Baptists Quarrel over Texas Money

Wednesday, September 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The Southern Baptist Convention formally crossed swords Tuesday with the Baptist General Convention of Texas over millions of dollars donated annually by Texas churches.

The executive committee of the conservative national convention resolved to appeal directly to Texas churches for donations if the moderate state organization votes, as expected, to greatly reduce the amount of money sent to the national body.

Tuesday's resolution quotes a national document approved in 1928 that reserved the national convention's right to ask individual churches for money. But that right has not been exercised in 75 years.

The national convention's Cooperative Program combines donations sent by the state conventions and pays for many programs run by the Southern Baptist Convention.

Texas churches sent more than $45 million to the national body last year – about 14 percent of the Southern Baptist Convention's budget. Last week, a committee of the Baptist General Convention of Texas voted to cut off financing given to several national agencies and to shift more than $5 million that now goes to seminaries controlled by the national body to Texas seminaries.

The recommendation goes to the state executive committee next week and is expected to be forwarded to the state convention in October.

Dr. Morris Chapman, president of the national group's executive board, denounced the Texas group's action.

"The BGCT is systematically attempting to influence Southern Baptist churches in Texas to forsake their loyalty to the SBC," he said in a report delivered to his board Monday.

Leaders of the moderate Texas convention have said it is the national body that has deviated from traditional Baptist beliefs.David Currie, executive director of the moderate group Texas Baptists Committed, said: "We will provide the same outlet that the SBC is providing. We're not telling people you can't give to the SBC. We are recommending what we consider better stewardship of God's money."

The two sides have feuded for more than a decade. But changes that the national body approved in June to the Baptist Faith and Message, a statement of core Southern Baptist beliefs, widened the split and led to the Texas decision to limit ties to the national body.

Staff writer Berta Delgado contributed to this report.