During the first business session of the 2023 Texas Baptists Family Gathering, messengers elected new officers, heard a brief update on the search for an executive director, and heard reports of other actions by the Executive Board, as well as a financial report.
New officers elected
Julio Guarneri, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, was elected president of the Convention for a second one-year term. Guarneri previously served as first vice president for two years. In addition to his service with Texas Baptists, Guarneri has served as a chair at Buckner International, chairman of Stark College and Seminary and on the BGCT Executive Board.
Michael Evans, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield, nominated Guarneri, highlighting both Guarneri’s scholarship and his consistency in “living out a holistic mission that brings the gospel to bear on the community and the whole world.”
“I believe our brother has been divinely chosen to lead our convention for such a time as this,” Evans said.
Ronny Marriott, pastor of First Baptist Church in Burleson, was elected first vice president. Albert Reyes, president and CEO of Buckner International, nominated Marriott through by video. The official nomination from the floor came from John Glover, a messenger from First Baptist in Burleson. Reyes noted Marriott’s “long history” of involvement with Texas Baptists, including his service as pastor of five Texas Baptists churches over the last 26 years and in volunteer roles with Texas Baptists, the Tarrant Baptist Association and Howard Payne University. Marriott previously served as second vice president.
“He is a missional leader with a passion for sharing wisdom gleaned from his ministry experiences,” Reyes said.
Guarneri and Marriott were unopposed and were elected following a vote by the 608 messengers in attendance at McAllen Convention Center.
Two leaders were nominated for second vice president. Debbie Potter, children’s minister of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, was nominated by Matt Homeyer, senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio.
“In my time working with Dr. Potter, I have found her to be a highly gifted, strongly called, deeply experienced minister of the gospel,” Homeyer said.
Glenn Lackey, a lay leader at Canyon Creek Baptist Church in Temple, was nominated by Joshua Murray, pastor of Canyon Creek Baptist.
Murray highlighted Lackey’s “strong faith and unwavering commitment to the local church,” as well as the businessman’s passion for “reaching the unincluded and unchurched.”
“He will be a voice of support for small churches, bivocational churches and lay leaders,” Murray said.
Results of the vote for second vice president will be announced during the business session on Tuesday, July 18.
Business reports and recommendations
Bobby Contreras, chair of the Executive Board, gave an update on business conducted by the Executive Board during 2023.
Contreras said the executive director search committee continues to search for the next executive director. When the search committee has a nominee, the Executive Board will consider and vote on the nominee in a special called meeting, “unless the timing is such that it allows the board to (act) during a regularly scheduled meeting,” he said.
Contreras shared that the Executive Board had unanimously deemed two churches – Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio and Second Baptist Church in Lubbock – to be out of harmonious cooperation due to their public affirmation of same-sex sexuality. He said concerns about the churches were brought to BGCT staff, who followed up and found both churches “hold views that were inconsistent with the Convention’s long-held view on biblical sexuality.” Staff presented information to the Executive Board, which was unanimous in its decision.
Contreras said the churches were provided the opportunity to further clarify their views and to be considered for reinstatement, “but no clarification was received.”
Contreras also shared the Executive Board’s approval of a recommendation to form a Sexual Abuse Task Force to help Texas Baptists churches respond to sexual abuse issues. The task force, which will be appointed by the associate executive director and the Executive Board chair, 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. Its charge is “to create policies and procedures which the Executive Board would adopt to take responsible measures to prevent abuse and to offer assistance to survivors and churches if abuse occurs.”
Contreras said the Executive Board will share the task force’s recommendations at the 2024 Annual Meeting.
Contreras shared that the Executive Board had reviewed and approved the Special Agreement with Baylor University and deemed no changes necessary. The Special Agreement was initially agreed upon in 2011 and calls for a joint review by the BGCT and Baylor every 10 years; the most recent review was delayed as both organizations managed through the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also shared that the Executive Board ratified a Memorandum of Understanding between Baylor and Texas Baptists in which Baylor agreed to give a parcel of land adjacent to campus to Texas Baptists for construction of a Baptist Student Ministries building “once Texas Baptists has raised $3 million in pledges,” and had approved a recommendation from the Finance Committee to allocate $500,000 of available investments in undesignated endowment earnings to the construction of the building.
Contreras brought to messengers two recommendations from the Institutional Relations Committee. The first was to change the relationship of Texas Baptists with Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene from that of an Affiliated Member to Special Agreement, which is for 10 years. The second was to relate to Baptist Standard Publishing by Special Agreement, which is for five years. Later in the business session, messengers approved both recommendations.
Contreras reminded messengers that in years in which Texas Baptists Annual Meeting is conducted at the Family Gathering, the Executive Board is given the responsibility for approving the next year’s budget, “so no 2024 budget recommendation will be forthcoming.”
Ward Hayes, treasurer and CFO for Texas Baptists, provided a financial report, noting that it “is simply a testimony in numbers. … It is certainly giving testimony to the goodness of God.” He noted that Cooperative Program giving was up in 2022 and overall, giving was “fairly stable” and that Texas Baptists “remain in a positive, strong financial position.”
He said the 2022 audit has concluded and would be published in the near future. Texas Baptists’ investment position decreased in 2022 by $9 million to $197 million “following 2022’s historic market correction,” but said the losses “were greatly offset by new endowment gifts, which we are grateful for.” Overall, he said, total assets and net assets both increased. Hayes noted that expenses by the Convention have decreased.
Hayes highlighted Inflation Relief Grants and Pastor Sabbatical Grants, which helped a combined 494 pastors in 2023, as well as the next generation investments, which has invested more than $2.5 million in scholarships and tuition credits in 2022, and Hayes said will again reach or exceed that figure in 2023.
Two motions were brought to the floor and were referred to the Committee on Annual Meeting for review and will be taken up in the business session Tuesday, July 18.
Meredith Stone, a messenger from Calvary Baptist Church of Waco, moved that the BGCT “affirm women in all ministry and pastoral roles and that the BGCT Executive Board be instructed to have staff create programs, resources and advocacy initiatives to assist churches in affirming, appointing and employing women in ministerial and pastoral roles.”
Ellis Orozco, a messenger from First Baptist Church of Richardson, moved that the BGCT “uphold the autonomy of the local church to affirm a cooperating church’s authority to call women to congregational and vocational ministry as they, under the lordship of Jesus Christ and the guidance of sacred Scripture, deem fit.”
Other business included the approval of nominations from the Committee on Committees, the Committee on Nominations for Boards of Affiliated Ministries and the Committee to Nominate Executive Board Directors.