Editor’s note: This story was edited after posting to clarify information in the second paragraph.
By Ken Camp
Business took a backseat to worship and fellowship at this year’s Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting. More than 4,000 Texas Baptists assembled in San Antonio for their first Family Gathering to celebrate their diversity, recommit to their mission and strengthen their sense of unity.
The Family Gathering brought together the BGCT and various affinity groups in one meeting. The BGCT, Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas and the African-American Fellowship of Texas held their annual meetings in conjunction with the Family Gathering.
Other groups who participated in the Family Gathering included the Bivocational/Small Church Association, Cambodian Baptist Fellowship of Texas, Chinese Baptist Fellowship of Texas, Japanese Baptist Fellowship of Texas, Joint African Evangelical Churches of Texas, Korean Baptist Fellowship of Texas, Laotian Baptist Fellowship of Texas, Texas Fellowship of Cowboy Churches and Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of Texas.
The BGCT annual meeting drew 1,296 messengers and 1,129 visitors, compared to 894 messengers and 476 visitors last year in Corpus Christi. The Hispanic Baptist Convention attracted 409 messengers and 903 visitors. All together, the Family Gathering drew 2,303 registered visitors, bringing the total attendance to 4,008.
In the annual convention sermon, Julio Guarneri, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, challenged Texas Baptists to embrace diversity, pointing out the heavenly vision in the New Testament book of Revelation shows people of every nation, tribe, people and language gathered around Christ’s throne.
“This is the worship service of worship services. This is the mother of all family gatherings,” Guarneri said. “This is what every worship service on earth should aspire to look like.… You want to talk about diversity? It’s there. You want to talk about inclusiveness? It’s there.… The more our gatherings look like this, the more prepared we will be for an eternity where inclusiveness and diversity is the norm.”
Worship services centered on themes of diversity, mission and unity featured pastors of African-American, Anglo, Ethiopian, Filipino, Hispanic and western-heritage churches.
Worship services and business sessions included prayers in Vietnamese, Chinese and Bhutanese and music in a variety of languages and worship styles. The concluding session featured observance of the Lord’s Supper.
A convention resolution expressed commitment that the spirit of “unity in diversity” evident in the Family Gathering continue.
The resolution on the Family Gathering noted Texas Baptists “celebrate the great richness of our varied cultural heritages while at the same time celebrating our oneness in Christ and all that holds together