By Ken Camp and Jeff Brumley
René Maciel, president of Baptist University of the Américas, will be nominated this fall for president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
And it comes just as the 2016 presidential election cycle is turning up the heat on politicians and religious leaders — especially Hispanics — over issues like immigration.
Hispanics in other states are watching with interest how Maciel, if elected, will navigate through such delicate social and political controversies.
“It’s a hot seat … in Texas and it would be difficult because they have Ted Cruz in that state,” said Ruben Ortiz, a Baptist pastor in Deltona, Fla., and former moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida.
Cruz is a U.S. senator, presidential candidate and Southern Baptist from Texas who opposes amnesty for immigrants.
And immigration issues are likely to be on Maciel’s plate if he is elected — just as they would be for any Hispanic faith leader in Texas or elsewhere, Ortiz said.
“There is no way someone in that position can avoid the topic of immigration,” he said. “That person needs … to have that as a priority and to be the voice for those who don’t have a voice.”
In Texas, Baptists praised Maciel for his ability to handle tough situations.
Jerry Dailey, pastor of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in San Antonio, announced he is “honored and humbled” to nominate Maciel, current BGCT first vice president, at the BGCT annual meeting, Nov. 8-10 in Frisco.
“Having served on the BUA board, I have seen him operate in turbulent and choppy waters, but he has always led with a sense of total confidence in what he believes in,” Dailey said.
Dailey praised Maciel as a man of integrity, a man of prayer and a consensus-builder.
“It is not enough to have vision. You have to get others to buy into your vision,” he said, noting Maciel leads by inspiring others to recognize, “We’re all in this together.”
“The BGCT needs someone who can draw us together and broaden the tent — black, white, brown and all others,” Dailey continued. “René Maciel is the man for such a time as this in the life of Texas Baptists.”
Maciel recently served 10 months as interim pastor at First Baptist Church in Castroville, where he and his family have been members nine years. He noted that experience reminded him of the BGCT’s important role in encouraging and assisting churches.
“Texas Baptists help support the local church — building up, encouraging and helping pastors. And we need to continue to be a resource to our churches as they seek to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world,” he said. “I love the church. It is critically important that we are there to support the body of Christ.”
If elected as BGCT president, Maciel hopes to emphasize not only cooperative giving, but also cooperative service and cooperative missions.
‘A cooperative people’
“Do others see us as a cooperative people, working together for the common good and toward a common goal?” he asked.
Christians find their source for cooperation in the oneness they experience in Christ, he emphasized. And that transcends divisions of culture and language, as well as socio-economic barriers, he added.
“I hope we can present the message of the gospel in a way that is inclusive and that we act as one in a way that would cause the world to look at us differently,” he said.
Maciel expressed appreciation to Texas Baptists, both for the support they provide BUA and for allowing him the privilege of serving as first vice president this past year and as second vice president the year before.
Baptist University of the Américas
Since 2007, Maciel has been president of BUA, a school in San Antonio committed to training cross-cultural Christian leaders in a Hispanic context. In addition to more than 260 students enrolled this semester to pursue undergraduate degrees, 60-plus students are enrolled in a tuition-free course on congregational leadership. BUA also offers Baptist Bible Institute classes in multiple locations, providing affordable and accessible training to church leaders.
Before he arrived at BUA, Maciel served at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary — first as director of student services and later as dean for admission and academic services. He also worked previously in administration at New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home in Portales.
He earned his undergraduate degree from Hardin-Simmons University and his master’s degree in higher education administration from Baylor. He later served in administrative positions at both schools.
He and his wife, Sabrina, have two daughters, Brianna and Carmen.