Divisions that have been boiling for nearly two decades culminated November 10 as conservatives voted to form Southern Baptists of Texas, ending affiliation with the more moderate 2.7 million- member Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT).
Overall, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has been moving more and more to the theological Right since conservatives assumed control in 1979. But that has not been the case in Texas, the largest state convention of the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
The 537 messengers from 183 churches who decided to break away from the BGCT say the state group is out of step with the SBC. They cite BGCT gifts to the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and independent efforts to publish church literature, support missions, and establish theological education.
Southern Baptists of Texas president Miles Seaborn says his group will be loyal to the SBC. "We have to be true to God about our hearts, our money, and our energy."
At its own meeting in November, the BGCT re-elected president Russell Dilday, who earlier had been fired as president of the conservative Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (CT, April 4, 1994, p. 85). Messengers also adopted a "biblical equality" statement that contrasts with the SBC's adopted statement on the submission of wives (CT, July 13, 1998, p. 21).
The BGCT, with 5,700 congregations and a $50 million annual budget, is still much larger. Southern Baptists of Texas adopted a $903,000 budget. Texas is the second state in which a group of conservatives has split to form a separate SBC convention, following Virginia (CT, Nov. 11, 1996, p. 103).1