January 14, 2002

BGCT names first chaplaincy director
___By Ken Camp
___Texas Baptist Communications
___The Baptist General Convention of Texas is taking steps toward possibly endorsing chaplains, a role that has been filled primarily by the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board in the past.
___The BGCT State Missions Commission has named Bobby Smith of Galveston as director for the new office of chaplaincy relations. And if proposals offered by a cha
plain study group receive the necessary approval, his office could seek to have the BGCT recognized as an endorsing entity for chaplains.
___Agencies and institutions that employ chaplains typically require them to be endorsed by their denomination. More than 400 Baptist chaplains serve in Texas, and at least 350 of them are endorsed by NAMB.
___The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship also endorses chaplains, as do the American Baptist Churches in the USA and other Baptist bodies.
___Smith, who has served as a Baptist chaplain at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, is the first director of the office of chaplaincy relations in the BGCT church missions and evangelism section. He began work Jan. 1.
___He has been a chaplain at the Galveston medical facility since May 1997. Previously, he was pastor of Baptist churches in Galveston, Mont Belvieu, Mullin and Gustine, and he served as a minister of education in Roanoke.
___Smith is a graduate of Howard Payne University in Brownwood and holds master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He and his wife, Vicky, have two children.
___"The director of the office of chaplaincy relations will work at developing the network of Texas Baptist chaplains, building relationships with them, offering training and relational opportunities for them," said E.B. Brooks, coordinator of the BGCT church missions and evangelism section. "It is also our intent to provide endorsement for chaplains."
___The new office of chaplaincy relations grew in part out of issues raised by the convention's Missions-sending Agency Study Committee, as well as from a specific study requested by Executive Director Charles Wade.
___When the Missions-sending Agency Study Committee examined NAMB, it noted concerns about policies requiring new and renewing applicants for endorsement to affirm the Baptist Faith & Message as currently adopted by the SBC.
___The SBC adopted a new version of the faith statement in June 2000, but the BGCT still is on record affirming the 1963 version as its statement of faith and has twice rejected opportunities to embrace the 2000 version.
___In a report presented to the BGCT Executive Board last May, the Missions-sending Agency Study Committee stated that the BGCT "historically" has supported the process followed by NAMB's Chaplains Commission, believing endorsement is a role best suited to a national entity rather than a state convention.
___"However, the outcry of chaplains in Texas and other areas, and the retroactive change in prerequisites for service may lead the BGCT to re-examine its position and reconsider ecclesiastical endorsement and support of chaplains," the committee report concluded.
___Wade authorized a nine-member study group of hospital, military and criminal justice chaplains to report and make recommendations to the convention's Executive Board regarding an expanded BGCT role in chaplaincy.
___That study group recommended that the Executive Board create an office of chaplaincy relations and that the BGCT initiate the provision of an endorsement process to serve Texas Baptist chaplains and pastoral counselors.
___The Executive Board approved creation of the chaplaincy relations office as part of an organizational restructuring last year. The State Missions Commission will consider the recommendation about endorsement at its Jan. 17 meeting in Dallas, and the proposal will be presented to the BGCT Administrative Committee two weeks later.
___If approved by those entities, the Executive Board on Feb. 26 will consider a proposal that the convention seek Department of Defense recognition as an endorsing organization for chaplains. Once a denominational entity receives U.S. Armed Forces Chaplaincy Board approval as an endorsing agency, hospitals and other agencies typically recognize the validity of the endorsement.
___A growing number of Texas Baptist chaplains have expressed concerns about policies adopted by NAMB trustees, particularly the requirement of affirming the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message.
___The BGCT chaplain study group asked NAMB to rephrase its policy to allow affirmation of a statement of faith adopted by an applicant's local Southern Baptist church, an association of churches or a state Baptist convention.
___But Don Yeager, chairman of the SBC Chaplains Commission, stated in a letter to Wade that the board's "current policies are consistent with the expressed wishes and intent" of the SBC.
___"Therefore, we, the trustees of the Chaplains Commission, affirm and are committed to upholding the current policy of requiring applicants and chaplains seeking re-endorsement to affirm the current Baptist Faith & Message," he wrote.

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