Ben Condray considers himself theologically conservative and a traditional Southern Baptist. Yet he takes issue with the national convention's requirement that its seminary professors and denominational leaders agree with the amended Baptist Faith and Message, approved earlier this year. In Texas, that makes him a moderate. "For the last 150 years, Baptists haven't believed in creeds," Condray says. "[They are] something I can't support."
The staff counselor at First Baptist Church of Midlothian, Texas, served as a messenger (delegate) from his church to the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) convention, held earlier this week. He finds himself in step with the denomination's Texas convention, which cut more than $5 million in funding for the convention's six seminaries, the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The move came at the BGCT gathering October 30-31. The money will be redirected to three theological schools in Texas. Although the loss of $5 million is significant, none of the agencies or seminaries to lose money has announced a budget cut.
The issues important to Condray and his fellow Texans include local church autonomy and the right for individual Baptists to interpret Scripture.
Some 6,700 messengers from Southern Baptist churches across Texas overwhelmingly voted for the funding cut. Among other actions, convention messengers voted to allow Baptists from outside Texas to serve on BGCT governing boards.
"No Baptist coerces other Baptists about what they have to believe. That's not how you share the gospel," says David Currie of Texas Baptists Committed, a support organization for moderate Baptist churches.
"We have the right to partner with whomever we want. ...1
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