Wade elected executive director
___By Mark Wingfield
___DALLAS--"I reach out my arms to all who care about Texas and want to do God's work in Texas," Charles Wade told the Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board moments after his election as BGCT executive director Sept. 28.
__ Wade, pastor of First Baptist Church of Arlington since 1976, was elected to the post with only 12 dissenting votes out of about 200 board members present for the meeting at Baylor Medical Center.
|Charles and Rosemary Wade
___Although two board members expressed concern that the search committee had not nominated someone who remained neutral in Baptist politics over the last 20 years, Wade said he wants to work with all Texas Baptists to advance the gospel.
___"I will work to help increase our sense of shared vision," he pledged in brief comments made after his election. "I hope to help every Texas Baptist church and every Texas Baptist be alert to God's presence."
___Several search committee members and board members who spoke in favor of Wade's nomination also predicted he will strive to work with all Texas Baptists who desire to cooperate.
___When Wade was BGCT president from 1995 to 1997, he went out of his way to be fair to all, said Debbie Chisolm, minister to students at Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas. She served on the BGCT's committee on order of business during that time.
___"I was absolutely amazed that somebody who was involved with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ... could be so fair, so open," she said. "He made sure every voice was heard."
___Search committee Chairman Bill Brian of Amarillo reported that Wade told his committee Texas Baptists deserve to have a leader who has clearly stated a position. "I don't know how you can witness what's happened (in Baptist life) and not say something," Brian quoted Wade as telling the committee.
___Wade expanded on that comment during a news conference shortly after his election.
___"I think people of conviction need to speak up," he said. "But as long as we're willing to work together and embrace one another," there doesn't have to be a rift.
___"I'm not looking to cut anyone out," he said.
___Wade is a former member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Coordinating Council and was co-chairman of the CBF general assembly held in Fort Worth in 1992. He also has served on the executive committee of Texas Baptists Committed since 1983.
___Texas Baptists Committed is a moderate Baptist organization that has sought to keep the BGCT from coming under political control of conservatives who have assumed leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention since 1979.
___Two Executive Board members said Wade's identity as a well-known moderate should have excluded him from consideration for the executive director's position, although both took pains to say they had nothing against Wade personally and praised his ministry as a pastor.
___Burlie Taylor of Pearsall said he equally would have opposed the nomination of someone identified with Southern Baptists of Texas, the conservative wing of the BGCT that recently split off to form a new state convention.
___"I do not believe involvement in what is going on on either side of Texas Baptists is going to bring reconciliation," Taylor said.
___That sentiment was echoed by David Stubblefield of Greenville, who said, "I believe it would be wiser to choose someone who is not so identified with one side."
___During the news conference, Wade was asked whether his election should be interpreted as a signal to the SBC or other groups outside Texas about what to expect from Texas in the years ahead.
___"I don't think any message needed to be sent," he replied. "It has been clear for some time that Texas Baptists are free and independent. É This is no different from where we've been as Texas Baptists for the last 10 years."
___His foremost goal in the early days of his new task, Wade said, will be "to say clearly to all Texas Baptists that we have a vision that's big enough for all. ... We want to put our arms around this state and help people know God's great love for them."
___Christians sometimes come across to non-Christians as mean and mainly against things, Wade said. In contrast, he said, he wants to help Texas Baptist churches continue to put their arms around people and love them enough that they embrace Jesus.
___"The great vision in my heart is to help our churches be Jesus kind of churches," Wade said.
___The details of how the BGCT will do that in the years ahead will be worked out in time, he said in answer to a question about anticipated restructuring of the BGCT staff in Dallas.
___While he supports the work already being done toward restructuring, his main goal always will be to focus on helping churches, he said. "The organization of the Baptist Building is determined on how can we help churches do their task. That's the question I'll keep pressing: Will this help churches be on mission?
___"The issue is not 'Do we have an efficient Baptist Building?' but 'Do we help churches?" he added.
___Wade repeatedly was praised for leading First Baptist Church of Arlington to be a healthy church with a far-reaching mission impact.
___Brian described the church as "legendary among Texas Baptists" for its outreach through Mission Arlington, a comprehensive ministry that touches about 3,000 people each week in 200 locations, mainly in multi-housing complexes.
___Wade also has led the Arlington church to be a trendsetter in reaching the area's ethnic populations, Brian said. During Wade's 23-year tenure, the church has launched Hispanic, Korean and Chinese missions that now are self-supporting churches and currently sponsors a Thai mission.
___Wade's nomination was endorsed at the Executive Board meeting by Michael Bell, pastor of Greater St. Stephen Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Bell is a prominent African-American pastor in Tarrant County.
___"I salute the wonderful choice made by the committee," Bell said. "Charles is big enough and broad enough to lead all Texas Baptists into the 21st century."
___The formal motion to elect Wade was brought by Rudy Sanchez, a prominent Hispanic pastor in Dallas and member of the search committee. During the same meeting, Sanchez became the first Hispanic elected chairman of the Executive Board, an event Wade praised during the news conference.
___One of the search committee members speaking in behalf of Wade's nomination was Judy Battles, a member of Wade's congregation. Battles said she had to weigh competing interests when her pastor's name first appeared on a list of executive director nominees.
___"I love my pastor, but I took this responsibility seriously," she said, explaining that through prayer she sought to discover where Wade would be most effective in the future--as her pastor or as BGCT executive director.
___Ultimately, she determined Texas Baptists need Wade as their next leader, she said.
___He is a good choice, she said, because he is "a man of impeccable integrity" who "lives his commitment in a daily walk."
___Battles equally praised Wade's wife, Rosemary. "If any woman should be cloned as a pastor's wife, it would be Rosemary," she said. "She doesn't live her life vicariously through Charles. She is a seeker on her own."
___Rosemary Wade is a teacher in the Arlington Independent School District and active member of First Baptist Church. The Wades plan to continue living in Arlington, as their current home is about 25 miles from the Baptist Building, not far by metroplex commuting standards.
___He will preach his last sermon as pastor of First Baptist Church Nov. 14 and will become executive director-elect Nov. 15. For the following two-and-one-half months he will work alongside Pinson in a transition period, assuming full authority as executive director Feb. 1.
___On a related issue, the Executive Board approved a recommendation of the BGCT Administrative Committee that Pinson assume the volunteer position of executive director emeritus after his retirement. In this unpaid capacity, the BGCT will provide office space, a part-time secretary and limited benefits such as health insurance.
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