One of the country's largest Baptist bodies may split this year. A group called Southern Baptists of Texas (SBT) has announced plans to form a new state convention that would parallel the 2.7 million-member Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT). The purpose of a new convention, according to spokesperson Dee Slocum, would be "to ensure and maintain a strong sbc presence in Texas."

Slocum, pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Amarillo, says the BGCT has been distancing itself from the 15 million-member sbc for four years.

"We have seen an erosion of the historic walk with the sbc on the part of the elected leadership of the BGCT," he says. "That concerns Southern Baptists across Texas."

SBT members opposed recent passage of a plan by the BGCT that authorizes new ministries they say compete with those provided by the sbc's seminaries, publishing house, and mission boards. BGCT leaders say the new initiatives are necessary to reach unbelievers in their state.

The SBT's concerns, however, "are not well-founded and not justification" for creating a new state convention, says William Pinson, Jr., BGCT executive director.

A similar split occurred in 1996 among Southern Baptists in Virginia, where more than 150 sbc churches have affiliated with a new state convention. Although there are rival factions in many of the sbc's state organizations, most observers do not believe any others are near supporting additional conventions.

Creation of the new Texas convention, which could happen before summer, will force sbc churches to decide to stay with the BGCT, affiliate with the new convention, or, perhaps, become dually aligned.

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