Report to the Fellowship of Deacons
by Committee of Denominational Relationships

Prestonwood Baptist Church
Plano, Texas
June, 2000

INTRODUCTION. Over the last two decades, the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention has resulted in dramatic changes in the direction of the Convention, its agencies and commissions.  As the national convention has moved in a more conservative direction, new bodies have been formed at both the state and national levels (e.g., the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship at the national level, and the more conservative Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at the state level).  At the same time, individual churches have re-evaluated their relationship to the national and state conventions, and in some cases have re-aligned with a different body or have dually aligned with an existing as well as a new body. This report reflects the re-evaluation by the Committee on Denominational Relationships of Prestonwood Baptist Church's relationship to the existing state convention, the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  The recommendations presented below are the result of over four months of meetings, interviews and documentary research.

When Pastor Graham convened the Committee on Denominational Relationships on February 9, 2000, he made it clear to the members of the Committee that it was to operate independently and that there was no predetermined outcome.  The principal reason for the Committee's formation was to examine the relationship of Prestonwood Baptist Church (PBC) to the state convention, the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT).  The catalyst, but by no means the only substantive reason, for such an examination was the vote taken at the last annual meeting of the BGCT in November 1999, to reaffirm the 1963 version of the Baptist Faith and Message rather than the 1998 version passed at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in June 1998.  This action, taken together with other issues which will be outlined below, has given the Committee grave concerns about the current direction of the BGCT, in particular, its distancing itself from the SBC.   We pray this direction will change, but our concern for Biblical integrity and the stewardship of PBC's resources compels us to make the following recommendations:

  • BE IT RECOMMENDED that Prestonwood Baptist Church continue its current affiliation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas through the next annual meeting of the BGCT in the fall of 2000, and that the Committee on Denominational Relationships reconvene immediately following that meeting to recommend whether to continue this relationship or uniquely affiliate with another body. 
  • Recognizing that a new state convention, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), has been formed that supports the conservative stance of the SBC (including the 1998 version of the Baptist Faith and Message), BE IT FURTHER RECOMMENDED that PBC dually affiliate with the SBTC between now and the fall of 2000, and that the Committee consider whether to recommend unique affiliation with the SBTC at that time.
  • BE IT FURTHER RECOMMENDED that PBC encourage interested members to serve as messengers to both of the above referenced conventions and obtain a written report of findings related to issues contained in this Report.

Before proceeding with the reasons for the recommendations that the Committee is making to the Fellowship of Deacons for its consideration and subsequent recommendation to the church, it should be understood from the outset that the Committee determined not to engage in attacks on individuals but to address only issues of principle.

There are three key principles that the Committee believes are at stake regarding any decision by the church to reconsider its relationship to the BGCT:  (1) faithfulness to the clear teachings of Scripture, (2) the relationship of the BGCT to the SBC, and (3) the stewardship of PBC's resources.  The first principle is at issue in the case of the BGCT vote to (in effect) reject the 1998 version of the Baptist Faith and Message.  The second principle is involved in the case of this and other actions by the BGCT that have had the clear and systematic effect of distancing the state convention from the SBC.  The third principle comes into play when considering which state convention should be the recipient of the Church's giving for state causes, as well as the conduit through which the Church's giving to the SBC should be routed.

The specific actions or inactions by the BGCT that the Committee would like to see addressed are the following:

    1. Its rejection of the 1998 version of the Baptist Faith and Message.

    2. Its failure to make a clear and unequivocal long-term commitment to the SBC and its leadership, including support for all the ministries of the SBC.

    3. Its replacement of the Cooperative Program, as originally conceived, with the current options system adopted by the BGCT.

    4. Its adding a significant dollar cost, in addition to church size, to the requirements a church must meet to have its full complement of messengers to the BGCT annual meeting.

    5. Its duplication of SBC functions and services.

    6. Its move to regionalize the BGCT by allowing non-Texas churches to affiliate with the BGCT.

    7. Its failure to disavow unconditionally the proposed creation of a new national convention, the Baptist Convention of the Americas.

    8. Its failure to be fair in its public statements about the conservative direction of the SBC, and about the churches that support that direction, as well as in its appointment of conservative members to BGCT boards and committees

The principal reasons for the eight issues the Committee would like to see addressed are as follows:

1.  The Committee strongly objects to the vote taken at the last BGCT convention in El Paso to reaffirm the 1963 version of the Baptist Faith and Message without the addition of Article XVIII on the family voted on at the June 1998 annual meeting of the SBC (a copy of the Article and the accompanying commentary is attached).  The Committee believes that Article XVIII is the clear teaching of Scripture on marriage and family roles and relationships (husbands and wives, parents and children) and that the BGCT action is, therefore, a rejection of that clear teaching.  By contrast, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) has affirmed the 1998 version of the Baptist Faith and Message, with the addition of Article XVIII on the family.  What remains to be determined is whether the BGCT's vote to reject the 1998 version of the Baptist Faith and Message was based on a misunderstanding of the intent of Article XVIII on the family, and whether the BGCT would be willing to reverse its action if it was  a misunderstanding.

When the Southern Baptist Convention added the new article on the family, Article XVIII, to the Baptist Faith and Message at its annual meeting in June, 1998, the BGCT leadership expressed concern over the fact that the article did not specifically incorporate Ephesians 5:21 on mutual submission, and that the language of Article XVIII as it stood was "insulting to women" since it quoted Ephesians 5:22 that speaks of the willing submission of wives to the loving servant-leadership of their husbands.  The Committee did a study of Ephesians 5:21 and concluded that it does not in any way alter the teaching of Scripture on family roles and relationships, and that the principle of mutual submission has been incorporated into Article XVIII (a copy of the Committee's study is attached).  On the basis of its study on the matter, the Committee believes that the BGCT's action was unwise and unwarranted.  Whether one agrees with the BGCT's stated reasons for rejecting Article XVIII or not, its action certainly serves to distance the state convention from the SBC.

While the Baptist Faith and Message is not a creed, it is a statement of beliefs commonly held by Southern Baptists and previously subscribed to by the various state conventions.  The addition of an article on the family which defines marriage as a relationship ordained by God between one man and one woman for life, with each one playing his or her God-given role in order to accomplish the purposes of the marriage relationship, was an important article to add to the Baptist Faith and Message, in the opinion of this Committee, because of the disintegration of so many marriages in our society, not to mention the attempted redefinition of marriage by some in our secular culture.

It is usually a crisis in belief or practice that has prompted Christian groups in times past to highlight one or another doctrinal teaching.  The family is in crisis in our society at the present time, with potentially devastating consequences for the society in general and the church in particular.  For the Southern Baptist Convention to address this critical issue and to affirm Biblical teaching on the family was entirely warranted.  Significantly, a number of evangelical groups outside the SBC took out full-page ads in major newspapers following the SBC's action to applaud its courageous stand.

During the conversation that the Committee had with the Executive Director of the BGCT on this matter, it came out that at the time of the BGCT vote on the Baptist Faith and Message he had not read the commentary that accompanied Article XVIII  and was unaware of the primary intent of the Article to reaffirm Biblical teaching on the roles and responsibilities of family members.  The Executive Director affirmed his agreement with the positive teaching on the family contained in Article XVIII, acknowledging that Ephesians 5:21 is referenced in the commentary following the article, but said he would not support a reconsideration of the BGCT vote unless Ephesians 5:21 is explicitly incorporated into the language of Article XVIII.  The Committee respectfully disagrees with the Executive Director's reasons for declining to support a reconsideration of the BGCT vote, in particular that Article XVIII is "insulting to women," and hopes he will support a reversal of its earlier action at the next annual meeting of the BGCT in the fall of 2000.

2.  The Committee's second reason for its recommendations is the failure of the BGCT to express long-term commitment to the SBC and all of its ministries.  This was evidenced when the Executive Director of the BGCT stated and confirmed that he does not trust the SBC's leadership, repeating that he did trust Jack Graham.  Although the Executive Director denied that the differences with the SBC were theologically based, the conviction of the Committee from the documentation it has examined is that the BGCT's distancing itself from the SBC is at least partially based on its disagreement with the theologically conservative stance of the SBC, a stance taken over the past two decades because of the perceived theological drift of the SBC seminaries in the past.  Two bases for this conviction are the BGCT's rejection of the 1998 version of the Baptist Faith and Message, and its recently quoted statements objecting to the new proposed changes to the Baptist Faith and Message to be considered at the June, 2000 annual meeting of the SBC.

By contrast, the Committee has great confidence in the current leadership of the SBC and supports the conservative direction of the national convention.  By expressing distrust in the leadership of the SBC, the Executive Director is thereby distancing himself from the conservative direction of the national convention.  This impression was received by the Committee in spite of the Executive Director's affirmation of his support of the missions programs of the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board of the SBC, and in spite of the CFO/Treasurer's pointing out that the total amount of giving to SBC missions causes has actually increased in recent years.  Such an impression can only be offset by appropriate supportive statements and actions on the part of the BGCT that communicate clearly the BGCT's long-term commitment to the SBC and all of its ministries, not just its missions programs.

3.  The third major reason for the Committee's recommendations is the options system adopted by the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) in place of the original Cooperative Program that has been in place since 1925.  Under the original model of the Cooperative Program, churches send a portion of their undesignated funds through the state convention which then retains the percentage needed for state purposes and sends the rest to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  Under the options system adopted by the BGCT, churches may elect the proportion to go to the state convention, with up to 100% going to purposes determined by the state convention.  In other words, the latest option adopted permits nothing to be given to the Southern Baptist Convention!  This action clearly undermines the original and historic intent of the Cooperative Program and makes it possible to give to non-SBC ministries while still calling it the "Cooperative Program."

The Committee heard from the CFO/Treasurer of the BGCT that the options system was adopted to permit churches to give according to their convictions, which could include giving to a rival body (e.g., the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which, though technically not a national convention, is viewed by many in Baptist life as the major alternative to the SBC).  This options system is one more evidence, along with rejecting the 1998 version of the Baptist Faith and Message, that the state convention is perceived as moving in a different direction from the SBC.  Since the Committee supports the conservative direction of the SBC, a stance taken by the SBTC as well, it recommends that Prestonwood align itself with the SBTC as well as the BGTC until after the next annual meeting of the BGCT in the fall of 2000.

4.  The Committee's fourth reason for its recommendations is the fact that the BGCT at its annual meeting in November 1998 changed the rules for determining the number of messengers a church could bring to the annual meeting.  Formerly, the number of messengers was determined only by the size of the church.  Now, the large amount being charged to churches (in addition to their size) to receive their full complement of messengers has the effect, intended or otherwise, of disenfranchising poorer churches.

The SBC allows the number of messengers to be determined exclusively by size, and only charges a modest amount (compared to the BGCT's charges) for additional messengers a church might want to bring (up to a maximum of ten).  A similar system adopted by the BGCT would, in the judgment of this Committee, be fairer and would not provide the financial disincentive that discourages many poorer churches from participating in the annual meeting of the BGCT.

5.  The Committee's fifth reason for its recommendations is the BGCT's duplication of SBC functions and services.  Specifically:

  • At the 1997 annual meeting of the BGCT, the Effectiveness and Efficiency Committee Report allows the BGCT to design, write and publish alternative Sunday School lessons and resources for Texas Baptist churches that may be used in place of LifeWay materials produced by the SBC.
  • The same 1997 E/E Report recommends that the BGCT network with other state conventions, divisions of other state conventions and other organizations that share its common task and mission, a function already being performed by the SBC.  This recommendation has the effect of moving the BGCT from being a state convention to being a regional convention (or, potentially, a national convention).
  • Again, the 1997 E/E Report supports the funding of new theological seminaries operated under the aegis of BGCT-affiliated Baptist universities in Texas (e.g., Truett Seminary at Baylor University and Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University) when the SBC operates the largest Baptist seminary in the world, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Fort Worth.  In a February 9, 2000 Baptist Standard article, the editor says, "Ironically, Truett Seminary was begun largely because of some Texas Baptists' concerns about the direction of Southwestern Seminary at the hand of conservatives now in control of the Southern Baptist Convention, which has owned Southwestern since 1925."
  • Further, the 1997 E/E Report endorses and approves the recommendation of the Theological Education Committee that BGCT-related Baptist universities in Texas develop "Bible college" degrees when Southwestern Seminary and the other five SBC-related seminaries already offer two-year associate degrees or diploma programs at their home campuses and at extension sites that are similar to those offered by a Bible college.  In addition, an independent Texas Baptist Bible College, Criswell College, already exists that provides such programs.
  • More recently, the BGCT initiated an investigation of the feasibility of establishing an alternative to the SBC- and BGCT-related Annuity Board to handle the investment of Texas Baptist retirement funds, a move that if brought to fruition could have disastrous effects on the retirement program of thousands of current and retired pastors and missionaries.

All of this actual and potential duplication of SBC functions and services will require large sums of capital that must be raised from Baptists in Texas who are already supporting similar programs offered by the SBC through the Cooperative Program.

6.  The Committee's sixth reason for its recommendations is the BGCT's decision to allow non-Texas churches to fully affiliate with the BGCT, having the effect of regionalizing the BGCT and potentially laying the groundwork for a new national convention.  The function of the SBC is to provide an umbrella for all churches in the several state conventions to do cooperatively what they may not be able to do as efficiently or effectively in their respective state conventions.  One unintended effect of this move to regionalize the BGCT may be to create tensions with other state conventions over their churches affiliating across state lines with the BGCT.

7.  The Committee's seventh reason for its recommendations is the fact that the leadership of the BGCT has not disavowed the proposed creation of a new national convention, the Baptist Convention of the Americas.  Although the Executive Director said that he thought it was not a good idea to create such a convention, he did not unequivocally distance himself from the creation of such a convention, saying that if the SBC "pushes us [BGCT Baptists who disagree with the stance of the SBC] out," there might be no alternative.  By not rejecting outright the idea of an alternative national convention, in particular the proposed Baptist Convention of the Americas, the BGCT leadership has further evidenced its lack of support for the SBC's current direction.

8.  The Committee's eighth reason for its recommendations is the lack of fairness in the public statements of the BGCT leadership regarding the conservative direction of the SBC and the churches that support that direction.  In addition, it has become increasingly clear that conservative voices are not proportionately represented on BGCT boards and committees.

Admittedly, the issue of fairness is a matter of perception, but when one BGCT leader characterized the addition of Article XVIII on the family to the Baptist Faith and Message as "Neanderthal," that pejorative comment from such a prominent leader of the BGCT spoke volumes about his attitude toward the conservative direction of the SBC.  The Committee will be watching closely the statements of BGCT leaders quoted in the Baptist Standard and the secular press, and will also be noting the appointments to BGCT boards and committees that occur after the next BGCT annual meeting in the fall of 2000.

CONCLUSION.  The Committee has prayerfully and carefully weighed the eight reasons presented above for its recommendation to the Fellowship of Deacons that PBC dually align with both the BGCT and the SBTC until after the fall 2000 annual meeting of the BGCT.  Its intention is that the Church would send a clear message regarding its concerns and expectations to the leadership of the BGCT, and at the same time allow the leadership of the BGCT opportunity to respond in a positive and constructive manner.  Its further intention is that the Church would go on record as agreeing with the doctrinal position of the SBC (as represented in the 1998 version of the Baptist Faith and Message as well as the suggested changes to the Baptist Faith and Message to be considered at the June, 2000 annual meeting of the SBC), and express appreciation for the SBTC's strong support of the SBC.

In presenting its reasons, the Committee did not cite the research contained in the 1999 report of the Denominational Relationship Committee of First Baptist Church-Dallas because it did not want to duplicate their research.  Further, the Committee has not independently validated all of their findings.  Nevertheless, it found the report to the Fellowship of Deacons at FBC-Dallas to make a compelling case for dual alignment (their recommendation for the time being), and recommends to the Fellowship of Deacons of PBC that it review the report of the FBC-Dallas Committee, including its research, findings and recommendations.

Similarly, the Committee did not cite the reasons offered by many other churches for their unique alignment with the SBTC.  The 2000 report of one such church, First Baptist Church-Blue Ridge, is available for the background of the Deacons.  Like the earlier FBC-Dallas report, this one presents cogent reasons for FBC-Blue Ridge's position, reasons that should be given appropriate consideration in light of a potential later recommendation by the Committee that PBC uniquely align with the SBTC.

In recommending temporary dual alignment, the Committee does not expect the Church to continue supporting both state conventions indefinitely.  Rather, it hopes that the BGCT will take some action at the fall 2000 convention to reverse its stance against the 1998 version of the Baptist Faith and Message, and  to address the other issues outlined above.  It is important that that the leadership of the BGCT make some verbal statement at the annual meeting in the fall of 2000 affirming its intention to support all of the ministries of the SBC on a long-term basis.

The Committee wants to make it clear that it is not attacking individual leaders of the BGCT, and that it is supportive of the fine work being done by many of the ministries carried out under the auspices of the BGCT.  The Committee further wishes to express appreciation for those committed brothers and sisters in Christ within the BGCT who seek to serve our Lord and advance the cause of the Gospel in Texas and throughout the world.  They need and deserve our support.  The Committee also wants to express its gratitude to the Executive Director, Associate Director and Treasurer of the BGCT who spent four full hours meeting with the Committee, both sharing their vision for the BGCT and answering the Committee's questions. 

Even if a decision is reached in the future not to continue with dual alignment, the Committee recommends that PBC continue to support those individual ministries of the BGCT that are committed to fulfilling the Great Commission and that affirm the absolute truthfulness of the Bible on all matters to which it speaks.

In closing, the Committee is recommending dual alignment until the fall 2000 annual meeting of the BGCT to give the leadership of the BGCT an opportunity to hear and respond to the heartfelt concerns expressed in this report.  The Committee believes that it is voicing the deep desire of many churches in Texas to see the BGCT move back to a conservative position on the issues raised above.

Respectfully submitted to the Fellowship of Deacons of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas.

Committee on Denominational Relationships:

Edward Pauley, Chairman
David Clark
Paul Cheek
Johnson Ellis
Mark Jordan
J. Keet Lewis
Scott Painter
Oscar Ponder
Art Stricklin
Zig Ziglar

 

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