In recent months, Texas Baptists Committed (TBC) has lost - through resignation - the active service of three long-serving members of our Board of Directors.
TBC's accomplishments through the years owe much to the contributions of Michael Bell, Joy Fenner, and Steve Wells. Personally, I have come to consider all three to be dear friends in the almost 7-1/2 years since I first joined the TBC Board.
Michael, Joy, and Steve have always given themselves to God in multiple areas of service. We have been blessed that TBC has been one of those areas. In recent months, all three have decided that it is time to leave the TBC Board because of the time needed to meet their other commitments.
They leave with our blessing and our thanks, but also with our assurance that the door will always be open for them to return. In turn, all three have left us with the assurance that they continue to strongly support TBC and its mission, and that they remain available to help and advise us as needed.
In leaving at this time, they are expressing their confidence that - because of their efforts and those of their colleagues - TBC is well-positioned for the future. Their leaving also serves as encouragement for the TBC Board to bring on some new faces and fresh perspectives.
Any tribute I can give Michael, Joy, and Steve will be inadequate, but I need to say a few words in appreciation.
At our annual TBC Board meeting early in 2007, time ran out & we adjourned just before the New Business item on the agenda, when I had planned to express a concern and make a motion to address it. So, when I ran intoMichael Bell in the parking lot following the meeting, I shared with him what I had planned to propose. Michael was sympathetic to both my concern and my proposal, and we began to talk about how to pursue it.
That impromptu discussion in a hotel parking lot was truly the beginning of what would become my closest friendship on the Board and one of my closest friendships, period. It also marked the beginning of a productive partnership, as I learned to trust Michael as my "go-to person" on the TBC Board whenever there was something I believed needed to get done. Michael Bell is a no-nonsense person who translates talk into action. Over the almost 6-1/2 years since that parking lot meeting, Michael and I have worked together on countless initiatives.
In the summer of 2010, Michael succeeded Steve Wells as chair of the TBC Board, a role he filled for the next year-and-a-half. That fall, he asked me to consider assuming leadership of TBC on the executive staff; when I agreed, he took that proposal to the TBC Board, which unanimously accepted it. Michael and I found a Starbucks, about halfway between his church in Fort Worth and my home in Allen, where we began meeting for a couple of hours every month to discuss TBC business.
But those talks went beyond simply preparing for the next TBC Board meeting or conference call, as Michael often took the opportunity to educate me on the past 20 years of Texas Baptist leadership and politics. In 2005, Michael had made history as the first (and only, to date) African-American elected president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. I learned much in our discussions about the challenges Michael faced in that role, as well as the hard realities faced by African-American churches today, realities of which I was totally ignorant.
As Board chair, Michael helped to stabilize the progress we had made under Steve Wells' leadership and to build on it. He also helped me to begin making the connections that would increase my effectiveness in leading TBC from the executive staff.
Joy Fenner has given much to Baptists worldwide. Her years of missionary service in Japan are testimony to her deep love for people and her commitment to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ - through preaching & teaching, but even moreso through simply loving people as Christ loves them, meeting them where they are and responding to their needs.
For 20 years, Joy led Woman's Missionary Union of Texas as executive director/treasurer, empowering other women to follow her example of service and leadership.
In 2007, Joy became the first (and only, to date) woman elected president of the BGCT. She was a reluctant candidate upon being urged to run by David Currie, then TBC executive director, and other Texas Baptist leaders. Making history wasn't high on her list of priorities. What persuaded her, she told a 2011 gathering honoring David Currie, was the thought that "Number One, Could my love for missions help Texas Baptists focus on missions? and then, Number Two, Women have been such a significant part of Texas Baptist life, wasn't it long overdue for one to become the president of the BGCT?"
In my own experience with Joy at TBC, I've found that she has frequently offered the sharpest, most insightful input of anyone during our Board discussions, especially concerning written material being prepared for public distribution. She has a sharp eye - and ear - for things that might be taken the wrong way or otherwise reflect negatively on TBC; but she has typically gone beyond that by constructively offering a more positive way of conveying the information. I spent 20 years of my professional life as an editor. One thing I've learned is that even editors need an editor! Receiving criticism of one's carefully-crafted words and phrases can be painful, but Joy has always delivered her "editing" with the grace that she shows in everything she does. So, even though she's no longer on the Board, I know I'll still be sending things for her input, because she will always make them better - and she'll do it graciously.
In the fall of 2009, after David Currie retired as executive director, our TBC Board (on which I served at that time) began meeting face-to-face almost monthly to determine whether TBC is still needed in today's Baptist environment and - if so - what TBC needs to do to meet the challenges posed by that environment. The Board chose Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, to chair the Board and lead us through those challenging discussions. When I called Steve following his recent resignation from the TBC Board, I told him that anything TBC accomplishes, from here on out, can be traced back directly to the leadership he gave us at a time when we were unsure of our future.
It was Steve who kept our discussions focused, and it was his leadership that helped TBC to refocus, as we concluded that our primary purpose for the foreseeable future would be to work with churches to provide them with reliable information on pastoral candidates and to connect them with pastoral candidates who could be trusted to lead in accordance with Baptist principles of freedom and cooperation. We also agreed that TBC should work to educate people in our Texas Baptist churches on their Baptist heritage.
The TBC Advisory Network and Baptist Briefs videos are initiatives, birthed in 2012 & 2011, respectively, that sprang directly from the two focus areas agreed-upon in those discussions of 2009 & 2010. As I told Steve, his leadership of our Board during that challenging time is a gift that will keep on giving well into the future.
Oh yes, and there's one more "gift" from Steve Wells that keeps on giving to TBC. In the spring of 2010, Steve recommended that the Board hire Jill Faragher to work part-time - in addition to her work as South Main's finance manager - as TBC's finance manager. Jill, a licensed CPA, manages all of our finances, including deposits, donations, payroll, tax issues, and any other financial matters. It's a bonus that Jill handles all of these matters with both professional excellence and personal grace. We are indebted to Steve and South Main for sharing Jill with us.