yet, in most instances, a split that promised growth resulted in a weakened vision.

Citing Jesus’ prayer in John 17, Marriott noted that, “Jesus asked the Father for unity, not uniformity. People equate unity with uniformity, but that’s not what Jesus asked for.”

The difference between the two is that unity accepts differences, and uniformity does not, Marriott said.

“With all the talk of diversity, I don’t hear diversity of thought,” Marriott said.

Rather than striving to agree on everything and eliminate disagreement, we should strive to include more voices in the conversation to achieve a better outcome. Marriott said such diversity is a strength of Texas Baptists.

“We can do more, especially because we are diverse as Texas Baptists,” he said.

“What does it say about our love for Jesus if we divide over petty squabbles? What does that say to the world? It’s not a good mark,” said Marriott. “This gets in the way of following Jesus to completion, as we are called to do.”

“We are here as Texas Baptists in our diversity for a common goal, to win the state of Texas, America and the world for the cause of Jesus Christ,” he said. “As team Texas Baptists, we are believers in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment and we are committed to winning.”

Connecting and equipping women in ministry, affirming GC2 study group

Bobby Contreras, Executive Board chair and pastor of Alamo Heights Baptist Church, brought two recommendations from the Executive Committee.

The first was a recommendation in response to a 2023 convention motion on women in ministry. Following the motion’s passage, Texas Baptists held a series of listening sessions hosted by Katie Frugé, director of the Center for Cultural Engagement and the Christian Life Commission. Attendees included women in ministry and leadership positions among Texas Baptists ministry staff, churches, institutions and other lay leadership positions.

Following listening sessions, a report was delivered to convention leadership, and a three-point recommendation was drafted to connect and equip women in Texas Baptists ministry and leadership.

Frugé delivered a report to the Board on Monday evening detailing key takeaways from the listening sessions and the rationale behind the three-point recommendation.

“The women we heard from serve their ministries with deep integrity,” Frugé said. “They have no agenda beyond serving their communities and ministries. They want to be seen in the natural and diverse fabric of the Convention.”

The recommendation includes hosting networking events, resourcing a new or current staff member to provide mentoring and leadership training opportunities and an exploration of current opportunities and resources for women in ministry and leadership positions.

Following discussion, the recommendation passed.

The second recommendation related to GC2, the abbreviation for the convention’s years-long emphasis on the two “GCs” of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Churches outside of Texas continue to seek affiliation with Texas Baptists through GC2, with about 70 churches outside the state now cooperating with the convention. Because of an increase in inquiries, greater clarity of both the purposes and structure is needed.

The recommendation seeks to receive Board affirmation and blessing in creating an Executive Director’s GC2 Study Group and a new staff position to explore ways to add structure to the growing movement.

During the discussion around the recommendation, Chad Edgington, pastor of First Baptist Church, Olney, TX, and Board Director from Sector 5, asked whether the intention was for GC2 to one day function as a national denomination.

Guarneri answered that the intent of GC2 was to advance the convention’s mission and vision and to function more similar to a network, not become or duplicate what a national convention looks like.

“We aren’t trying to start something,” he said; “we are trying to clarify what already exists.”

Following discussion, the recommendation passed.

Hayes noted that funding to implement both Executive Committee recommendations would fit within the remaining 2024 budget and not impact other ministry efforts.

Cooperative Program giving a steady but slower pace

Ward Hayes, Texas Baptists Treasurer/CFO, delivered a financial report noting that “God’s grace and generosity are greater” than any challenges the convention may face.

The convention’s cash position was strong, with $15.1M spread across multiple accounts. Endowments and investments were also strong, with a $14M increase since the year’s end. Texas Baptists Cooperative Program (CP) receipts through the end of March were steady but at a slower pace, with CP giving at 95% of the prior year but 107% of the current budget. Investment income continued to grow, and expenditures were below budget.

Hayes noted that CP giving in April was strong enough to bring the year-to-date total to 100% of the prior year. Giving to special missions offerings, including the Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions and the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, was up slightly.

A deeper dive into CP giving trends among the top 1,000 giving churches over ten years found that giving had remained relatively flat for the top ten percent of this group, though not accounting for inflation. Hayes noted a desire to continue strengthening relationships with churches through the hiring of a new Cooperative Program director.

He noted the need to “keep telling our story because Texas Baptists is so unique. No other state convention does ministry in the ways and levels that Texas Baptists does. It’s a story we’re happy to tell and will continue to tell,” Hayes said.

“We need to raise across our Texas Baptists churches their CP IQ,” he said, “their understanding of what it is that we do when we say we are better together.”

Additional reports, recognitions and business

Janice Bloom, Executive Board vice-chair, delivered a report from the convention’s Sexual Abuse Task Force. The Board voted to form the Task Force during its May 2023 meeting for the purpose of studying and recommending guidance on matters of responding to sexual abuse issues within Texas Baptists churches.

Bloom identified members of the Task Force, which consists of three Executive Board members, three Texas Baptist pastors not on the Executive Board and three licensed counselors not on the Executive Board.

Executive Board members on the Task Force include Dr. Suzie Beck Liner, licensed physician with board certification in pediatrics and allergy/immunology; Chad Edgington, pastor of First Baptist Church, Olney, TX, who also holds a degree in law; and Janice Bloom, Executive Board vice-chair, Task Force chair and attorney. Non-Executive Board members include Dr. Elmo Johnson, pastor of Rose of Sharon Baptist Church, Houston, TX; Rev. Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, Arlington, TX; and Pastor Ariel Martinez, pastor of Del Sol Baptist Church, El Paso, TX. Licensed counselors include Olga Harris, LPC; Cynthia Jones, LPC; and Dr. Todd Linder.

Bloom provided an update following the Task Force’s first two meetings. The group has organized its work into three emphases: being proactive, emphasizing reporting and increasing awareness. While the convention already provides robust resources at, Bloom said the Task Force aims to make the online resources more streamlined and user-friendly.

Stephen Stookey, director of Theological Education, delivered a report on the convention’s financial support to its educational institutions, the reach of Texas Baptists universities, progress between B.H. Carroll and East Texas Baptist University’s merger, statistics for Ministerial Financial Assistance (MFA) and non-MFA recipients and related trends. More than 1,000 students from over 360 churches received financial support from Texas Baptists churches through giving to the Cooperative Program for the 2023-2024 school year, an increase of about 100 students from the previous academic year.

The Christian Life Commission (CLC) reported on the upcoming 89th Legislative Session. CLC commissioners will meet in September to identify public policy priorities before the start of the new session in January 2025. John Litlzer, general counsel and public policy director, provided a brief update on pro-life issues that may arise during the next session.

Guarneri recognized Bobby L. Hall, the outgoing president of Wayland Baptist University, for his years of faithful service. Hall served with Wayland from 1981 to 2024. During his Monday evening address, Guarneri invited Hall to the stage and presented him with a commemorative clock in appreciation for his service.

The Committee to Nominate Executive Board Directors brought a recommendation to elect the following Executive Board Directors: Sector 18, Lanette Jones, Schwab City Baptist Church, Livingston, TX; Sector 19-22, Jose Carreno, Northside Baptist Church, Baytown, TX.

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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