- Hitherto and Henceforth
I. THE PROLOGUE
In the April 1981 issue of Baptist History and Heritage, Walter Shurden presented a "formulation of Baptist roots" under the title "The Southern Baptist Synthesis: Is it Cracking?" He indicated that the Charleston Tradition gave us "Order," the Sandy Creek Tradition gave us "Ardor," the Georgia Tradition promoted "Missions," and the Tennessee Tradition gave us much of our "Anti-ecumenism and Sectarianism."
Ten years later, in the January 1991 issue of Baptist History and Heritage, Dr. Leon McBeth stated that the "Texas Tradition" was best exemplified in the lives of B.H. Carroll (the John Wayne of Texas Baptists) as the "Architect," L.R. Scarborough as its most "Fervent Evangelist" and George W. Truett as the primary "Pastoral Role Model." McBeth summarized the Texas Tradition thusly: "At least three major features distinguish this segment of Baptist life (1) intense conservatism (2) fervent evangelism and (3) a spirit of independence."
A couple of years later, Grady Cothen, in his 1993 book What Happened to the Southern Baptist Convention? (A Memoir of the Controversy), stated that "Texas Baptists seemed to absorb the spirit of conquest that followed the founding of the Republic and "the militant spirit helped to form a distinctive kind of Southern Baptist in the Southwest."
Then, this past June 25th, when Texas Baptists Committed held a dinner before the First General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, we heard a marvelous talk by Dr. Bill Leonard, Dean of the Wake Forest University Divinity School, entitled "Historys Watching: Texas Baptists and a New Road to the Future." Those of us present took proper note of Leonards statement that "history is watching as Texas Baptists chart their course into the future," as well as his "urging Texas Baptists to focus on our identity, polity and theology."
We thank these historians for their insights and we could continue to examine profitably Baptist history and Texas Baptist history, however, suffice it to say that Texas Baptists have been and are sui generis, "one of a kind," fiercely determined to maintain our integrity, strongly committed to fulfilling our purposes and striving mightily to achieve formidable goals as a fully autonomous State Convention. In this regard, I firmly believe that had it not been for you and others who comprise Texas Baptists Committed, under the leadership of David Currie and the Boards and Committees of TBC, that the Baptist General Convention of Texas would have been in the hands of the Fundamentalists several years ago with many of our institutions and agencies ravaged as they have been within the SBC and some of the other state conventions.
II. OUR PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCE
At this moment in our history we find ourselves at the point of a schism in Texas Baptist life with the Southern Baptists of Texas having announced that they will hold the first meeting of their new convention here in Houston immediately after attending and voting in the Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas yesterday and today. There are both those who heartily welcome this split and those who lament its inevitability.
There seems to be no doubt that this present circumstance has arisen because the majority of Texas Baptists through the good offices of the Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, have made it clear that Texas must and will chart its own course to stay true to our mission by avoiding the destructive influences of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention now extant for some twenty years.
Our vote in 1994 redefining the Cooperative Program unified budget that makes it possible for our churches to designate funds for Baptist groups outside the SBC and the BGCT; our 1997 efforts to enlarge the scope and depth of Texas Baptist work through the implementation of the Effectiveness and Efficiency Report; and our desire to insure representation only by messengers from churches which are at least minimally supportive of our State Convention have generated concern and opposition on the part of Southern Baptist Convention Fundamentalists, along with some well-intentioned pastors and lay people who continue to believe that the Fundamentalists do not want to be divisive, individually or collectively!!
Frankly, I can readily understand why the Southern Baptists of Texas group and the initiators of the Reconciliation Movement would want to derail our efforts in Texas to chart our own destiny, a destiny that might lie quite apart from the Southern Baptist Convention or at least a destiny where we do not automatically deliver a $43 million dollar annual tribute to the Executive Committee of the SBC!
If you and I were in leadership positions within a large and unwieldy organization where the major affiliate, in terms of members and money, seemingly is distancing itself year by year because of a lack of trust and confidence in our leadership, we might well become not only alarmed but somewhat desperate for a solution. This is what we are seeing right now within our State vis-a-vis the Southern Baptist Convention leadership. Therefore one might reasonably conclude that the two parallel movements we have been encountering in Texas are just further ploys to come out of the minds of those who decided early on "to go for the jugular" in Southern Baptist life and who do not want to lose Texas numbers and our annual tribute or the coveted possibility of taking over Texas and all our institutions and agencies.
Since the Fundamentalists have said and done about everything they wanted to say or do for twenty years, why should we in Texas give any credence whatsoever to movements of this sort? As William H. Stephens, formerly with the SBC Sunday School Board stated in the publication Baptist Today "Moderates fought the Fundamentalist takeover on the naive assumption that their differences could be negotiated. They did not grasp how different is the world view held by Fundamentalists.
There is not even the remotest possibility that the Fundamentalists in Baptist life will abandon their world view for any kind of meaningful and lasting reconciliation since giving up power and control would be like the loss of life itself to those who are the most psychologically afflicted.
As any further reconciliation discussions take place within our State and the Fundamentalist Southern Baptists of Texas hold their first convention later today, let us think reflectively and remember, always, our friends and co-laborers who have suffered over the past twenty years:
Mollie Marshall Green
and the many others who have suffered in the trenches along with the tens of thousands of wonderful women of the WMU who have been demeaned time and again by the Fundamentalist leadership of the SBC.
And let us not ignore the asinine Amendment to the Baptist Faith and Message Statement this past June in Utah which further demeans our women and the recent requirement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that all faculty members will be required to sign this so-called "updated Baptist Faith and Message statement" and teach accordingly or be terminated, a "sign on or sign off" edict by the president, Ken Hemphill.
And let us take note of the recent pamphlet mailed out by Baptists With a Mission of San Antonio, Texas, an obvious tool of the Fundamentalists, that tells us "If your children are baptized members of your church, they can be elected a messenger and vote, too " at the Annual Meeting of the BGCT November 9th and 10th in Houston.
And let us carefully observe Jerry Falwell's June 1998 statement that the SBC now has six Fundamentalist seminaries with Fundamentalist presidents and faculties this statement occurring soon after he and other members of Thomas Road Baptist Church attended the Annual Meeting of the SBC as messengers for the first time. Indeed, he went on to predict that more independent Baptist churches will follow his lead and join the SBC, knowing full well that he will be the president of a convention he neither helped to build nor claimed kinship with until those of his dispensationalist ilk gained power and control.
We cannot, we must not, ignore these kinds of evidences because they were and are completely lacking in Christian integrity. Thus the departure of the Southern Baptists of Texas and the "fizzling" of the Reconciliation Movement are constructive happenings if we want to keep the BGCT independent of Fundamentalist influence and control and if we want the BGCT to maintain and enhance its purposes and goals on an ever larger scale to the glory of God. I agree completely with the concluding comments in Toby Druin's September 23, 1998 Editorial on "Reconciliation Among Texas Baptists," to wit "If our differences are going to continue to divide us if reconciliation can't be achieved we should go our separate ways, and we should do it in a way that communicates to the lost that we have a Jesus worth following "
And in his October 14, 1998 editorial entitled "Forget the Good Old Days and Get On With It," Druin stated "Some people obviously believe 'reconciliation' will have been achieved when the BGCT/SBC relationship has been restored. I no longer think this is possible. Nor do I believe our future lies with the Fellowship " So where does this leave us as freedom-loving Baptists committed to following Christ and his "hard sayings" that demand so much of us?
III. CHARTING OUR COURSE INTO THE FUTURE
We are, de facto or in actuality, two denominations now that is Mainstream Texas Baptists as contrasted with the Southern Baptists of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention. We differ as much from the SBC as any two other Baptist or non-Baptist denominations in those ways Bill Leonard spoke of as regards our "Identity" (what it means to be a Baptist), in our "Polity" (what it means to be a specific Christian community engaged in cooperative endeavors) and in our "Theology" (for example, as regards the Bible, Calvinism, Conversion and Baptism). And we must recognize the fact that many of the Fundamentalist followers are in their 30s and 40s and will still be around for another forty to fifty years. Thus, we simply cannot afford to sit around and wait passively for history to continue to unfold in the way that it has for the past twenty years. Our children, our grandchildren and their children deserve better and it is our responsibility to see that it is better.
If the Baptist denomination in Texas is indeed decidedly different than the entities called