DALLAS (ABP) — Charles Wade, who led the Baptist General Convention of Texas through major changes in its governance and a reorganization of its staff, has announced plans to retire as executive director Jan. 31, 2008.
Wade told BGCT employees of his plans at an April 11 staff meeting after he informed convention president Steve Vernon and Executive Board chairman Bob Fowler.
In his letter to Fowler, Wade wrote: “It has been an honor to serve Texas Baptists these past seven years. I felt the calling of God in the invitation by the Executive Board in 1999 to serve our convention in this role, and across the years of my service I have had the deep and abiding sense that God and his people have walked alongside me in this journey of leadership and faith. Now, I have that same gracious sense from God that this is the time for me to begin the next phase of my obedience to his call issued 55 years ago.”
Fowler praised Wade as his mentor in denominational involvement.
“Dr. Wade has provided strong and thoughtful leadership as executive director, both to his staff and to the many volunteers who have had the privilege of working with him,” Fowler said. “In these times that have often been challenging in Texas Baptist life, Dr. Wade has been a tremendous asset to us, and I am certain that he will continue to be so. Texas Baptists have been fortunate to have had both the mind and the heart of Charles Wade for these years of his service to the kingdom through the BGCT.”
BGCT bylaws outline the process for naming a 15-member search committee to recommend a new executive director. The chairman and vice chair of the Executive Board will nominate seven members from the Executive Board, and the BGCT president and two vice presidents will nominate eight members from the convention at large. The five officers also will nominate a chair for the search committee, which is subject to Executive Board approval. The board meets May 21-22.
“It is my hope that this committee will be able to bring back to the board in September a nominee for executive director who will be God's person to lead us into the future,” Wade said.
During Wade's tenure, the BGCT went through its most thorough reorganization in more than a half century. Governance changes streamlined decision-making processes and vested more authority in the Executive Board, which was reduced from 230 to 90 members. Staff changes included placing congregational strategists in regions throughout the state.
In his retirement announcement, Wade made no mention of a scandal that emerged during his tenure involving the mismanagement of BGCT church-starting funds in South Texas. Independent investigators discovered 98 percent of the 258 new churches reported by three church planters in the Rio Grande Valley between 1999 and 2005 no longer exist, and some never existed — except on paper. Those churches had received more than $1.3 million from the Texas convention.
In their report, the investigative team faulted the BGCT Executive Board staff for poor oversight, uneven management, failure to abide by internal guidelines and misplaced trust.
Wade pledged to “clean up the mess,” and a special oversight group reported significant progress to the BGCT Executive Board at its February meeting.
Wade graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University and earned masters and doctorate degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As pastor of First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, from 1976 to 1999, Wade led the congregation to become a national trendsetter in outreach and community ministry.