March 8, 2000

A tent large enough for all Texans

___Is Texas big enough for all kinds of Baptists? Can the Baptist General Convention of Texas accommodate all the churches that traditionally have been affiliated with it?
___Another group met to consider those questions last week . This was a collection of pastors, apparently primarily from larger churches closely identified with the Southern Baptist Convention and its current leadership. Spokesmen for the group said they talked about their support for the SBC and the ambiguity of their relationship with the BGCT.
___At least one suggestion for helping the BGCT relate to all Texas Baptists apparently came out the meeting. "Widen the tent," recommended Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston and a former SBC president, claiming he and his church feel disenfranchised from the BGCT.
___Young offered his suggestion without a smile or trace of irony. This is ironic in itself, for "widen the tent" was a plea from so-called moderates who begged to be included in the SBC during a time when Young and his fellow so-called conservative presidents systematically disallowed them from participation in SBC life except for funding the cause. This is ironic, for the BGCT tent flaps are wide enough already to accept 11 institutional trustees from Second Baptist Church, which last year contributed no money to the Cooperative Program.
___Still, Young's appeal for the BGCT to set its tent stakes wide should be heard. What Texan who loves fellow Texas Baptists is not grieved by strife and division in our state? Who has not felt sadness to watch Southern Baptists of Texas create a competitive state convention alongside ours?
___By the SBC's standards, the BGCT's tent stakes have been driven wide, very wide. The BGCT allows each church to channel its Cooperative Program unified budget contributions to the exact institutions it chooses, in the exact proportions it chooses. Some have criticized this policy, for it allows some churches to send funds to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which operates its own programs separate from the SBC. But this same policy has enabled churches that want to identify more closely with the SBC to do so, allowing them to flip-flop the usual allocation--67 percent for Texas, 33 percent for the SBC --of their Cooperative Program funds, so that Texas receives 33 percent, and the SBC gets 67 percent.
___Have you ever pitched a tent? If you did so the first time by trial-and-error, you learned the stakes need to balance each other. They must be set the same distance from the center line, or else the tent will collapse of its own unevenly distributed weight.
___Texans calling for wide tent stakes must realize the stakes need to be wide enough to include other Texas Baptists, even those who do not agree with them about the Southern Baptist Convention. We all need to be willing to bless the room we make for each other, while we bless each other. Let us not narrow the stakes on the left and deny the conscience of some who have been disaffected by the SBC and wish to participate in global causes with the CBF. And let us not narrow the stakes on the right and deny, as some apparently fear, the right of other Texas Baptists to continue to support the SBC as their consciences dictate.
___Yes, we need wide tent stakes in Texas. Evangelistic researchers estimate 10 million Texans do not claim any saving relationship with Jesus. All Texas Baptists are needed in the joint effort to present the gospel and demonstrate Jesus' love to them.
___This is a cause worthy of all Texas Baptists' efforts and sacrificial support. It seems the primary detraction from that cause is our feelings about relationships beyond Texas. Can our spirits be generous enough to agree to disagree? Why can't we affirm each other and our individual and congregational consciences, and allow--no, bless--each other as we support causes beyond Texas? And at the same time, let us join hands to spread the gospel right here.
___ Marv Knox
Email the editor at marvknox@baptiststandard.com

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