Texas convention to endorse chaplains
March 1 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

Texas convention to endorse chaplains | Friday, March 1, 2002

Friday, March 1, 2002

Texas convention to endorse chaplains

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard

DALLAS, Texas - Chaplains and pastoral counselors soon will be able to seek endorsement from the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT).

The BGCT Executive Board approved without dissent the creation of a Chaplaincy Endorsement Board Feb. 26. This is the next-to-last step in a process that will make the BGCT the first state Baptist convention to offer the endorsements required by hospitals, prisons, businesses, law enforcement agencies and the military for the chaplains they employ.

The last step will be to gain official recognition by the Armed Forces Chaplains Board that certifies religious bodies as endorsers of military chaplains. Once that recognition is granted, most other employers of chaplains recognize the religious body as well.

The BGCT's action was necessitated by recent changes in policy by the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) North American Mission Board (NAMB), said Stephen Hatfield, chairman of the BGCT Administrative Committee and pastor of First Baptist Church of Lewisville.

For six decades, Texas Baptists and Southern Baptists nationwide have relied on the SBC Chaplains Commission, which is administered by NAMB, to provide endorsement for chaplains. Within the last two years, however, NAMB trustees have required chaplains receiving new endorsements or renewing their endorsements to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message statement.

Texas Baptists and others have rejected that faith statement as an un-Baptist creed because it calls itself an "instrument of doctrinal accountability" and does not contain previous language identifying Jesus Christ as "the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted." Because of these changes, and a change that makes the Bible God's revelation of Himself to humans rather than the "record" of God's revelation, Texas Baptist critics have charged the new SBC document elevates the Bible above Jesus.

Further, in February, NAMB trustees declared the SBC no longer would endorse female chaplains who have been ordained, even if ordination is a requirement of their employers. Ordination is required for military chaplains, most prison chaplains in Texas and many hospital chaplains.

The proposal approved by the BGCT Executive Board calls for endorsing female and male chaplains for all roles to which they are called, whether ordained or not.

NAMB President Robert Reccord responded to the Texas action in a Baptist Press story.

"I am very disappointed by this move of the BGCT which continues to move away from the historical roles of cooperation within the Southern Baptist Convention," he said. "Chaplaincy endorsement has traditionally been assigned to national denomination agencies, so last year when the BGCT began to discuss becoming an endorsement body, I wrote to Dr. Wade and asked if this meant the BGCT was intentionally moving toward denominational status. He never responded to that question. I have to assume this action provides the answer."

The BGCT Chaplaincy Endorsement Board will take Texas chaplains as its primary focus initially, but the BGCT will not limit its endorsements to Texans only, Hatfield said in response to a board member's question.

Details about the process by which the BGCT will appoint chaplains are still being worked out, according to Bobby Smith, director of the BGCT's chaplaincy relations office. However, it is likely candidates for endorsement will be allowed to express their doctrinal convictions in their own words during an interview process rather than being asked to sign a faith statement written by someone else, he said in an interview after the Executive Board meeting.

Chaplains and pastoral counselors currently endorsed by other Baptist bodies will be allowed to transfer their endorsement to the BGCT in an abbreviated process, he added. To be "grandfathered" in, endorsed chaplains and counselors will be asked to submit a letter of intent and provide evidence of their current endorsement.

The BGCT's office of chaplaincy relations was created last year upon recommendation of a Chaplain Study Group appointed by BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade.

The study group reported that nearly 400 Texas Baptist chaplains were under endorsement by the SBC and many were uncomfortable with the new restrictions being placed on their endorsements by NAMB.

Background material received by the Executive Board from the Chaplain Study Group recommended the BGCT continue in "a spirit of Christian cooperation and personal respect" with chaplains endorsed by other Baptist bodies, including the SBC and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).

CBF became recognized as an endorsing body for chaplains in 1998. Of 163 persons currently endorsed by CBF, 37 are women, 26 of whom are ordained.

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3/1/2002 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments
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