DALLAS (ABP) — The Baptist General Convention of Texas must change or continue to decline, the convention's three top officers predicted.
President Ken Hall, first vice president Albert Reyes and second vice president Dennis Young announced their support for BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade's intention to reorganize the convention this year.
As the officers see it, keeping pace with the mammoth changes transforming both Texas and the BGCT is absolutely necessary. “The evidence reveals the BGCT is a convention of malaise,” Hall conceded. “We're in decline financially. Our people are divided in our churches. They express a lack of concern for the BGCT, which indicates the need for dramatic change.”
The BGCT has lost churches since 1998, when a rival fundamentalist convention formed in the state. In addition, the recent economic recession has meant declining revenues for several years.
The convention cannot afford to stand still in the face of swirling change, Young added. “Texas demographics are changing, and the status quo is dangerous. With the status quo, there's no vision.”
“We must assess our resources and needs with a blank slate,” Reyes said. “We may find we have the resources we need. We may have to develop new resources.”
“Or reallocate resources,” Hall added. “… Much of the BGCT's structure is organized around a 1950s and '60s model for churches. That may be best, but we need to evaluate it in light of our priorities.”
Another way to confront Texas' demographic changes and build trust is to diversify the convention's leadership, Young stressed. The current officers reflect some of that diversity. Hall is Anglo. Reyes is Hispanic. Young is African-American. However, that diversity doesn't permeate all spheres of the convention, he noted.
“We've talked about it, but it hasn't happened,” Young said. “If we're going to reach Texas with the gospel, then our leaders need to be representative of the diversity of the state — Anglo and Hispanic and African-American and Asian-American and all the groups that make up Texas.”
In addition to confronting demographic and social change, the BGCT must respond to apathy toward the convention, particularly among laypeople and younger pastors, the officers agreed.
“If the BGCT went through an organizational paradigm shift — toward service, helping the churches be effective according to the missions they have set for themselves — if we went to apathetic pastors with offers to help, that would turn the focus of the convention on the churches,” Reyes predicted.
That's how WorldconneX, the BGCT's new missions movement, got started, Young said. “We asked the churches how we could help them meet their needs.”
The officers affirmed their role in the midst of changing circumstances. “The people who asked us to run said, 'We need dramatic change,'” Hall said as the other two nodded in agreement. “We've been perceived as change agents.”