Baptist General Convention of Texas
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The Baptist General Convention of Texas is the oldest surviving Baptist convention in the state of Texas. The churches cooperating with the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) partner nationally and internationally with both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, among others, for missions. In 2009, the BGCT began to also go by the name Texas Baptists to better communicate who they are.
There were Baptists among the first Anglo-American settlers of Texas, but under Spain (and later Mexico), non-Catholic religious worship was prohibited. The first Baptist sermon preached in Texas was preached by Joseph Bays of Missouri as early as 1820. The first Sunday School in Texas was organized by a Baptist, Thomas J. Pilgrim, at San Felipe de Austin in 1829. Mexican authorities forced the Sunday School to disband and hindered the attempts of the earliest Baptist preachers.
The first Baptist church in Texas was organized in Illinois by Elder Daniel Parker. Parker visited Texas in 1832, and concluded that the Mexican laws clearly prohibited organizing a church in Texas. He also decided the immigration of an organized church into the state would not violate the colonization laws. To this end, he and several others constituted a church in Illinois, then traveled to Texas by wagon train, arriving in Austin Colony January 20, 1834. Parker held a strict predestinarian theology, as well as his controversial Two-Seed theology. Like those travellers, the church was named Pilgrim. This church, and those churches of like faith that followed, remained aloof from the majority of Baptists in Texas. Pilgrim church is the oldest Baptist church in Texas, and survives today as a Primitive Baptist church.
The first missionary Baptist church in Texas was organized at Washington-on-the-Brazos by Z. N. Morrell in 1837. The following year, Isaac Reed and R. G. Green formed the Union Baptist Church, about 5 miles north of Nacogdoches, Texas. This church, now known as the Old North Church, is the oldest surviving missionary Baptist church in Texas, and cooperates with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. After Texans achieved independence from Mexico, Baptists began to flourish in Texas. Many churches were formed in the days of the Republic of Texas. With the multiplication of churches came also the organization of associations. The first association was the Union Baptist Association, organized in 1840.
As the local associations increased, missionary Baptists became interested in cooperation together on the broader state level. In 1848 representatives from four associations met at Anderson, Texas, and started the Baptist State Convention of Texas. In 1853, the Baptist General Association of Texas was organized at Larissa in Cherokee County in east Texas. Other bodies were formed to serve their regions (and often due to dissatisfaction with the other bodies), such as the East Texas Baptist Convention (org. 1877 at Overton) and the North Texas Baptist Missionary Convention (org. 1879 at Allen). B. H. Carroll, pastor of First Baptist in Waco, was instrumental in getting the General Association, during its 1883 meeting, to propose that five conventions in Texas consider the expediency of uniting as one body. The North Texas Convention dissolved, and recommended its churches affiliate with the Baptist State Convention. The East Texas Convention also joined the state convention. In 1886, the Baptist General Association of Texas and the Baptist State Convention of Texas ratified the terms of merger and consolidated into one body called The Baptist General Convention of Texas. In addition to Carroll, other leaders in the merger included S. A. Hayden, J. B. Cranfill, J. B. Link, J. M. Carroll, R. T. Hanks, and G. W. Smith.
The harmony of unification in the 19th century gave way to three major divisions in the 20th century—the S. A. Hayden controversy and the formation of the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas in 1900, the fundamentalist/modernist controversy and the formation of the Premillennial Missionary Baptist Fellowship by J. Frank Norris in 1933, and the conservative/moderate controversy and the formation of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in 1998. The body has nevertheless maintained a steady progress throughout the 20th century.
Baptist General Convention of Texas beliefs include Bible inspiration, the priesthood of the believer, the sanctity of life, the virgin birth of Christ, salvation through the death of Jesus Christ, and that Christ is the head of the church. The Convention accepts the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message as its statement of faith.
The convention's offices are located in Dallas, Texas, though convention staff are located across the state. The Executive Director of the BGCT is David Hardage. According to its mission statement, the Baptist General Convention of Texas "encourages, facilitates and connects churches in their work to fulfill God’s mission of reconciling the world to Himself," and is active in evangelistic, educational, and benevolent endeavors toward achieving this goal. About 80 local Texas Baptist associations and 5,700 local churches cooperate with the Baptist General Convention. In October 2007, the Convention elected its first woman president, Joy Fenner of Garland, Texas.
Universities affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas
- Baptist University of the Américas
- Baylor University
- Dallas Baptist University
- East Texas Baptist University
- Hardin-Simmons University
- Houston Baptist University
- Howard Payne University
- University of Mary Hardin Baylor
- Wayland Baptist University
- Texas Baptists: A Sesquicentennial History, H. Leon McBeth (1998)
- A History of Texas Baptists, by James Milton Carroll
- Centennial Story of Texas Baptists, L. R. Elliott, editor
- Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, Norman W. Cox, et al., editors
- Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness, by Z. N. Morrell
- Missionary Baptists in Texas: 1820-1998, by Oran H. Griffith
- The Blossoming Desert: A Concise History of Texas Baptists, by Robert A. Baker
- Baptist General Convention of Texas—official Web Site
- The Baptist Standard—official Web Site
- George W. Truett Theological Seminary—official Web Site
- Logsdon Seminary—official Web Site
- Baptist University of the Americas—official Website
- Baylor University—official Web Site
- East Texas Baptist University—official Web Site
- Hardin-Simmons University—official Web Site
- Howard Payne University—official Web Site
- Houston Baptist University—official Web Site
- University of Mary Hardin-Baylor—official Web Site
- Wayland Baptist University—official Web Site
- Singing Women of Southeast Texas—official Website