David R. Currie
A Rancher's Rumblings
September 4, 2007

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my friend Billy Ray Parmer and his down-to-earth wisdom that helped to guide so many of us. This week, I want to return to one of Billy Ray's favorite sayings to remind us how Baptist polity works.

Billy Ray once said, "The BGCT is not a farm team of the SBC."

In baseball, the major leagues develop young players by moving them up, as they deem them ready, through several levels of minor leagues. Their minor league teams are known as "farm teams." So they control the development of the youngsters by keeping them "down on the farm" 'til they're ready to move up to the big leagues. The farm team exists, in essence, to serve the needs of the big league team.

Many people seem to think of Baptists in terms of a similar major leagues-minor leagues relationship. They think of local churches belonging to an association, which is, in turn, part of a state convention, which is part of a national convention. In their minds, the national convention controls everything from the top down, setting policy, standards, doctrine, and so forth. Such thinking, however, betrays a misunderstanding of what it means to be Baptist.

I remember a reporter once asking me whether a particular church was a "Southern Baptist church." I answered "no." So the reporter then asked whether it was a "CBF church," and I again answered "no." I went on to point out that it was not a "BGCT church," either.


There is no such thing as an "SBC church," a "CBF church," or a "BGCT church." There is only the local church, which freely relates to other entities with which it chooses to partner. Such entities include local associations, state conventions, and national conventions. A church can choose to partner with any of these or none of these. It might even choose to partner with more than one at any level-something we call being "dually aligned." But the key points are that a church is free to decide with which entities it will partner and that those partnerships-once established-remain relationships of free cooperation. No outside group has the right to dictate to the local church.

By the same token, state conventions are not farm teams of the SBC, CBF, or Progressive National Baptists, although there are local churches relating to the BGCT that choose to relate to one or more of these. Everything in Baptist life is, historically, independent and autonomous.

Tragically, some state conventions controlled by Fundamentalists are now violating this traditional Baptist freedom. For instance, when some local churches affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention have, in recent days, chosen to also relate to CBF, the state convention has taken immediate action to end its partnership with, or disfellowship, those churches. Those who call themselves Baptists have a responsibility to be faithful to Baptist principles. Violating the autonomy of the local church is not being truly Baptist.


In Texas, we do not violate Baptist polity. The BGCT has a church-directed Cooperative Program. Money that churches send to the BGCT is, in turn, sent out as a church directs. If the church specifies a percentage to be sent to the SBC, the BGCT follows the church's instructions. Likewise, if the church specifies a percentage for CBF, the BGCT sends that amount to CBF on the church's behalf. But the BGCT is not a farm team of any national organization. Ours is a free and autonomous state convention.

Texas Baptists, through the BGCT, partner with the SBC in many ministries, and we also partner with CBF and the Baptist World Alliance. This is how it should be-freely cooperating in Kingdom work. However, the BGCT also carries out many ministries on its own, and local churches freely partner with the BGCT in those ministries.

I strongly believe that one of the most important things that the Baptist General Convention of Texas must do in the years to come is to keep secure our freedom and autonomy.

Out churches need to be free; our state convention needs to be free. Christ has set all of us free to follow him as we feel led, as individual Baptists and local churches. None of us is a "farm team" or a "minor league player." We are all partners with the living Christ.